How the BeachLife Festival kept pace during the pandemic – Daily Breeze
Allen Sanford remembers watching the closing shoot of the inaugural BeachLife Festival in May 2019, finally taking a moment to reflect on the weekend.
Under a clear blue sky, thousands of people had dragged on blankets on the sand, danced on artificial turf. The 40 performers on stage were chosen to celebrate the laid back vibe of Redondo Beach – including headliners Bob Weir, Brian Wilson, Ziggy Marley and Willie Nelson.
“At the end of the last festival, I finally took a breath for Willie Nelson,” said Sanford, who co-founded BeachLife with his business partner Rob Lissner.
The future looked bright for BeachLife after the well-received first edition of the event. Another lineup of artists with multi-platinum pedigrees beloved by generations was on sale for 2020, generating even more buzz in the crowded Southern California music festival landscape.
Then the coronavirus pandemic nearly choked the life of the music industry, with all major events, including BeachLife, canceling in 2020.
And for Sanford and his team, being able to return to that stage to rediscover that calm pre-storm reflection has meant a year of digging into their community roots in order to stay afloat.
“I always knew we would come back, or I would die trying,” said Sanford as he sat on the patio at the Rockefeller, one of the restaurants he owns, located about two miles from Seaside Lagoon. , where the festival will return. 10-12 Sep
When BeachLife returns, it will be a three-day event filled with about four dozen acts on four stages headlined by alternative rock royalty Jane’s Addiction on night one, Counting Crows on night two and Ziggy and Stephen Marley on the final night in doing a set. songs by their late father Bob Marley. The new Speakeasy stage, initially scheduled for 2020, will finally materialize with acoustic performances by punk musicians, surfers and skateboarders. And the festival’s SideStage Experience, a 50-seat pop-up restaurant on the side of the main stage, will return in September.
“What I couldn’t do personally was finish 2021 with a loss, and not having the festival for me in some form or another would have signaled a loss,” Sanford said.
A growing storm
Sanford had a meeting with an executive from the shoe company Skechers in February 2020 when he first heard about “something really bad to come”. The shoe company was planning to set up a cabana at the festival and the executive asked Sanford if he was preparing for “this COVID thing,” Sanford said.
“I remember walking out of the meeting saying, ‘There’s no way.’ I remember meeting the team and telling them it was a speed bump and we would go through and we had to. probably take some security measures and you would be fine. But one of the main things I learned during COVID was just because you can’t imagine that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, ”he said.
Then the unthinkable came true as festival after festival, including longtime industry giants such as Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and Stagecoach Country Music Festival, postponed and later canceled their 2020 events.
Still hoping things would get back to normal sooner or later, Sanford did not initially cancel the 2020 BeachLife edition, but rather postponed it, with the intention of announcing new dates this summer. But in mid-July, amid an outbreak of coronavirus cases, the inevitable happened and the festival was scrapped for 2020 with an announcement promising the return of BeachLife in May 2021.
“All of a sudden it all got a lot bigger than a festival, it became about survival,” said Sanford.
“He quickly switched to the economy around him. No one was ready to reimburse the tickets; there weren’t even any policies because it had never happened before, ”he said.
Sanford and his team had to figure out how to deal with ticket holders who wanted a refund instead of waiting for it, as organizers worked to collect artists’ deposits and dealt with insurance companies to recover the funds.
Sanford said BeachLife refunded a few thousand tickets but was able to recoup much of the money the company invested. However, they lost over $ 500,000 spent on things like advertisements that could not be recovered.
Sanford said that additional optional coverage offered by insurance companies is a pandemic clause, which he never even thought of taking.
“In case a disease takes over the world and makes the whole world go away, you would be assured, but I laughed at it, like what a waste, why would you ever get this clause,” he said. “I would have been the smartest guy in the neighborhood if I had done that,” he lamented.
With live music on hold, Sanford put its Hermosa Beach Saint Rocke music club up for sale last year.
But he knew that BeachLife had to stay relevant and in the minds and hearts of the community in order to come back strong, even before it was officially canceled, so on May 1, 2020, the day the festival was originally supposed to take place, Part of the event took place online with some of the musicians scheduled to perform on the SpeakEasy stage streaming live from multiple locations.
This eventually led to the monthly SpeakEasy Summer Series, where different musicians who were scheduled to perform at the festival performed online each month instead.
“I think the live broadcasts have been really essential in keeping people’s trust in the festival and letting them know we’re not going anywhere,” said Jim Lindberg, frontman of Pennywise and stage commissioner SpeakEasy.
“I think it was really important to keep that momentum going with the livestream and things like that because there was so much uncertainty there. We wanted to let everyone know that we care about our fans and make sure everyone was confident that we were going to come back better than ever, ”said Lindberg.
Take to the streets
And as a restaurateur, Sanford also felt a responsibility to the neighborhood and wanted BeachLife to be a beacon in the community.
“I told my dad about it and he asked me what I was going to do and I said, ‘In 20, 30 or 40 years, they are going to talk about the people who have disappeared and they are going to talk about the people who helped and wanted to be one of the guys who helped, ”he said.
Last summer, BeachLife therefore partnered with the city and the Riviera Village Association to build street patios for restaurants.
“BeachLife is a temporary festival that has temporary events and I had a whole team that could do that and that wasn’t working and I felt like I had to keep some of these guys working,” Sanford said.
In total, BeachLife has built more than 20 parklets with the patio walls painted in beach tones, some depicting waves and bearing the word “BeachLife”. The lyrics “Everything will be fine” from Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” is written on top of another.
“It cemented the definition of BeachLife for me. So bring it back to street level and you help the tribe when things aren’t going well. And when the going is really good, you have a crazy festival, ”Sanford said.
After initially announcing an expected return on May 21 and 23, 2021, BeachLife subsequently decided to move the festival to September.
“I think the day we decided I was with my partner Rob, it was just a feeling of cautious optimism. I’m still not ready to breathe and say it’s 100% happening – 50% of me think something might happen, ”Sanford said.
What exactly the festival will look like when it returns is still a bit unclear.
As COVID-19 cases decline, California continues to ease restrictions on entertainment, with state officials announcing color-coded levels will end on June 15.
But there is still uncertainty over the COVID-19 capacity and guidelines for the festival, although Sanford has said it will keep it at around 10,000 people.
For the locals, his return is a sign that things are finally returning to a certain normality in the region.
“I can’t wait to be there again. I’m sure I’ll be moved as this will be the first time we’ve been with people again, ”said Jeff Williams, a Redondo Beach resident who attended the festival in 2019 and plans to return in September.
There have also been many inquiries about private cabanas as people want their own space and the festival has partnered with the Beach Cities Health District to develop guidelines and protocols, Sanford said.
Regardless of what that looks like, he expects everything to be okay when he returns from the festival.
“Our sanity has changed a bit, I don’t think we’ve even realized how much we missed the community and I think when you bring people together there will be a new exhilaration, which is really exciting. I think people are going to be so excited that they are going to be more grateful. You don’t know what you have until he’s gone, ”Sanford said.
It’s almost prophetic, then, that Ziggy and Stephen Marley will perform songs from their late father Bob to close the second edition of the festival on Sunday night, as his lyrics have become a philosophy and mantra for BeachLife. And that’s when Sanford hopes to find his own moment of reflection, as he did during Nelson’s set two years ago.
“It’s my goal, to get back to this point on Sunday night of this year, to get back to being able to catch that breath,” he said.
When: September 10 to 12
Where: Seaside Lagoon, 137 N. Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach
Cost: $ 125 – $ 2,995