DS Exclusive: Jim Lindberg Talks Upcoming First-Of-Its-Kind BeachLife Festival, Featuring Willie Nelson, Brian Wilson and More

For moer than three decades, Jim Lindberg’s name has been synonymous not only with the punk scene primarily through his work with seminal SoCal vets Pennywise, but with the surf and sea cultures in Los Angeles’s South Bay as well. And while his “day job” projects like Pennywise and Wraths are still very much active, Lindberg has now lent his talents to a different, more behind-the-scenes role in the music scene: creative director of the upcoming BeachLife Festival.

If you’re not yet familiar, allow me to hum you a few bars. BeachLife is a first-of-its-kind festival taking place in Redondo Beach, California, from May 3rd through 5th. It’s happening outdoors at Seaside Lagoon, a beachfront park right in the heart of the community. As a bonus, BeachLife will also feature more intimate, acoustic performances from some of the festival’s performers that’ll take place not on a large stage but on-board a handful of the boats that’ll be moored in the adjoining harbor. The artists headlining the festival may not be the first performers that come to mind when you hear “Jim from Pennywise is the creative director of this festival.” Instead, it features some down-right legendary artists from across the musical landscape of the last fifty or sixty years: acts like Willie Nelson, Brian Wilson, Bob Weir, and Ziggy Marley.

We recently caught up with Lindberg over the phone from LA, where he was helping put the final preparatory touches in the lead-up to the festival. We spoke not only about the unique position that he finds himself in as a longtime performer at festivals around the world, but about just how much work went in to getting a massive, three-day festival off the ground. It all started with Allen Sanford, a local promoter who also happens to run the Hermosa Beach club Saint Rocke. “(Saint Rocke) is only about a 300-seater, but (Sanford) also started doing these concerts on the beach for Hermosa Beach, and he had a lot of good bands come down and play for them,” explains Lindberg. “A lot of mellower stuff, like Pepper, Revolution, Everclear…bands that would get by the city council’s purview. They didn’t want any bands like Pennywise coming down and playing, that’s for sure!

After a decade of putting on such shows in Hermosa Beach, 2019 finds Sanford focusing his efforts on the next beach down the coast: Redondo. They found an ideal venue in Seaside Lagoon, essentially a parking lot located right near what used to be the renowned Fleetwood nightclub that played home to many an early Black Flag/Circle Jerks/X/Germs show nearly four decades ago. The new spot allows for an even bigger event and some bigger artists than its Hermosa Beach predecessors. When it came time to put a lineup together, Lindberg notes that even though Redondo Beach was cool with the festival coming to town, prevailing wisdom was still to tread lightly with the type of acts that would be involved. Explains Lindberg: “Once you get that keystone artist… and for our case, it became Willie Nelson and Brian Wilson – the cool thing is there’s a ton of bands who look up to artists like Willie Nelson and Brian Wilson, and once we got them to open up their schedules and take a chance with this festival, all these other artists started lining up.” Those “other artists” that Lindberg refers to includes a cross-section of artists like Grace Potter, Everclear, Slightly Stoopid, Violent Femmes, Berlin (yes, THAT Berlin) and Chevy Metal, which features Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins. For Lindberg, the hope is to not only continue BeachLife for years down the road, but to bring a little more of his personal musical wheelhouse to the table. “In successive years, if we should be lucky enough to keep doing this,” he notes,”we want to get a lot more edgy bands, some punk bands, on there. We just have to ease into that with the city.”

Lindberg views the BeachLife Festival not only as a way to bring live music back to the South Bay, but to help promote a variety of causes that are near and dear to his heart. Lindberg has long championed the idea of using his platform as a means to raise awareness to issues that effect his local community and lifestyle, most notably when he  served on the Board of Directors for the Surfrider Foundation, a charity that’ll be in attendance at BeachLife. “Growing up at the beach and being a lifetime surfer, I definitely wanted it to be a situation where we were giving back to the beach community,” says Lindberg. “We have Surfrider Foundation involved. Also Life Rolls On, which is Jesse Billauer’s foundation for people in wheelchairs and getting them out surfing and into ocean therapy and things like that. Also, Five Gyres, which is involved with reducing the amount of plastic in our oceans, so we have all these great causes we’re working with, and at the end of the day, we’re just trying to put on a really cool festival at the beach with some really great artists and give back to the community.”

Head below to check out our full chat with the great Jim Lindberg – including what it’s like to be in the situation where you have to get the local police department on board with your outdoor festival idea, which is not necessarily the easiest task when you’re the same guy that sang “Fuck Authority.” You can also head here to check out the full rundown on BeachLife, including where to find tickets!

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): So you’re involved with the first ever BeachLife Festival, which seems like it’s a pretty awesme and unique experience. Where did the idea come from?

Jim Lindberg: It’s basically a situation where this local promoter, his name is Allen Sanford, he owns one of the very few music establishments here in the South Bay. It’s called Saint Rocke, and he took the old Pitcher House and turned it into a music venue. It’s really tough, because we haven’t had a real music venue here in the south bay since back in the Fleetwood days, which is where Black Flag filmed some of the Decline of Western Civilization there. It’s been that long because the police notoriously cracked down pretty hard on the punk rockers back in the day. It was pretty rowdy around here, and there wasn’t really anybody who had the nerve to start a new music club after all the shenanigans that happened at the last few places. Allen came in and started bringing bands to the area. It’s only about a 300-seater, but he also started doing these concerts on the beach for Hermosa Beach, and he had a lot of good bands come down and play for them. A lot of mellower stuff, like Pepper, Revolution, Everclear…bands that would get by the city council’s purview. (*both laugh*) They didn’t want any bands like Pennywise coming down and playing, that’s for sure!

Allen did that for like the last ten years. It was a pretty good deal, and he was looking to the next city south, which is Redondo Beach, right basically where the Fleetwood used to be, but it’s basically a huge giant parking lot for the harbor there, and he talked to the city and the council and he said that they should do an even bigger concert here, and get some big names in. Somehow, they came to terms and now we’re putting this big concert on. We’re learning about the music industry, and it’s interesting being on this side now. It’s hard to finagle the bands and their managers and their agents and what everybody wants. It’s been interesting to see it from the other end, because Pennywise usually comes in and orders everybody around! (*both laugh*) Whereas, these cases are a lot to negotiate. I think it’s really cool though that we’re going to bring some bigger bands to the South Bay.

Talk about a lineup of classic bands, but also people who I’m sure who have their own histories of pushing people around when they come to these festivals! (*both laugh*) There’s a lot of big names on this bill. Willie Nelson in and of himself is huge. How did the lineup all come together? Who sat down and came up with a dream lineup, and how much work went into it?

This is how these things go, I’m coming to find out. It has a lot to do with the guys booking the thing. We’re lucky to have this guy Adam Spriggs doing it, and he’s got a history doing other, similar festivals out here on the coast. Once you get that keystone artist – and for our situation it was Willie Nelson – you have other people who want to play with Willie Nelson start lining up. For our case, it became Willie Nelson and Brian Wilson. The Beach Boys – the Wilson family – were from Hawthorne, California, and basically Dennis Wilson came down to the beach in Hermosa and learned about surfing and hung out with all the hippies down here and met up with a guy named Charles Manson at one point. Basically, Brian wanted to start a harmony group but didn’t know what to write about, and Dennis said “well, you should write about surfing; surfing is the coolest thing in the world.”

So basically, Hermosa Beach isn’t only on the map for Black Flag, Circle Jerks and the Descendents, but the Beach Boys as well. There’s a real heritage to this little, tiny town, and Brian Wilson hasn’t played here since 1962. Hopefully we’re doing this thing where we give him the keys to the city and really honor him, because a lot of people don’t realize that the Beach Boys were as big as the Beatles at the time. They were the American counterpart to the Beatles; John Lennon and Paul McCartney were huge fans of Brian Wilson, so to have him come back here is a really big deal. The cool thing is there’s a ton of bands who look up to artists like Willie Nelson and Brian Wilson, and once we got them to open up their schedules and take a chance with this festival, all these other artists started lining up. That’s how you see it for a lot of festivals that happen. I see it all over the world. The first year there’ll be certain levels of bands, and then it only takes a few years before the name gets around. We were lucky enough this first year to really get the attention of some cool artists. It’s really eclectic. It’s a really diverse bill. It’s all over the map. This first year is skewing pretty old as far as older artists, but there’s definitely some younger artists, and we’re having a battle of the bands with kids there. There’s some younger acts on the bill, like Tomorrows Bad Seeds. In successive years, if we should be lucky enough to keep doing this, we want to get a lot more edgy bands, some punk bands, on there. We just have to ease into that with the city.

I was just going to say, did you feel like you had to start with a bit of an older crowd, to make sure that everything would go cool and it wouldn’t be too rowdy and there wouldn’t be a need for police involvement?

Yeah, especially for the area. And I’ve seen that on shows that we’ve done in the past. You have condos full of old people all around there. We played one festival on the beach in San Diego with a bunch of condos, and it’s pretty hectic to being in a bunch of guys like Pennywise screaming the F-word about 300 times in a 30 minute set! (*both laugh*) We kinda have to ease into it. But I remember we were taking the meeting, and I remember we had Blondie who was maybe going to be on the bill, and I was pushing really hard for X. I was like “please, please just give me X! Just give me one band!” Luckily we have them involved in the festival. They weren’t able to work out a daytime slot, but we’ve got them doing an after party, and I know in the future we’re going to build it up. I could definitely see there being bands like Social Distortion or Flogging Molly or any number of cool bands out there that kind of appeal. We want it to be a family-friendly thing, so I think we can get all kinds of bands on there, and this year, once we got Willie and Brian, it was kinda skewing a little older.

How long have you been involved with this project? I don’t know how long it takes a one-off festival like this to get off the ground, but how long have you personally been working on this?

Basically, Allen, at the beginning of last year, had the situation where the beach festivals in Hermosa Beach were changing their format and he decided to go to the city and get into talks with them about bringing a bigger concert to Redondo Beach. Once he finally got through all the red tape and got the green light from the city, I Was one of the first people he talked to about getting on board with this thing. That was about October of last year when we first started talking about it.

It’s not easy. I have a newfound respect for the guys that do this, because let’s face it, you’re trying to put on a show and put out so many fires, whether it’s parking or safety or alcohol or issues with sponsors and things like that. You take a lot of heat form all kinds of different areas. You also have to deal with the schedules of the different artists and everyone’s peculiar needs. I’ve known Paul Collett from Goldenvoice, who’s put on Coachella for the last however many years, and Paul started out doing punk shows. He did a lot of Pennywise shows back in the day, in the early ‘90’s, and he built that from the ground up. I know the headaches that he’s had, and it’s amazing what a great time people have at these shows, but they don’t realize that that show took a year of stress and blood, sweat, and tears to go into it.

It’s difficult. It’s definitely been problematic for a lot of people out there. I know, basically, we started working on this thing right when the Fyre Festival documentaries came out, so we’ve seen all the horror stories. One thing that was really important for me is that I was on the Board of Directors for the Surfrider Foundation and growing up at the beach and being a lifetime surfer, I definitely wanted it to be a situation where we were giving back to the beach community. We have Surfrider Foundation involved. Also Life Rolls On, which is Jesse Billauer’s foundation for people in wheelchairs and getting them out surfing and into ocean therapy and things like that. Also, Five Gyres, which is involved with reducing the amount of plastic in our oceans, so we have all these great causes we’re working with, and at the end of the day, we’re just trying to put on a really cool festival at the beach with some really great artists and give back to the community. After that, whatever happens, happens.

That idea of giving back seems to be a big part of the surf community. Obviously, we don’t have a surf culture in Boston, Massachusetts, but from what I know from following Surfrider Foundation growing up, the idea of giving back to the community and helping the environment and making sure that we’re all pulling in the same direction has been an inspiring thing.

Yeah, also it’s kinda like…whether or not you have a surf community, I’m sure there’s places all over Massachusetts where you have pollution or sewer runoff and issues with that, toxic waste, things like that. Here in the South Bay in LA, we have one of the biggest sewage treatment plants in the world. When I was a kid growing up here, the beaches were often polluted, the sea life was non-existent. Now, because of efforts of foundations like Surfrider and Heal The Bay, we have sea life in the area again. The ecosystem has completely bounced back. The sewage treatment plant here at Hyperion is a state-of-the-art facility which takes in all of Los Angeles’ combined shit and turns it into drinkable water. That’s the grossest thing you could ever imagine saying, but they’ve done such an incredible job with our coastline here and turning it around; it’s bounced back so far that we actually have great white sharks again, which is a blessing and a curse if you’re a surfer. I never saw any type of sea life growing up here, and now, to see it coming back in abundance is really inspiring. But there’s still a lot of work to be done. The ocean is a really important part of our food chain, and it’s super, super fragile – not to get on my high horse here… we have a ban on plastic bags here, and of course you have some people that aren’t happy with it, but you only need to watch this documentary of a guy who traveled around the world and he’s been doing it his whole life, and came back from his last trip and said “it’s so much worse than people are telling you.” To hear that from a lifelong sailor who’s traveled every major ocean system out there should scare everyone shitless.

Once May 2nd rolls around, what’s your actual involvement with BeachLife. I know you’re doing the kickoff party with X, but what’s your sort of day to day schedule when it comes to actual schedule time.

I’ve got a busy schedule with Pennywise right after BeachLife rolls around, so for lack of a better term I’ll be consulting on it. They’re calling me a “creative director.” Basically, having the experience that I have of doing these types of festivals for years and years and years, from Europe to Australia to Japan, they’re still a relatively new thing here in the States. We started with Woodstock, but there was a dry spell for a good two or three decades. Now they’re everywhere, and it was really important to me to go in there and be an advocate for the artists and the bands playing. I know how I like to be treated, and I know those situations. You don’t always have to have your ass kissed, and you don’t always have to have the green M&Ms taken out for you, but at the same time there’s different ways you have to deal with the different managers and agents and band members to make sure they have what they need to have to put on a good show, and that they have all the information they need.

Also, you have to work with the city, you’ve definitely got to work with the police department, which I know sounds crazy coming from a guy who sings “Fuck Authority,” (*both laugh*) but at the same time, the city of Redondo and their police department have been really great about doing this thing, and the new mayor of Redondo is a big fan of punk rock and knows who Tony Alva is and is a big fan of skateboarding. I was talking to Tony about it the other day, and it’s really cool to see that changing of the guard. Those people who were chasing Black Flag are now probably going to have them sign their 7-inches. That should be considered a good thing. It shouldn’t be a situation where people are like “oh, you sold out,” it’s like, no, it’s just been a gradual shift to people having a better understanding of the situation here. We want to work with the people involved and the artists and the bands to put on a show that can come back year after year after year.

The only places people can see bands like this is in downtown LA, and I’ve played plenty of downtowns to know that there are better places and better venues to play. Obviously we did the Warped Tour for years and years and years, and in that time we played a lot of stadium parking lots. Even though the bands were great and it was a good time and stuff, I definitely had a better time when we played The Gorge in Washington, and a place where it looked like we were looking over the Grand Canyon, and a lot of pretty cool places. Even just playing a park or a field is better than playing a stadium parking lot. This one is right down by the harbor, right next to the ocean. We’re going to have Cruises for Causes, where we’ll have all these boats pulling up where people can see intimate performances from some of the bands that are playing. We put a lot of thought into that, and making this an experience that’s going to take advantage of the fact that we’re celebrating the beach life and the whole culture around here and trying to capture the vibe.

That Cruises For Causes idea is a pretty interesting one. For people that haven’t maybe heard of it yet, it’s a series of intimate, acoustic performances from people that are playing the main show, and they’ll be on boats out in the harbor.

Yeah, and it’s a great way to raise money for the causes. All these causes need money to help fight the good fight. We’ve found over the years that there’s plenty of bands out there that are willing to help. We did a fundraiser at Saint Rocke, Allen’s club, and we raised a good amount of money for Surfrider and people got to see a fun show. It’s a win-win there. Instead of just writing a check, you get to see a fun show with your favorite band. What a better way to do it, to go on someone’s boat and watch a band play out on the ocean. Everclear’s going to do one, and I’m good friends with Art. Ultimately, I’d like to turn this into all kinds of different causes. I’m not sure if you read that Art was recently diagnosed with MS and is fighting a tough fight. It would be great if we could expand the Cruises For Causes to be all kinds of thing,s you know? I think it’s an opportunity for some other cool shows to happen and raise a lot of funds for some really valuable causes.


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