After months of public controversy and uncertainty, the West Beach Music Festival went off smoothly this weekend, with a smaller crowd on the grass at Chase Palm Park, rather than in the sand at West Beach. Friday’s program took a while to gain momentum, as people had to get off work, get to the beach, pick up their tickets, and navigate the improved entry system. Once inside, visitors were greeted by a long row of palm trees to the right and a vendor village to the left that sold mostly reggae and jam-band oriented clothing and souvenirs. At the end of the tunnel and before the main stages stood the Oasis Stage, where the turntable-driven acts performed, sandwiched between the giant, television-worthy play structures that made up the obstacles for the CuervoGames. The first band to really get the crowd going on Friday was the Maori reggae outfit Katchafire, who appeared on Bob’s Stage. Other Friday crowd favorites included Collie Buddz on the Bashment Stage and locals Rebelution, who closed out the opening night.
Saturday dawned hot and clear — perfect weather for a beach party — and laid claim to standouts like the impressive bluesy, San Luis-based septet Still Time. They made a perfect lead-in to Floridian JJ Grey and his seven-piece band Mofro, who dished out some delicious swamp rock in the late afternoon.
Meanwhile, back at the CuervoGames, athletic young men and women performed daring feats — like scrambling up a climbing wall while being doused with water from above. Conducted without alcohol, these contests were actually the kind of good, clean fun that made sense in the context, and even the competitors who didn’t make it to the top looked pleased with the impromptu showers they received in the 90-plus–degree heat.
Saturday night was the musical highlight, with headliners UB40 delivering a memorable set that included both their ’80s hits and a sampling of other reggae-infused numbers, ranging from smooth lover’s rock to gritty dancehall. Over at the Oasis Stage, Colorado-based electronic duo Pretty Lights threw down a torrid set that had everyone moving.