Kevin Cody

Pleasures of King Harbor: Bad Seeds bring back the music

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Bad Seeds perform aboard Estrella to fans starved for live music. Photo by Richard Podgurski (RP-Photography.com)

by Rachel Reeves

After more than six months of canceling shows, several local bands have found a way around restrictions on large indoor gatherings. 

They’ve been playing in the ocean. 

“It was so beautiful,” said Moises Juarez, who sings in popular Hermosa Beach band Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds. On a recent Saturday, Juarez and his band performed for the first time since March, the month they found themselves in Guam, en route to a show in Japan, and learned the world was promptly closing and they were losing a $20,000 gig.

People young and old gathered, in boats and on paddleboards, to watch the first real concert in Redondo Beach since March. Photo by Richard Podgurski

Last weekend, the South Bay was experiencing a heat wave. People gathered, though socially distanced, in boats and on stand-up paddleboards to hear the band play from the deck of Estrella. There were kids and elderly people. For three hours, people sang and danced. The Tiger Squadron, a precision flying team based at the Torrance Airport, performed overhead.

Richard Podgurski, who took the photos in this story and who also DJs for a living, said it was the first time he’d experienced live music since the novel coronavirus began crippling economies everywhere.

“I had a ton of fun, and I’m sure everybody else did, too,” he said. Podgurski thanked the Redondo Beach Harbor Patrol “for treating us all like adults, and watching over the event to keep everybody safe.”

Juarez had performed once before on a boat, weeks earlier, with some other musicians. A friend of his, Redondo Beach contractor George Burgos, hangs out at the dock on warm evenings with his buddies who own boats. During one socially distanced happy hour in the harbor this summer, they were lamenting the impact of Covid-19 on live music. Restrictions on large gatherings intended to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus affect music in a particular way. Venues are shutting down. Professional musicians, including Juarez, a father of two young children, are considering finding other work. 

Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds takes a break from performing at a recent show, on a boat docked at King Harbor, in the midst of a heatwave. Photo by Richard Podgurski

“It’s a sad time right now,” said Burgos, who grew up listening to South Bay bands. “We’re losing Saint Rocke — that’s a big chunk getting cut out of our hearts. That place has been our little Troubadour, our little House of Blues. We lost Suzy’s … And so many of our local bands are sitting at home, with so much uncertainty. We really need to try to keep live music and local bands alive in the community. We need that right now. Live music is what connects us. It’s what puts us in our happy place.”

Burgos and his buddies from the dock invited Juarez and other musicians, who were calling themselves Bad Seeds and Company, to play a show from the deck of a boat. They contacted the harbor patrol and the police department to talk about safety. Per the authorities’ recommendations, they cordoned off a 4,000-square-foot area to protect people who showed up on paddleboards from getting run over by boats. They designed announcements pertaining to water safety and the pandemic to distribute before, during, and after the show. 

“These guys really did do an amazing job of trying to keep everyone safe,” said Jamie Meistrell, who has a boat in the harbor. The first show was permissible enough and popular enough to warrant a second. Righteous & the Wicked, a local band that does Red Hot Chili Peppers covers, played a set.

“There were a lot of gray hairs there, singing along,” said Joe M., who hangs out at the harbor. Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds was the most recent show. Last week, a post appeared on the Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds Instagram account: “This past weekend was a blast thank you to all that made it happen, love my city, she holds me down,” it said. People made comments about how much fun they’d had.

TheTiger Squadron, a precision flying team based at Torrance Airport performs for the music fans.  Photo by Richard Podgurski

“What a blast and tremendous way to spend the afternoon,” one person wrote. “So cool.”

On Monday night, during a virtual meeting of the harbor commission, Commissioner Jim Light asked Fire Chief Robert Metzger, “What’s the harbor patrol position on that? Are they legal? Are we going to do anything about it or we’re just letting it happen?” 

“They’re not legal in that anytime there is an event in the harbor, it needs to be approved and none of these impromptu parties or so-called events have been approved,” Chief Metzger said. “They’ve not gone through the normal city vetting process.” He also said that everything “for the most part was done correctly, from the standpoint of whether or not it created anything unsafe.” 

Burgos and his friends at King Harbor have asked for a meeting with city staff to discuss a formal procedure for hosting concerts in the ocean.

“I know the community is begging for another one,” Burgos said. “Whatever it takes to be able to do another one. We’re willing.”

“We just gotta be sure we’re being safe and not putting anyone in danger,” Joe M. said. “We just want everybody to have a good time.”

Juarez said he’d love to do another show on a boat, but if that was the last one, he just feels a deep sense of gratitude to have been able to give the gift of music during a time of heightened anxiety.

“I’m stoked that my community is behind me 100 percent and trusting me to bring up some good vibes because that’s what everybody needs right now,” he said. “It wasn’t like we got paid. It was just for the community, the boating community, the harbor community … People need positivity. They need a light at the end of this tunnel. Not to be like woe is me, but we had $80,000 worth of shows taken away. There’s so much uncertainty right now. We just feel so grateful and lucky to have played and we’re stoked to be able to lift everybody’s spirits in these crazy times.” ER

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