Tucked into a quiet corner of the metro Los Angeles area, the annual BeachLife Festival feels like a different world. Mellow vibes, sandy stages, and a well-curated lineup are just a few reasons this young festival in Redondo Beach continues to win over festies year after year.
Music Festival Wizard is coming out of hibernation with our first recap of the 2023 season, and I’ve returned to BeachLife, one of my favorites in the US. Did it live up to the high expectations from my previous visit in 2021? Let’s find out!
Table Of Contents
Running the Numbers
Dates: May 5-7, 2023
MFW Beer Index: €10.94
Highest/Lowest Temperature: 17C/11C (64F/52F)
Reusable Cups? No
Free Water Stations? Yes!
After a long winter, it’s such an incredible experience to kick off your shoes, stand under that bright California sun, and see some epic bands. One of the best things about BeachLife is that all four stages are less than five minutes apart. No hiking to see shows! The two main stages have the advantage of being friendly for sitting – Low Tide being all sand and High Tide featuring artificial grass.
BeachLife continues to boast a well-curated lineup with every day having a slightly different vibe depending on the headliners. Friday had an indie rock atmosphere with The Black Keys and Pixies, and Sunday keyed up classic rock favorites like John Fogerty and The Black Crowes. Saturday brought out a party crowd with Sublime and a bombastic headliner show starring Gwen Stefani.
Most importantly, BeachLife leans hard into a growing trend where it’s possible to see just about all the music you paid to see. There are no overlapping sets between the headliners and sub-headliners so you don’t have to choose between favorites. And if a particular act didn’t grab your attention, the Riptide Stage featured up-and-coming artists while the Speakeasy Stage showed off acoustic sets.
It’s a beach festival in California so that means a chill crowd estimated between 9,000-11,000 festies per day. There’s plenty of room to roam during with your choice of seating, although when the headline acts hit the stage, it felt like the fest was at full capacity. My only gripe is that the intimate Speakeasy Stage has outgrown its current spot and needs a bigger space.
Acts I Caught and the Unofficial Order in Which I Enjoyed Them
- Tegan And Sara
- Mavis Staples
- Band of Horses
- The Head & The Heart
- The Black Keys
- John Fogerty
- Kurt Vile and the Violators
- Modest Mouse
- Black Crowes
- Gwen Stefani
- Sublime with Rome
- Ali & AJ
Festival MVP: Mavis Staples
It’s hard to complain about being tired on the third day of a festival when 83-year-old Mavis Staples is dancing and singing across a sunny stage. When the soul legend wasn’t knocking out hits like I’ll Take You There, she was busting up the crowd with stories and banter.
Most Theatrical: Gwen Stefani
BeachLife was packed during the Gwen Stefani headlining spectacular on Saturday – maybe the most full I’ve seen the place after two editions and six headliners. Backup dancers, costume changes, and big screen backdrops had the crowd absolutely bumping.
Biggest Comeback: John Fogerty
After signing away the rights to his songs as a teenager, the Credence Clearwater Revival frontman has been trying to get the rights back to his music for an eye-watering 50 years. With the legal battle concluding this past January, Fogerty is on a celebration tour, and it shows in every fist pump, yell, and smile on his face.
Festival Favorites: Band Of Horses/Head & The Heart
These two are such staples on the festival circuit I sometimes forget how fun both bands are to see live with lots of energy and a surprising number of tunes that you didn’t think you knew.
First Time (For Me): Tegan & Sara
It seems like I’ve been trying to see the indie-famous Canadian twins for decades – probably because I have. Tegan and Sara made that dream come true with an easygoing vibe well suited to the beach stage. In between songs, the two sisters joked about being on mushrooms, not being on mushrooms, and that they are actually kid-friendly.
BeachLife Ranch 2023 Confirmed
The BeachLife Festival has been so successful, they’ve added a second festival weekend called BeachLife Ranch with a country-flavored twist. During the fest, they confirmed the dates would be September 22-24, 2023, with Jack Johnson as the first headliner. The full lineup will be out soon – stay tuned.
We Are All Gwen Stefani
The Gwen Stefani crew posted up on the rail early for the Saturday night headliner and never gave up their spot. I had a few double-takes during the day mistaking dressed-up fans in the crowd as Stefani doppelgangers.
“Where’s All This Smoke Coming From?”
Me forgetting that I’m at the Sublime with Rome set.
BeachLife Is A Full House
Jon Stamos was wandering around BeachLife and waved hello to me*.
*It was definitely me and not a girl about to burst into tears at the sight of Uncle Jesse.
It’s Been a Long Winter
That would explain why I have 400 photos of palm trees and a blue sky.
To answer my own question from the introduction, BeachLife met my expectations from 2021 and exceeded them. I’m stoked to see that instead of turning this into a larger festival, they remain focused on keeping the current vibe and incredible lineups. I’m even more stoked that they have added a second fest to the roster in September.