Rock ‘n’ roll won’t be the only sound at Beach Fest ’98 this weekend, but it’ll certainly be the most prominent. With 37 bands playing on four outdoor stages over two days, Beach Fest gives the Orange County-Long Beach alternative-music scene the closest thing it has to Austin’s celebrated South by Southwest annual music orgy.
“I think with South by Southwest, you’re there to showcase your band for industry people. . . . Here, it’s more for fun,” said Dan Root, singer for O.C.'s pop-punk One Hit Wonder, which has played the festival in Long Beach four times. “You can hang out with your family and friends . . . and play in front of a fat guy eating a bowl of chili.
“It’d be nice to get paid, but you know the money’s going to a good cause,” Root added. “Plus, it’s about the only show we play where you can bring your kids. Once in a while it’s neat to not have to play in a dark, dingy bar or club.”
The “good cause” Root refers to is the festival’s beneficiary and sponsor, Beach Charities Inc., a nonprofit Long Beach-based organization that aims to take in about $75,000 from this festival alone.
Besides raising money for its own programs, Beach Charities contributes to about 70 other community-based assistance groups, including the Long Beach Special Olympics, Long Beach Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, the Lupus Foundation and the Beachwood House for the Handicapped.
Talent booker John Surge, a musician and past participant who is lining up the bands for the first time this year, said both the cause and the communal aspect of the show made it easier than expected to find groups willing to play.
“I honestly expected it to be more difficult to get bands to volunteer their time,” said Surge, whose band, Pinwheel, plays Sunday. “But they’ve all been great. . . . They see Beach Fest as an important community event. It’s the closest thing we have to an indie-music fest.”
In fact, Root’s one complaint is that he won’t be able to enjoy sets by his friends in the Ziggens and Cake Boy, which will be playing on different stages at 4 p.m. Sunday when One Hit Wonder is on.
Those groups typify Sunday’s focus on alternative-rock bands, while Saturday’s schedule features area roots, reggae and swing bands.
The talent ranges from the revved-up rockabilly of Russell Scott & His Red Hots and desperate tone of the Joe Wood Band, to some of O.C./Long Beach’s best power-pop-punk, including Rule 62, One Hit Wonder, the Ziggens, Mr. Mirainga and Teen Heroes. (For lineup and show times, see accompanying schedule, or check online for any late updates at https://www.beachfest.com.)
Beach Charities’ executive director, Sharrie Dyer, anticipates this weekend’s attendance to at least reach last year’s total of 50,000. Though agreeing that the live music is the event’s biggest draw, she maintains that Beach Fest is no Lollapalooza.
“Sure, crowds flock to the rock ‘n’ roll, and that’s great,” she said. “But we try hard to keep it from becoming a full-blown rock concert. There’s a carnival for the kids, interactive sports, paddle boats, contests . . . just a lot of activities for the whole family to enjoy. If you come out just for the music, you might be surprised.”
Alternatives run from the festival’s signature chili cook-off to coffee, tea and pastry tastings, beauty and dance contests to numerous rides, games and exhibits.
The family-friendly theme also extends to diversions for adventure seekers. You can rock climb and discover the new sport of roller-soccer on Extreme Island, one of several themed activity areas.
On Saturday, swing-dance lessons and a costume contest beckon retro-scenesters to Swing Island. Critter Island offers literature about the humane treatment of animals, while Techno Island features--you guessed it--the latest in high-tech entertainment (i.e., virtual reality simulators).
Putting all this together are some of the people for whom the volunteer-driven Beach Fest, now in its 17th year, was created to help.
One of its programs, Project Future, has been the backbone of Beach Fest since 1991. Under this project, homeless or low-income adults and at-risk youths--numbering about 60 this year--are hired and trained to help mount the festival by circulating fliers, painting signs, working security and performing office work.
Organizers say the goal is to develop participants’ job skills in preparation for employment.
“We got the idea about eight years ago from a bakery in Los Angeles that hired homeless people, and it really worked out well for them,” said Dyer, who has been with Beach Charities since its formation in 1981. “We do go through some rough spots together. But the experience gives many of these people responsibility--and later, some much-needed self-esteem. It can be a good bridge to finding jobs within private industry.”
Beach Fest ’98 takes place at Shoreline Marina Green on the Long Beach waterfront, at the end of the Long Beach Freeway, Shoreline Drive exit, between Pine and Linden Avenue. 11 a.m.-7 p.m Saturday and Sunday. $10 Saturday; $15 Sunday; children under 12 free. (562) 434-5408.