Beachlife Festival 2023

Beachlife continued to celebrate the sounds of California this past weekend.

Beachlife Festival is an embodiment of the vibes that so many have been fortunate to grow up with or alongside residing in Southern California. The small festival has grown into its own unique blend of what makes the golden coast feel like home. Taking place at Redondo Beach, its 4th installment proved that this was a feeling close to so many hearts and one that became possible to share with others.

The 3-day event seemed to be separated by sound with Friday catering to a more alternative and indie-rock aesthetic; Saturday was filled with pop-rock, reggae, surf rock and ska; and Sunday brought out classics of Soul, Americana and bluegrass. Though, with so many homegrown artists or those who took from the vibes, there seemed to be a range of diversity lacking.

Pixies Friday, May 5, 2023. Photo: Ron Vasquez

Hightide Stage

The biggest stage held giants such as The Black Keys, The Airborne Toxic Event, and the Pixies on Friday; The Black Crowes who closed the festival on Sunday; and of course, Gwen Stefani who caused mass hysteria Saturday night. Of the three days, Saturday was the event’s only sold-out day which was mostly due to Stefani and Sublime with Rome, noting “Bad Fish” tees and Gwenabees as far as the eye can see.

Gwen Stefani, Saturday, May 6, 2023. Photo: JPCordero

Gwen Stefani emerged from the darkness as a swirl of Stefanis in black and white outfits, which mirrored her “Sweet Escape” video, were the backdrop for an energetic set of the same song. Immediately moving into No Doubt songs back-to-back, such as “Sunday Morning,” “It’s My Life” and “Bathwater” one would hope that the remaining members of No Doubt — Tony Kanal, Tom Dumont, and Adrian Young — would also appear on stage as it was clear that the world missed the band from the uproar of cheers through ND’s catalogue.

Aside from personal thoughts of Stefani performing ND tracks, one can’t deny how amazing her performance and set was Saturday night. Stefani can silence a crowd instantly and within the same second, cause thousands of fans to jump to her command. Her banter was refreshing and very reminiscent of shows from the ND days, swearing here and there — explaining it was only to make “you all” laugh — pulling fans up for pictures and playfully toying with the crowd.

“You guys realize that some of these songs suck for me to do, right?” shared Stefani as the guitar riff of “Ex-Girlfriend” faded in. “You realize that some of these songs are painful for me. Like every time I do them, I have to relive that actual moment again and this next song is actually one of those songs and I actually hate this song, it makes me wanna throw up. But because of I love you guys, I’m gonna do this song right now.”

Sugar Ray, Saturday May 6, 2023. Photo: Janette Ayub

Trampled By Turtles, Band of Horses and Sugar Ray also took to the main stage and brought out fan favorites. Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray acknowledged the frosted tips and asked if the crowd remembered this hairstyle, following up that must’ve been when most “had hair.” McGrath’s sense of humor made strolling through memory lane special and continued to playfully doubt his presence on the stage amongst the rest of the artists: “Self, you don’t belong on the stage with all those people.” Moving between cuts such as “Someday” and Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” Sugar Ray was a reminder to look for those sunnier days.

Noah Cyrus also took to the HT stage Sunday afternoon and was a personal favorite to witness. Cyrus’s vocals, range, and stage presence moved with the texture of her long sleeved dress in the wind and the set’s Americana production. The in-between stories aided certain tracks emotive pull, such as “The Hardest Part,” which was sparked by a memory with her father, adding sometimes a person doesn’t “know when that moment is your last.”

Tegan and Sara Friday, May 5, 2023. Photo: Fabien Castro

Lowtide Stage

The second largest stage found its home on the sand, bringing a laid-back and coastal quality to its performances. If you don’t like this aspect of the beach, it probably wouldn’t be for you. Mixed with direct sun, sweat and a coastal breeze, LT area catered to a different type of festival goer.

Poncho Sanchez kicked off the event Friday afternoon, followed by LP, Tegan and Sara and Modest Mouse. Shwayze and Iration were notable and energetic acts to follow on Saturday, with icons bringing a peace of mind on Sunday such as The Wailers, The Head and The Heart, and the legendary Mavis Staples who noted between a charged performance that she’s a “soldier” — “we’ve got work to do; fight on.”

Shwayze, Saturday May 6, 2023. Photo: Janette Ayub

Sublime with Rome shared a special performance of 40oz to Freedom and the crowd on Saturday was insane. Filled with fans of all ages, a giant cushioned chair that somehow made its way into the crowd like a beach ball, pot, booze, and pits that broke out here and there, the band did not disappoint. Rome Ramirez took time to acknowledge the album’s importance sharing it was one collection actually that got him into playing music.

A moment to recognize Gabrial McNair who was spotted playing with Sublime with Rome and then immediately to Stefani’s set — dancing, singing, keys, trombone — a total of 48 songs for the night.

And when the high of SWR came to an end, like bulls running from the gate, a crowd swarmed for Stefani. Crowds so huge that one would be crushed. My lens cap went flying as men twice my size pushed with no regard. Protecting the camera at all cost since most media were not given access or the protection to shoot from the pit, only from the crowd, here came the first red flag in design.

Half of the crowd during Sublime with Rome, Saturday May 6, 2023. Photo: Janette Ayub

Speakeasy Stage

The Speakeasy stage, which was hosted by Volume who also were live streaming the festival, was a time for lounging and being mesmerized by harmonies. Its porch like quality and homey vibes were past the sand and tucked in a corner among food trucks, paintings, and free White Claw samples. The cozy stage was a favorite due to the intimate nature of its build.

Claire White and Jonny Two Bags (Social Distortion) were among the first to open the stage on Friday. The Foxies instantly became a favorite with their stripped down set, followed by David Ryan Harris, who I wish I was able to witness more of, and lastly the Rainbow Girls who charmed between tracks with their stories and wit.

The Foxies, Saturday May 6, 2023. Photo: Janette Ayub

Riptide Stage

From the entrance, one of the first stages to the right held some favorite performances. Perfectly fit between the next wave of the festival and a slew of alcohol beverages to choose from, the Riptide stage held its own. Friday saw XYZPD, The Beaches; Saturday ran high with Tropidelic, Special ‘C’, and the Kevin Sousa Band; and Sunday with Hearty Har and Jakobs Castle.

The 415’s made me want to see more. The garage rock and surf band who have been rockin’ since 1982 from Manhattan Beach brought out classic cuts from their catalogue that ranged from surf rock to punchier, fast punk influenced numbers. There was a spirit of rebellious youth during their set that reminded me why the initial craze and emergence of this genre is so important and all the sub-genres that came afterwards.

The 415’s


  • The Beachlife app was one of the best tools to have. It allowed a user to make their own schedule, view the schedule in general, and locate “beachlife experiences” such as beer, silent auctions, and the Kinecta ice cream truck. If technology wasn’t your style, the general information tent had physical maps with schedule times.
  • There were a lot of choices for food that were vegetarian/vegan friendly so people could enjoy themselves and not worry about any dietary restrictions.
  • If you came early and parked at the Rodono Beach pier, you only had to walk for what felt like less than a minute to the main gate.

  • Most people that I spoke to were friendly and hilarious. They wanted to lounge, relax, and talk about music. My favorite came from a woman I met at the Speakeasy stage who shared her thoughts while using the typically disgusting, festival restrooms: “When was the last time Gwen used one of these? I’m 48 and I’m using a damn porta potty.”
  • Since the festival is small and is set for a golden coast experience, it was very easy, in regards to time, to move between stages. The slots were staggered in a great way as well that if you really timed yourself properly, you could witness partial sets of mostly everyone featured.


  • Due to the size, the downfall is when it is too crowded, there isn’t enough room to simply walk. Of all the nights, Saturday proved that ample space for those not wanting to be locked into one specific area was needed. We have seen multiple times of people being injured and dying from crowd sizes and crowd rushes, and the walkway that was left behind the main stage seemed to be dangerously close to an accident. Yes, there were law enforcement and firefighters on site, but once in a certain depth of the crowd, you won’t be heard.
  • By the end of Sublime to the start of Stefani’s set, the general path from the Lowtide stage to the Hightide stage became congested. With only two possible pathways, one being a ramp for ADA users, and with most show-goers becoming incredibly drunk, this scenario in itself posed as a danger especially with little ones.
  • If you came late, you would not be able to park at the Rodono Beach lot closest to the festival. Though, there were several other lots to choose from that required walking.

  • The festival didn’t have a designated parking lot so this was a challenge if you were traveling and couldn’t afford to stay at a hotel. The price in general for someone like myself attending all day came to $30. Talking to people in line, some opted to basically “hike” from their free parking spots up the Pacific Highway.

Hopes Moving Forward

The festival took a classic “California Sound” and the rebellious spirit that came during peaks of surf rock and celebrated underneath the very palm trees and sand that inspired so many. It was beautiful to see so many people of all ages, all families, enjoy themselves. What I wish for the festival moving forward is that there will be more intended diversity and inclusion within their lineup. The beach life is a specific “vibe,” yes, but does not belong to one specific group of people and doesn’t represent all of Southern California.

Surf rock holds influences from Middle Eastern and Mexican cultures, noting the iconic guitar riff pioneered by American artist dubbed The King of the Surf Guitar Dick Dale — who was of Lebanese descent and took musical influences from his Uncle. And this riff sparked so much of what became the sounds of California. Additionally, you cannot have Cali Reggae without Reggae, Ska, or Rock Steady; and you cannot have any of this without Black musicians.

%d bloggers like this: