Fortunate Youth rolls up to Redondo to BeachLife

Fortunate Youth's: Greg Gelb - guitar, bass (Hermosa Beach), Corey Draskovich - bass, keys, guitar (Hermosa Beach), Jered Draskovich - keys, bass (Hermosa Beach), Travis Walpole - percussion, bass (Manhattan Beach), Dan Kelly - vocals (Mississippi/Redondo Beach), Revelation Kalauli - drums (Hawaii), John Kromenacker - trumpet (New Jersey), Bryan Northern - sax (New Jersey), Jared Segawa - manager (Manhattan Beach). Photo by Mike Davids

by Jeff Vincent

Like the endless lapping and cracking of waves upon our ice plant littered shores of the South Bay, also have countless bands come and gone in a splash of sound; yet, only a very few ever leave… 

Many tides, and tunes, and kids ago, I remember writing about a hometown band who’d only recently figured out that they were Fortunate Youth. It was probably 2009 or ’10, on the precipice of their debut EP, and they’d just started performing locally – I think I’d initially caught them at Cafe Boogaloo in Hermosa Beach… What was then basically a bundle of young mates from Mira Costa High School sharing a love for music, a penchant for Reggae, and a passion anchored to an everything’s gonna be alright good vibes let’s make the world a happier place even if it doesn’t get better kind of ethos, rapidly swelled and broke into a bonafide career. Just as only the most determined, hard working, gifted, and ballsy (and fortunate) surfers will stick a late drop on one of Breakwall’s shifting bouncers off the rocks and come out the other end of glory to a roar of applause, these boys had achieved the rare feat of making it out of the South Bay pit to find that success awaited upon the outside. 

Fortunate Youth albums quickly began charting while their first LP in 2011 even peaked at #13 on Billboard’s Top 100 Reggae Albums. 

During that same early year of their career, lead singer Dan Kelly told me in an interview, “We plan on making more music and bringing our live performance to more cities across the nation, and hopefully the world.” 

By 2012 they’d already embarked overseas (or at least downsea) to Costa Rica. Their sophomore full-length made marks all over the place, including #1 on both the Billboard Reggae charts and iTunes Reggae charts. Always a heavily touring band, they not only played throughout the years alongside major acts and legendary names (like Toots & The Maytals, The Wailers, Groundation, Sashamon, etc.), but also headlined their own tours supported by other acts. In 2017 their then newest album again peaked at #1 on the Billboard and iTunes Reggae charts… 

Suffice it to say: they made it, man. 

Yet, while Fortunate Youth’s musical ride has indeed taken them far and wide, they’ve never drifted wholly away from an anchor to home and even played a 2019 show at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach before that stage would eventually fall silent for the foreseeable future amidst the calamity of Covid. And our beach cities will be stoked to know that the band’s rolling up for this year’s BeachLife Festival in Redondo Beach, which is in some ways an even larger venue procured (in part) by the former ownership of Saint Rocke. 

I asked co-founding band member (guitarist/bassist and funky Hermosa Beach native) Greg Gelb how it feels to have been asked to play a major festival back where it all started at the home break.

“It’s a huge honor to be a part of the South Bay music legacy,” he began. “We started right here in the South Bay with the support of the community as many of the bars, restaurants, and venues allowed us to play and fostered our development. There has always been a strong music presence here and this festival is helping to solidify the music culture that the South Bay represents. We are stoked and honored to play this hometown festival alongside world class artists.”

And while not wanting to give Covid any extra attention in the happy wake of the pandemic’s tightest grip, I couldn’t help but fish for silver linings during what was nothing shy of a pox upon performance, though not a death sentence for art itself. 

Gelb said that without shows the band was able to spend more time than ever in the studio, resulting in what they feel may just be their best work yet: a new album called “Good Times (Roll On),” dropping September 24.

He also recognized that after a decade on the road this unfortunate last year managed to help yield favorable harvest from hunkering down with loved ones. 

“It was a perfect year to spend at home with family,” said Gelb. “We even added a few more youths to the Fortunate Family! It was a great reminder of what is most important and for us to make the most of it all.”

As the band gets back to revived basics they’ll be heading out for a full national headline tour with 30 plus dates across the USA, with a joyous stop on the BeachLife mainstage circled in red. 

Fortunate Youth plays BeachLife September 12. ER



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