Under sunny skies and mild and comfortable weather, thousands of alternative country music fans came to the beach for day one of the inaugural three-day BeachLife Ranch country and Americana festival, which rode into town on Friday, Sept. 16 and continues through Sunday, Sept. 18.
BeachLife Ranch is the sister fest to the annual BeachLife Festival, which has a more modern rock and reggae focus and was held earlier this year at the same location at Seaside Lagoon in Redondo Beach. Instead of seeing BeachLife acts like Smashing Pumpkins, 311, Sheryl Crow and Weezer, BeachLife Ranch fans were treated to sets by The Lumineers, Old Crow Medicine Show, The White Buffalo and, although they’re not even a little country, day one was headlined by soul-pop stars Daryl Hall & John Oates.
Acts like Brandi Carlile, Dierks Bentley, Greensky Bluegrass, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, Cam, Drive-By Truckers and more are scheduled to perform throughout the weekend.
With many music fans decked out in cowboy hats and some wearing boots, there were a lot of folks with their kids in tow, taking advantage of the laid-back style of the festival.
“We live locally and we always heard of the BeachLife festivals so when this one came around I was super excited,” said Hermosa Beach resident Jennifer Buchsbaum, who was at the festival with her husband Brad Buchsbaum and their 12–year-old daughter, Caitlyn.
“I wanted to bring my daughter to come see a couple of great bands,” she said.
“This is the first concert that she’s ever come to with us, the layout is pretty nice and it’s family oriented,” Brad added.
Country beach vibes
The BeachLife Ranch Festival looks almost identical to its BeachLife counterpart, with three stages and various bars set up in the same locations. But it’s evident right away that this is a different vibe. The trucker hats and fancy sun hats that were for sale by vendors at BeachLife were traded in for cowboy hats and plenty of boots, too.
“You just gotta be in the moment and get country,” said 36-year-old Alex Cortez and he tried on and bought a $65 cowboy hat from a vendor booth.
Cortez has attended the prior BeachLife festivals and jumped at the chance to catch country acts by the beach.
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“It’s got the same feeling, just chill and relaxed with music by the ocean. I actually think this is even more chill than BeachLife,” he said.
There were plenty of people wearing cowboy boots, though most opted to wear sandals and tennis shoes in the sand. But those boots did come in handy for those who two-stepped their way into the line-dancing barn, where instructors gave line dance lessons.
“This is one of the things I was most looking forward to,” said 40-year-old Danielle Robbins, who sported a cowboy hat and brown boots as she line danced in the makeshift barn.
“It’s a total country party so you need to dance,” she added.
There was also a mechanical bull that patrons rode throughout the day and a roping area where people could practice lassoing skills on fake bull heads. There was, of course, plenty of barbecue booths grilling sausages and food trucks serving pull pork and tri-tip sandwiches.
Country meets punk
Punk legend John Doe of seminal Los Angeles band X traded his angst for cowboy swagger as he got the crowd riled up with an early afternoon set on the sand at the Yonder stage. He performed stripped down Americana tunes with his John Doe Folk Trio, which consists of upright bass player Kevin Smith and drummer Conrad Choucroun.
The small, but enthusiastic early day crowd stood in the sand and swayed along to some of Doe’s new music, his voice perfectly twangy throughout a set that included crowd pleasing songs like “Destroying Angels,” a rootsy guitar driven dark tune about a man who may have killed his wife. He also played “El-Romance-O,” where he sang part of the Tex-Mex style tune in Spanish.
He surprised the audience with an Americana version of X’s 1981 hit “White Girl” and in between songs Doe complimented fans on their fashion, especially a man wearing a sparkly blue hat, who stood out in the VIP section.
“It takes a real man to wear a hat like that,” Doe told the smiling man.
Sweet and sentimental
The first day of BeachLife Ranch really belonged to The Lumineers, who hopped on the Yonder stage as the sun set over the ocean and they roped the crowd in with hit song after hit song.
If your name happened to be Angela, Gloria or Ophelia, then you got personally serenaded by the band since they performed those hits to an adoring crowd, who sang along to just about every word.
Sporting a brown hat and dressed in all black with his long hair and scruffy beard, lead singer Wesley Schultz looked the part of a singing cowboy as the band rode through Hitsville with songs like “Sleep on the Floor,” “Big Parade,” “Flowers in your Hair,” and “Ho Hey,” which won the audience participation award for the day, since everyone seemed to be singing along after Schultz asked them to help him out.
The most “aw, shucks” moment of the night went to 20-year-old Sadie Jean, a singer-songwriter who plays guitar, keys and sings brutally honest songs about sad things like boys and breakups. Looking a bit nervous and shy as she went on the tiny Speakeasy stage, where artists play stripped down versions of their songs, Jean introduced herself in a whisper of a voice to a small crowd that at first didn’t seem to be paying much attention to her.
“Hi guys my name is Sadie Jean, my first song is an original,” she said.
“I hope you enjoy it,” she added as she picked up her guitar and began her set, which was filled with slow tempo songs about the heartache she has endured due to this one boy. She shared with the crowd these were sad songs about the same “boy,” which endeared her to some of the nearby listeners.
“That’s just adorable,” said 49-year-old Melissa Hutchings as she swayed to the music. “I mean that was me in college, I feel for her. But she’s got a lovely voice, so she’ll forget about him.”
The barn burner
The hootenanny of the night was Nashville-born Americana string band Old Crow Medicine Show, who put on a raucous and rowdy show with songs about whiskey, partying, running away from the cops and other outlaw adventures over on the Hither stage.
Armed with a ridiculous amount of energy and the furious fiddling of frontman Ketch Secor, the six-piece band had the crowd stomping their boots, sandals, tennis shoes, or whatever they were wearing during their entire set. But no one stomped harder than the band, who played more like a wild circus act that had been given instruments and were let loose in Redondo Beach as they ran around the stage pounding their boots all over the place.
They chatted with each other on stage like they were in a comedy skit, talking about the California country crowd and how they were going to get everyone to dance. And they did, thanks to songs like “Take ‘Em Away,” a cover of Alabama’s “Dixieland Delight,” and their biggest hit, the band’s updated version of “Wagon Wheel.”
“It always sounds a little sweeter in Southern California,” Secor said just before jamming on his fiddle with “Wagon Wheel.”