BeachLife music festival to return to Redondo Beach in September

Beach Boys Brian Wilson and Al Jardine headlined the inaugural BeachLife in 2019. This year's headliners will be announced soon. Photo by Jessie Lee Cederblom

Beach Boys Brian Wilson and Al Jardine headlined the inaugural BeachLife in 2019. This year’s headliners will be announced soon. Photo by Jessie Lee Cederblom

by Mark McDermott

The BeachLife Festival, twice delayed due to the pandemic after a stunning inaugural success in 2019,  announced its return to Redondo Beach’s King Harbor this September 10 through 12. 

“With cautious optimism, and eyes wide open, we have begun the massive process of rebuilding BeachLife — both because we are ready to get back to work, and because we feel strongly that live music and togetherness are essential to the recovery of our community,” said BeachLife co-founder and managing partner Allen Sanford in a statement last week. 

Via Facebook, Sanford more vividly expressed the cautious part of his optimism. 

“Sure hope we don’t have another downturn because I’m out of whiskey and ready for sunshine, live music, and beers,” he wrote. 

And in an interview, Sanford was candid about how difficult the lost year of the pandemic has been for his business. He is a restaurateur and pre-pandemic also owned and operated Saint Rocke, the area’s premier music club, which he reluctantly sold late last year when it became apparent live music would remain on indefinite hiatus due to COVID-19. 

“Such a gnarly year,” Sanford said. “This is about as bad as it gets. When you’re growing up, and your dad tells you, ‘Prepare for a rainy day.’ And you are like, ‘What does that mean?’ This was it.” 

The first BeachLife was the biggest musical gathering in South Bay history, with nearly 30,000 people attending the three-day festival. It included performances by Willie Nelson and a historic return to Redondo Beach by the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson and Al Jardine. BeachLife was set to return in May 2020 with a lineup that included the Steve Miller Band, Counting Crows, and a celebration of Bob Marley’s birthday with his sons Ziggy and Stephen. That much-anticipated festival was postponed early in the pandemic, and eventually canceled. 

“The good thing is we were able to weather it,” Sanford said. “The bad thing is, anytime after a fight, you’ve always got bumps and bruises. So I spend a lot of my time on just keeping things together, keeping employees focused. We’ve had tons of ups and downs, people got sick, and people going into rehab. Just tough things. And so it feels good to actually be focusing on the business again. That’s the really good part.”

No artists have been announced. Sanford said a lineup announcement is likely within a month. 

“All the artists and all the agents have been out of work for a year,” Sanford said. “Imagine how tough that business is to just spin back up overnight, where all of a sudden, they went from having nobody calling to everybody calling them.” 

BeachLife will be the second of four major festivals relaunched in September: BottleRock over Labor Day weekend, then BeachLife, then Life Is Beautiful, and then the Ohana Festival. 

Beach Life graphics artists Remi Dayton commemorates BeachLife’s and the Beach Cities Health District’s partnership with chalk art in the Captain Kidd’s parking lot. Photo by JP Cordro

BeachLife also announced a new partnership with the Beach Cities Health District, which in addition to featuring its own healthy living programming, will oversee whatever COVID-19 protocols are in place come September. 

“As our community prepares to reopen, BCHD’s goal is to be a local health resource and support the health and safety of our community,” said Tom Bakaly, CEO of BCHD, in a statement. “We are committed to supporting The BeachLife Festival and collaborating with cities and chambers of commerce through the reopening process and recovery.” 

Sanford said the partnership with BCHD and BeachLife is a perfect fit. 

“We started working with them and during Covid to do some fun content,” he said. “We’re kind of perfect partners because they’re really good at what they do, but they don’t really know how to handle content the way we do. So we kind of make their content fun. And then on the flip side, at BeachLife, we have a commitment to be safe and follow protocols, but what does that even mean? So having those guys help us is going to be key.”

Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand, who was a key player in helping facilitate BeachLife make its home in King Harbor, said the festival’s return marks a key moment in the city’s post-pandemic recovery. 

“[I am] so happy to see that BeachLife will be part of our new normal,” Brand said. “If you love live music and a good time, this will be the place to be.” 

The first BeachLife had a special poignancy, in that after nearly two decades of political scrapping over how to revive the Redondo Beach waterfront, suddenly the idea of King Harbor as a vibrant community gathering place came to electrifying life over the course of a weekend. This BeachLife will have an even greater meaning, as thousands of people who have been living largely in isolation for the better part of a year will congregate. Sanford anticipates a true sense of celebration. 

“It’s almost as if you’ve returned to the core of what a festival is, right?” Sanford said. “These things started getting created because people like being together. And now we’ve spent a year and a half apart. And I don’t care who you are, human beings are social creatures. I just think it’s gonna be a celebration of humanity. Just being around people has a new meaning.” 

Sanford said a lot of people have called in enthusiastic support of the festival reboot, while some have wondered why BeachLife didn’t just wait until next year. 

“It’s going to be just an unbelievable culmination and a positive end to a somewhat negative year,” Sanford said. “Which is why I wanted to have it so much, right?  I didn’t want to end the year of 2021 with defeat, saying, ‘Screw it, we’ll do next year.’ I wanted, at the end of this thing, to say, ‘No. We’re back. Life is back. Humanity is back.” 

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