Music festival benefits Balboa Theater

A daylong music festival next weekend will attract some of the country's top indie, rock and folk acts to the Balboa Pier area, to benefit the renovation of the historic Balboa Theater.

Bringing acts like Matt Nathanson, Joshua Radin, A Fine Frenzy and Maria McKee to the sands of Newport Beach was the vision of the late Ken Phebus of the Producing Group, a Newport Beach native. Phebus died earlier this year.

"He felt the Balboa Performing Arts Theater Foundation was supportive of the idea, believing the event would not only raise funds but help to expand awareness of the project and its importance to the community," said Phebus' former partner, John Sullivan of the Producing Group.

The foundation has collaborated with the Producing Group on the festival. At this point, the theater renovation architectural plans and construction documents are complete and approved by the city, and a building permit has been issued, Sullivan said; more than $1 million is in the bank, but construction is estimated at $5 million.

"The foundation will be finalizing a business plan for operating the theater and will launch the final phase of their campaign after the festival," he said.

Phebus' interest in the site was lifelong.

"During the time when Ken and I were booking and producing concerts at the Pacific Amphitheater, Ken often asked me if I knew what was happening at the Balboa Theater," Sullivan said. "As a kid, Ken regularly went to the Balboa Theater, sometimes sneaking in for Saturday matinees even though his father was on the Newport Beach police force. Ken's passion in life was to bring artists and audiences together. He did it at the Coach House, the Sun Theater [now the Grove of Anaheim], the Pacific Amphitheater and in numerous clubs and amphitheaters throughout the western states.

"No one did it better — he booked more members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame than any other talent buyer in history. Ken could not stand the idea of an empty theater, particularly a theater located a block from the beach in Balboa, his home town. He was convinced that if the theater could be reopened, it would be a prime venue for touring artists."

Phebus had been working with Nathanson and Radin's representatives at the time of his passing, Sullivan said; they continued negotiations with his other partner, Chris Ricci.

"In the meantime, Radin had put together a tour that included A Fine Frenzy and eventually Lucy Schwartz, and we were delighted to include the tour package as a whole on the festival bill," Sullivan said. "Maria McKee, who had been working on a film, became available late in the process, and she was a great addition to the lineup. We were also talking with local emerging artists, working closely with the OC Music Awards and other local resources, and finalized those bands in the late summer."

A variety of local supporting acts will round out the day, including the Graham Robby Band, Stacy Clark, Justin Soileau, Enjuillet, I Hate You Just Kidding and students from the singer-songwriter program at Corona del Mar High School, as well as the guitar program at Orange County High School of the Arts.

The festival is notable for its use of Peninsula Park, Sullivan said.

"Peninsula Park is an extraordinary festival site, located adjacent to the sand with great views of the Balboa Pier and the coastline. The city of Newport Beach has never before granted a permit for an event with wine and beer on this site. We are very honored to be producing this event at this location."

General admission tickets are $45 in advance or $50 at the door; premium tickets are $75 and include preferred seating. VIP tickets including backstage access and catering are $200.

For more information and a festival schedule, visit

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If You Go

What: The Balboa Beach Fest

When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 13

Where: Peninsula Park, Balboa Pier

Cost: $45 and up


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