BeachLife Ranch hit the bullseye on a talent-filled three-day inaugural festival over the weekend as BeachLife Festival’s first-ever country/Americana-leaning event in Redondo Beach. Since launching in 2019, BeachLife Festival has brought Brian Wilson, Willie Nelson and Bob Weir to the Pacific coast along with Counting Crows, Ziggy & Stephen Marley, Jane’s Addiction, Smashing Pumpkins, Steve Miller Band, Weezer and this time around celebrating the best in country and Americana, but also Southern rock, blues, folk, bluegrass and soul with Dierks Bentley, Brandi Carlile and Hall & Oates.
BeachLife Festival has always stood firmly on real artistry and musicianship, so it’s no surprise really that they would expand the brand, shifting the sound a bit to Nashville and Appalachia, also prominently featuring The Lumineers, Ashley McBryde, Wilco, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real and a special Songs of Waylon Jennings tribute with his son Shooter Jennings and featuring Yelawolf, Nelson, Devon Allman, Orville Peck, John Doe, Chris Shiflitt, Pearl and others. There were other wonderful performances over the weekend from Old Crow Medicine Show, The Infamous Stringdusters, Pete Yorn, CAM, Greensky Bluegrass, The White Buffalo, Waxahatchee, Drive-by Truckers, Jamestown Revival, John Doe Folk Trio, Tenille Townes, Mike & The Moonpies, Myron Elkins, Maddie & Tae, The War & Treaty and so many others.
Dierks Bentley was the marquee act on the country side of things, headlining on Saturday night with a set that lasted over 100 minutes, including hit songs, new tunes, special guests and a whole lot of shenanigans for the encore. One of the most remarkable things about Bentley is he’s just a guy having fun out there, and while doing so he highlights the best in country music. During “Bad Angel” he brought out Ashley McBryde for outstanding harmonies as well as for a cover of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”, which spotlights Bentley’s fiddle player Dan Hochhalter. On the heartfelt ballad “Different for Girls”, Bentley was joined by Tenille Townes and on “Workin’ on a Building”, Bentley enlisted his guitar player Charlie Worsham (also a recording artist) on the vocals, who smashed it on the gospel-leaning bluegrass tune. The Ranch grounds erupted like it was a sports championship following this song.
Beyond the stellar collabs, Dierks Bentley packed the show with hits like his breakout 2003 single “What Was I Thinkin'”, and then firing up the crowd with “Burning Man”. The fans sang along for “I Hold On” and Bentley inspired with the ballad “Living”. Bentley was seated on a stool for the first parts of “Gone” and he brought it to a stadium anthem, getting his audience amped up, keeping things going with a sing-a-long of “oh-oh-ohs” from the crowd on “Woman, Amen”, flashing photos of all of the women in country. “Up On The Ridge” was mysterious as ever with another rousing fiddle solo and “Black” was simply amazing with all of its guitar flutters and magic. Bentley played a number of other massive hits including “Beers on Me”, “Settle for a Slowdown”, “Riser”, “Somewhere on a Beach”, “5150” and on “Drunk on a Plane” a fan was so inspired she flashed the screen. He gave props to women in Nashville saying they are making some of the best music right now and also mentioned that his new song “Gold” reminds him of this part of the country. For the encore, Bentley’s 90s country spoof act Hot Country Knights rocked a huge medley tunes with their mullets, from Brooks & Dunn’s “Hard Workin’ Man” to John Michael Montgomery/All-4-One’s “I Swear”.
Brandi Carlile is the current darling of Americana and her Sunday evening set was all kinds of awesome. She was joined by twin sidekick brothers, Phil and Tim Hanseroth on guitars, who are long-time band members and collaborators. The bros did a little intro and the band took shape, with Carlile taking a classy bow before the group started up with the lively “Broken Horses”, with Carlile’s perfect, rich, gravelly tone hitting its mark and the musicians offering up so much natural swagger. Donning a speckled blouse and matching cranberry pants, Carlile asked, “How’s it going BeachLife? What a beautiful vibe, look at all your faces out there. I got to hear my brothers in Wilco and Lukas Nelson”. The harmonies packed an exciting punch with Carlile joined by the Hanseroths on vocals for the wonderful “Wherever Is Your Heart” and the powerful string section was the cherry on top. The crowd was clapping for the gospel-leaning rock song “Mainstream Kid” with incredible instrumentation across the board. Following was an introduction of the string players, who also offered background vocals on “You and Me on the Rock”. Carlile told the story of the song’s origin as a bit of a “Sunday school lesson gone wrong” and she brought the laughs, changing her voice for the crowd, saying “I feel like I should talk to you in a devil voice”. Before playing the tune, she mentioned the song is about her relationship with wife Catherine, adding that “it’s got California written all over it”. The fans loved “Rock” and the magical vocals from the three musicians lending their voices alongside that of Carlile.
On “The Story”, Brandi Carlile’s voice went from five to 100 miles per hour, shaking her head fiercely while playing the guitar at one point. The vocal was simply incredible and the string section wowed once again. Carlile sounded like a songbird at the end and her falsetto was everything. After previously joking about opening for the band Hanson earlier in her career, she continued the humor, talking about how three-part harmony wasn’t necessarily cool in Seattle in the 90s and joined again by the Hanseroths, the trio completely floored the fans with the lush harmonies of “The Eye”. Carlile played solo for “The Mother” after talking about her two daughters and the Hanseroths were back for “Mama Werewolf”, with the entire band sounding wonderful accompanying Carlile’s angelic vocal. A pair of incredible misfit anthems were next, including covers of David Bowie’s 1969 “Space Oddity”, which was a completely gorgeous rendition, finding Carlile spinning around with her arms out for the final lyric “there’s nothing left to do” followed by a huge applause. There was an almost seamless transition into Radiohead’s 1992 hit “Creep”, with the stage lights red, another beautiful falsetto moment and the lyric “I don’t belong here” resonating.
Carlile took the piano for an off-the-cuff “This Time Tomorrow”, with the strings bringing it home again. Then she talked about “Right on Time”, which recently won the artist Song of the Year at the Americana Music Awards. “Right on Time” was stunning, Carlile’s voice soared in epic fashion. “I heard you singing along and then you ditched me on the high notes”, said Carlile to her fans. Carlile continued with the gospel-tinged “Sinners, Saints and Fools” with the twins and she introduced the band including the Sister Strings (Monique and Chauntee Ross), music director Kyleen King and cellist Josh Neumann, along with the rest of the band. “I’m full of gratitude for this audience, they’re not all like this. I want to thank you all for the love and support tonight”. Carlile played her big one “The Joke”, with the strings opening, and it’s clear this is far from a song, it’s really a prayer and she should be up next to sing a Bond theme. Carlile said, “This is our wish for every one of you”, and she and her band played “Stay Gentle” to a wild applause, followed by a lovely cover of “Over The Rainbow”.
Philadelphia duo Hall & Oates are neither country nor Americana, but soul music is arguably a part of both and who doesn’t love a Hall & Oates tune?! The party was going strong Friday night with Daryl Hall and John Oates kicking off with the band’s 1982 smash “Maneater”, joined by saxophonist Charles DeChant at the front of the stage for one of his many iconic solos. “Well, well, well,” said Hall. “Everything is good?” asked Oates. “Call us the odd man out ’cause we’re not a country band, not a problem”, said Hall. The eight musicians on stage continued with “Out of Touch”, with most of them harmonizing on this one, accompanied by some 80s street tags on the screen and some excellent guitars. Hall & Oates switched out guitars and played “Method of Modern Love” with the bass standing out and followed it up with “Say It Isn’t So” with the perfect balance of 80s percussion and maracas, cool instrumentation and stellar back-up vocals. They played Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”, with Oates singing lead and then switching off with Hall taking the reins.
Hall & Oates took it back to the 70s for “She’s Gone”, with outstanding harmonies and falsetto, with a diner scene in the background. The song packs so much emotion and the arrangement stands up beautifully, with DeChant playing clarinet on this one. They continued with the crowd responding from the start of another 70s standout, “Sara Smile” with Daryl Hall playing some jazzy chords on the piano and delivering an outstanding vocal. The experimental “Is It A Stars” had the duo each singing lead and they played a slightly different arrangement of “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)”, with more percussion, Hall improvising and DeChant offering another solo on sax. For Hall & Oates’ encore they brought the feel-good energy of “Rich Girl”, energizing the crowd, and on “Kiss On My List”, they got cute with the visuals, blending various romantic emojis with witty text messages flashing on the screen. The fans clapped it out for “Private Eyes” and they introduced their talented band. The pop/rock duo wrapped with a very colorful “You Make My Dreams” and the whole thing felt like a rush of fun.
THE HOT SAUCE
Soul duo The War and Treaty were an early-in-the-day act on Sunday that truly would have made any other performer want to step up their game. Married couple Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Trotter were channeling some high frequencies with tunes that spanned soul, R&B, gospel and straight-up rock & roll, coming off a recent win for Duo of the Year at the Americana Music Association Awards. On “Lovers Game”, Michael was on the keys and Tanya hit the tambourine, both wailing away and later they were back-to-back before working the stage, sounding like a Rolling Stones rock show. Their blended voices are some of the best in decades, coupled with Michael’s funky and bluesy skills on the keys. There were moments of Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin for sure —and Tanya’s tone has a bit of Mary J. Blige too. “BeachLife Ranch, are you ready to love us?”, asked Tanya. “”Cause we’re ready to love you”. Tanya’s voice completely soared on “Are You Ready to Love Me?” “Our goal is that you feel united, that you feel safe and that you feel love”, said Michael. Bluesy love ballad “Blank Page” may have offered the best harmonies, with incredible moments from organist Kiran Gupta and voices so powerful, you could cry. Tanya leaned a hand on Michael’s shoulder while he played and she belted with her head back and then Michael crushed one of the biggest notes BeachLife Ranch had heard all weekend long.
If the crowd didn’t already feel alive, The War and Treaty’s cover of Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” certainly did the trick. Michael promised to take the audience to New Orleans for a bit with the duo singing “It Ain’t Over Yet”, with Michael’s voice sounding like various horns throughout the tune including a little Louis Armstrong. The Trotters jumped into the crowd on the turf, getting their crowd riled up, and screaming never felt so satisfying on a song. After Tanya hit a beach ball with enthusiasm, the lovebirds were back on stage embracing and they introduced their band. “I’m not tired, you are”, said Michael. The War and Treaty played their brand new single “That’s How Love Is Made” while they caught their breath quickly, singing the soon-to-be-a-signature ballad beautifully, joining hands and enjoying a little smooch at the end. The playful “Five More Minutes” sounded like a massive throwback, with Tanya sitting on Michael’s lap for a moment, with the entire crowd clapping along and enjoying the fun call-and-response. The Trotters did a little finale of several classic songs that ranged from “Ain’t To Proud To Beg” to “Respect”, highlighting both of their voices, they kissed again and the grounds were filled with magic, like they had seen something special.
Texas folk duo Jamestown Revival were one of the acts to impress, with Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay’s harmonies reaching next level. From the start of “Crazy World”, it was clear these guys meant business, sounding in moments throughout the set like a modern-day Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. “Young Man”, the title track of the band’s 2022 album continued the outstanding vocals and the band was exceptional on the timeless folky song as well. “Moving Man ” was blues rock perfection and the guys said, “We are Jamestown Revival, it’s a pleasure to be here. We are from Austin, TX and we have been here for about 10 years”. They had another moment on “Northbound”, which may have been one of the best vocals of the entire festival (aside from Brandi Carlile), not to mention a great message, “ain’t no way to change the tide, best sit back enjoy the ride”. The six musicians on the stage enjoyed the swagger of the danceable “Revival” with the organist impressing big time and the guys belting out big notes at the end of the timeless tune for what felt like ten seconds. After a huge applause, they said “That’s a true story and it’s the last song we ever wrote before we came out to California”. The crowd seemed to love “Fur Coat Blues”, the only thing that seemed to be missing on this one and the whole set was probably a fiddle. A big thumping drum played for Jamestown Revival’s ballad “California (Cast Iron Soul)”, with a perfect guitar break and shining harmonies driving it home. The guitars opened the incredible “Old Man Looking Back”, with more harmonies that would give you the chills. Jamestown Revival concluded with the upbeat “Prospectors Blues”, which kept the crowd moving, while the song blended a big band feel with rockabilly. The whole crowd was into it and Chance and Clay were singing powerfully into it.
Other impressive moments of the festival included Tenille Townes, who sounded stadium-ready on the relatable “Same Road Home”, beautiful on the powerful “Jersey on the Wall (I’m Just Asking)” and she worked in a cover of fellow Canadian Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic”, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and if you listened carefully enough on “Holding Out for the One”, the band mashed it up with about four bars of Sheryl Crow’s “Steve McQueen”. Townes is a standout artist because her country-pop songs tackle way more than love and heartbreak, detailing real life with relatable storytelling like on “Somebody’s Daughter” as well as new single “The Last Time”, one of the best of the set with wonderful harmonies from her drummer.
20-year-old Myron Elkins offered up his own mix of Southern rock, blues and soul, mentioning the tune “Colder Kind” is “for people who can’t figure it out”, with the band ramping up the outlaw sounds of the tune. Elkins’ seasoned voice hit its mark on the soulful “Hands to Myself”, his debut single which will be released this Friday. “Sugar Tooth” offered a rockabilly side that kept the crowd moving, the guitars were fire on new tune “Mr. Breadwinner”, and “Nashville Money” offered some seriously psychedelic guitars and Lynyrd Skynyrd vibes.
Waxahatchee sounded lovely on “Lilacs” and the harmonies were in full effect on “Fire”. The Lumineers were a delight especially on all of their female name song titles, from “Angela” to “Cleopatra” to “Ophelia” and “Where We Are” was like an anthem for a new generation. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real sounded as timeless as ever on “(Forget About) Georgia”, while the organist and bass had standout moments on “Simple Life” and “Ain’t Gonna Die” had that outlaw feel with all band members singing along, the organist jumping on the harmonica and the crowd eating it up. Ashley McBryde sounded sweet, harmonizing with her band on the ballad “American Scandal” and she was just as pure on “Never Will”. McBryde’s voice soared on “Sparrow”, “One Night Standards” was incredible and her band played a killer version of Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider”, with McBryde mouthing “thank you so much” to her crowd as she tapped her hand to her heart at the end.
There was extra fun to be had all over the sandy and turf-covered BeachLife Ranch footprint with Tito’s Handmade Vodka taking over a barn with DJs, live performers and line dancing, Celsius energy drinks made a splash handing out their refreshing live fit beverages, Screwball Peanut Butter Whiskey offered a daily happy hour tasting or their bold and slightly sweet liquor and United Card Events from Chase got competitive with a rodeo rope toss and sweetened the day with a decadent Cream’wich ice cream sandwich. Elsewhere, BeachLife ranch had a family fun area for Venice Family Clinic, among numerous other vendors and the Yonder stage on the beach was dedicated to Music Gives to St. Jude Kids, with a number of the weekend’s stars sporting This Shirt Saves Lives tees, as the fest supports St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Words by Michael Menachem
All photos by BeachLife Photo Team