Building community with rhythm

BY: ROCIO B. VIVES

A man pulled out his phone. As if he had just been hypnotized, he stared with wide eyes right into the beer garden through the camera that pops up on the screen. He looked about 60 years old, but he showed a young man’s enthusiasm—he smiled, and swung on his feet and moved his lips. The glass that delimits the beer garden didn't seem t even bother him. On the other side, Eddie Booze sang and played his guitar with matching passion. It is barely past 5 p.m. and Live After 5 has started at Pier 76 Fish Grill. Live After 5 aims to bring monthly free live music to different venues in Downtown Long Beach, like Harvelle’s, Fingerprints or MADhaus. Behind this idea is Downtown Long Beach Associates. The team also responsible for Long Beach’s Summer and Music series.

The impact that Live After 5 is having on the Long Beach community is already noticeable.

“Each month, the event is growing because the quality of the music, the diversity of the venues, and the talent of those involved have attracted an organic audience,” said Brian Addison, Communications Manager at DTLB. “It’s only getting more and more impressive, with a more invigorated crowd. We had kids from Fullerton driving to DTLB to see Pigeon John. That is nothing short of rad.”

The audience at Pier 76 is not only organic, but also very eclectic. An excited man ran into the restaurant to finally enter the beer garden. He sits in the front row with a glass of lemonade and his thumb presses the REC button again and again. A bearded man sat eating his dinner in a fedora, bobbing his head to the rhythm. An older woman with braided hair sat in a wheelchair but still waved her arms with the music. A man in an aquamarine shirt and a beret followed the chords of Eddie’s guitar with his foot, purposely avoiding the loud conversation between his wife and friends.

Booze is a performer with years of experience, but it was his first time in Live After 5.

“Josh Fischel [the music curator] e-mailed me, and he asked me if I’d like to be a part of it. It seemed like a great opportunity,” says Booze after the show. “This type of show is very good. It helps venues to get in touch with artists. It helps the general public to get exposed to some of Long Beach’s local singers and songwriters. It allows photographers to come out and shoot live events. So really it’s a win-win for everybody.”

A warm breeze blew in the beer garden. When the older woman leaves, her wheelchair being pushed by the young woman who accompanied her, Eddie gave her two of his CDs.

“[Live After 5] is making Downtown Long Beach a better, more efficient Downtown by supporting its artists and giving the community a place to experience that art,” said Addison. “Live music is this wonderfully communal thing. It’s beautifully focused—we’re all watching the same thing—but genuinely freeing.”