“What an awesome place to have a concert,” vocalist-guitarist Nick Hexum of 311 told the large crowd gathered on the sand at Seaside Lagoon in Redondo Beach on Friday.
The rock band hit the Lowtide Stage with “Beautiful Disaster” right at sunset on the first evening of the three-day BeachLife Festival. The cool breeze that kicked up, coupled with the orange, yellow and pink colors that suddenly painted the sky, weren’t lost on Hexum & Co., who paused to breathe in the moment.
By early afternoon, the venue was packed with fans that had finally made their way into the festival, many of whom mentioned they’d left work early to kick-off the three-day weekend of music, each day capped with performances by headliners Weezer, The Smashing Pumpkins and Steve Miller Band. With cold beverages, pricey pizza slices and other portable fest cuisine in hand, patrons migrated back and forth between the two main stages and made a few pit stops to enjoy some of the smaller attractions along the way.
While 311 rocketed through a pretty much flawless set filled with hits like “Come Original,” “Down,” “Do You Right,” its popular cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong” and newer offerings like “Sunset in July” and “Too Late,” Friday headliner Weezer’s turn was plagued by a sound issue. The Hightide Stage, the second main stage at the fest, which was situated closer to civilization upon a sprawling bed of fake grass, had been at a noticeably lower volume throughout the day.
While it was just an OK volume for performances by bands like Dreamers and Milky Chance, it was a huge bummer later in the day as the place began to fill up to have Black Pumas vocalist Eric Burton’s soulful delivery seemingly lost in the increasing noise pollution.
By the time Weezer took the stage, it was eerily quiet, even directly in front of the band and back by the soundboard. As the guys fired up “Hash Pipe,” the crowd singing along easily drowned them out. As they launched into “Beverly Hills,” fans began chanting “Turn it up! Turn it up!” Some patrons opted to move closer to the stage, but the volume didn’t increase as they packed in and squished together.
It wasn’t until after Weezer ripped through a cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” — arguably the quietest cover of that song ever performed live — that the festival’s technical crew began to mess with the sound. Though it didn’t change too much, it was slightly louder on both sides of the stage. Despite the grumblings of low volume, fans still danced and sang along.
As with 311, Weezer’s set included the big hits: “Buddy Holly,” “Pork and Beans,” “El Scorcho” and “Undone — The Sweater Song” along with fresh cuts like “The Good Life,” “All My Favorite Songs” “Feels Like Summer” and the brand new “A Little Bit of Love,” which the band dropped back in March.
Earlier in the day, Long Beach’s Cold War Kids were impressive over on the Lowtide Stage, where fans trudged through the thick sand and stood directly in the blazing sun to hear songs like “Hang Me Up to Dry,” “We Used to Vacation,” “Can We Hang On?” and a rocked out cover of Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain.”
One of the biggest musical highlights of the day came courtesy of Los Angeles pop indie band Cannons, which really got the crowd moving with songs like “Fire For You” and “Bad Dream.” Vocalist Michelle Joy was mesmerizing and commanded the audience, getting them to clap and sing along to a cover of Harry Styles’ hit “Golden.”
Aside from the offerings on the two main stages, there’s a lot to discover at BeachLife. Tucked away in the corner of the venue is the shaded and cozy SpeakEasy, curated by Pennywise frontman Jim Lindberg, who also opened the festival on Friday. The smaller Riptide stage, located near the venue entrance, also offered some fun action for those that ventured out a little further. Though 311 and Cold War Kids’ sets directly competed for time, hundreds of fans broke away to check out The Aggrolites and Long Beach Dub Allstars.
And musical talent wasn’t the only thing on display this year, thanks to the Punk Rock & Paintbrushes art exhibit, which was located next to the SpeakEasy Stage. The exhibition, which drew curious crowds throughout the day, is made up of dozens of paintings, photographs, drawings and other artwork created by musicians and artists inspired by music.
“This just showcases the talents these musicians have that could otherwise go unknown,” said Emily Nielsen, curator of the art show as she stood near the stage on Friday afternoon. “And we get to add culture to the festival so that it’s not just about music.”
Hung on temporary walls, the artwork included pieces by musicians like Erik Sandin, the drummer of the punk rock band NOFX, who created portraits and other images on surfboards, including one featuring the face of Frankenstein that hung at the festival’s pop-up art display. Also on display was the work of Chali 2na of Jurassic 5, whose realistic portraits of faces were among the crowd favorites.
“It’s just amazing how beautiful these are. I’m a fan of Jurassic 5 and never knew he was such a talented painter,” said Torrance resident Jason Witherow, as he admired some of the musician’s pieces.
Other artwork that attracted a lot of attention were paintings by Escondido-based ballpoint pen artist and skater Paul Kobriger, who created portraits of musicians such as Mike Ness of Social Distortion, which was on sale for $150, as well as images of Tom Watts, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, who he drew smoking a joint.
Staff writer Richard Guzman contributed to this report.
When: May 13
Where: Seaside Lagoon, Redondo Beach
Next: The fest continues May 14-15 with The Smashing Pumpkins, The Steve Miller Band, Sheryl Crow, Vance Joy, Stone Temple Pilots, Lord Huron, UB40 and more.