And so day two begun. After getting myself sufficiently sunburned on day one, I came prepared with long sleeves and plenty of sunblock for the day.
Being a smaller festival, and one of the few multi-day festivals that still sells tickets to individual days, Beachlife is better able to curate its daily line-ups. So if day one was indie rock day, Saturday was definitely reggae day. The majority of the acts on the bill for the day were either ska/reggae, reggae-leaning, or at least reggae-influenced groups. Starting with the day’s first act, local group Special “C”, playing one of their first shows in years. The ska-punk group were clearly bringing in local friends and family, with a crowd made up of South Bay punks (I spotted Pennywise‘s Fletcher in the crowd), and everyone seemed to know each other, hugging and catching up as the band played some chill-morning reggae tunes and broke out in the occasional rousing punk nugget.
I took in the first few songs of Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds, another reggae band, but one who incorporated both latin and hard rock into their sound to give them a unique presence. Their cover of “Me Gustas Tu” was a pleasant surprise for the morning. I moved over to the acoustic Speakeasy stage to check out glitter-punk group The Foxies. The Nashville threesome were admittedly more used to raucous, electric sets, but aside from a lack of dancing room, they adapted very well to the tiny stage and unplugged setting. Lead singer Julia Bullock falls somewhere in between a young Debbie Harry and modern Miley Cyrus – spirited, sarcastic, with a lively charm and aesthetic. Guitarist Jake Ohlbaum provided solid harmonies and made his presence felt even when jamming loudly on his acoustic guitar, while drummer Rob Bodley provided subdued accompaniment. Tracks like “Deep Seat Diver” sounded great with the acoustic make-over, but as Bullock attested, the audience needs to see them in one of their own, full-on live shows.
When I first heard Shwayze years ago, I immediately thought that he was the Sugar Ray of hip-hop; providing perfect, sunny beach vibes through his sunny, love-filled flow and lyrics. This made it all the more fitting that he was going on just before Sugar Ray that day. Even with a 1:00pm set time, Shwayze brought a party atmosphere to the Low Tide stage. Old tracks like “Corona and Lime” were feel-good sing-alongs, but he also wasn’t afraid to hype up his new music from 2022’s Shway Szn. He brought out Claire Wright for their track “Slice of Sunshine”, and Common Kings for their collaboration “California Day” (a perfect song for the day). I don’t think anyone will complain if Shwayze gets brought back to the fest again.
By now, Sugar Ray really should just be the official house band for Beachlife Fest. Playing the festival for the fourth time, Mark McGrath remains the grateful, self-effacing showman. Those who have caught their past sets know generally what to expect and come back for more. Outside their evergreen hits, the band opened with the oldie “Speed Home California”, and dug out deep cuts like “Under the Sun” and “Into Yesterday” from the Surf’s Up soundtrack. The group also had a little fun doing a bit of 90’s karaoke, diving into short covers of OMC‘s “So Bizarre”, Len‘s “Steal My Sunshine” and the Backstreet Boys‘ “I Want it That Way”. They then closed with the song that got them there today, “Fly”, a staple of SoCal radio.
With a short break, I finally managed to win myself a pair of the Skechers Beachlife foamies, which I proceeded to put on before Dispatch took the stage. Having seen them less than a year ago, I wasn’t sure how long I would stay for their set, but I of course got hooked in as soon as they opened with their reggae-leaning track “Open Up”. While one of the few outwardly political acts on the bill that day, the band avoided any preaching outside of their lyrics. Chad Stokes, decked out in a Bad Brains t-shirt, jammed out with his wild hair going everywhere in the beach breeze on the catchy “Break Our Fall”. Brad took on lead vocals for a track, and then Chad came back for “Midnight Lorrie”. The band has got the audience into a call-and-response on more than one occasion, and brought some jam-band vibes despite never going off into any long dirges. The group closed with their recent, wistful hit “Only the Wild Ones” and then their original anthem “The General”.
Though I didn’t want to be too far in the back for Band of Horses, I had to switch stages to check out Iration. Another group carrying the torch that Sublime lit, the Hawaiian group has earned their place in the reggae/rock pantheon with years of touring and songwriting that rises above many of their peers’. Early in the set, they broke out “Time Bomb”, which was clearly an audience favorite – and it should be noted they had a loyal, very enthused crowd. Groups like Iration, Slightly Stooped and 311 have some of the most loyal, good-natured fans (and that’s before the weed comes in), who treat every show like a group hang. No one is afraid to dance, groove or what have you. The folks certainly did for “Turn Around” (as did I), one of the band’s catchiest tracks. Along with old favorites, the band also road-tested some new material, including the burner “Day Tripping”, which will be perfect for summer playlists if it gets released soon. The group closed out their set with a tribute to the legendary Tom Petty with a cover of “Last Dance with Mary Jane”. I had been thinking earlier that day that if he were still around, Petty would have been a perfect headliner for the fest. It seems Iration agrees.
I moved back to the High Tide stage early to get a good spot for Band of Horses, one of the few non-reggae acts on the main stages that day. The folk rockers added some good “roll” to their sound when they hit the stage and launched into “Laredo”. Maybe it was the pub piano or the rollicking energy, but the band was more lively and loud than I would have expected. Obviously, they have a number of straight-up rockers like the giant “Is There a Ghost” (a highlight for me), but also new ones like “Casual Party” and “Lights” were far more rock than folk, and got heads banging.
The group also has the stand-out, recently gold love track “No One’s Gonna Love You”, which had couples in the audience kissing and holding each other. It’s rare to find a modern indie rock song that has this kind of impact, so cheers to the group for that feat. While I had fingers crossed to hear “In a Drawer”, I was not to be lucky on this front. The band expectedly played their anthem “The Funeral”, which had fans waving their arms in the air. To my surprise, this was not the closer – the group got down and gritty with a cover of The Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog”. Maybe they knew it was going to be the last really rocking song to be played on that stage that night?
So I had to make a hard decision – give up my prime main stage real estate, or travel back to Low Tide to see Sublime with Rome in person. If you’re like me and you grew up in the South Bay, then Sublime was part of your youth. Your culture. Signed photos of the band hunt in our local sub shop Papa Jakes. KROQ played Sublime almost every hour. They were inescapable. Yet, maybe it’s knowing that for all of Rome‘s talents, he can never truly replace Brad Nowell, or maybe it was just reggae burn-out after hearing so many of the group’s that Sublime has inspired over the years already that day, but I decided to keep my spot and watch Sublime on the screens instead of in person. While it didn’t stop me or anyone else around me from singing along to classics like “Date Rape”, “What I Got” or “Bad Fish” (even though they cut out the sound at High Tide for that last song), I just didn’t want to fight my way back for Gwen Stefani.
Much like Sublime, No Doubt has also been a fundamental part of SoCal DNA since the 90’s. Tragic Kingdom‘s iconic album cover was recognizable even if you didn’t listen to the album. And much like every other millennial or older member of the audience, I was secretly hoping Gwen would surprise all of us with an on-stage No Doubt reunion. Yes, I knew it was a long, long looooong shot, but one can dream. Cause as much as I like No Doubt, I have some strong feelings about Gwen’s solo work (and I’ll leave it at that).
Alas, it was going to be a Gwen solo show, as she came out backed by a pack of excellent dancers and went into one of her more enjoyable solo songs “Sweet Escape”. She was thankfully backed by an actual band, along with screens of visuals. And of course her outfit choices reminded everyone why she has become almost as well known for her fashion as her music.
Accepting that Tony Kanal, Adrienne Young and Tom Dumont were not going to make an appearance, I made the best of the evening and got excited for every No Doubt song played. Stefani skanked out to “Sunday Morning”, before going into the band’s hit cover of “It’s My Life”. The other solo track of hers I don’t mind, “Cool”, was a decent pop cleanser before returning to reggae with “Underneath It All”, which had at least one young member of the audience in tears.
One nice moment in the set came when Gwen picked out a few fans in the audience to join her on stage for selfies, including one very young fan she hugged and signed a t-shirt for. And while Gwen never directly mentioned her old band mates, she seemed to want to make it clear why she was staying solo. Telling the audience she loved them, she discussed how some of these older songs were painful for her to sing, even going as far to say that she “hated” them (so imagine how she would feel playing them with her ex on stage; implied), but loved the crowd so much she was willing to play them. She then launched into a harder-rocking “Ex-Girlfriend”, and then “Hey Baby”, with the guitars turned up.
While tracks like “Rich Girl” really don’t resonate with me (especially coming from a very rich girl), my enthusiasm returned with “Don’t Speak”, and the ska banger “Spiderwebs”. While there unfortunately was no “New” or “Excuse Me Mr.”, Gwen did return from her second outfit change to launch into “Just a Girl”, which has been having a revival lately, with a number of acts (including Florence + the Machine) covering it. At this point, I was making my way out of the endless crowd, having heard “Hollaback Girl” more than enough for one lifetime.
My exact thoughts and feelings about Gwen as well! However, I did keep my spot at the Low Tide stage after Iration so I could have a prime spot for SwR. I hung in the back by the Surf Club for Gwen’s set and had plenty of room to jump around and skank for Sunday Morning, Ex-girlfriend, Spiderweb, and Just a Girl ❤
Skanking room is a must!
Wish you could have heard Hard Rooster at the Speakeasy…they had the crowd rockin with their deserty country jams!
The difficulties with festivals – only so many of the acts you can see! Will be sure to check HR out sometime.