Long Beach’s music scene is as eclectic as its population. From Snoop Dogg to Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha to Sublime, artists spanning a wide variety of genres have gotten their musical start in the Aquatic Capital of America.
“We have a lot of everything because we have so many different cultures in one place,” says Nancy Soriano, a history and English major at Cal State Long Beach and avid music fan.
“Like, jazz and soul have a pretty good stronghold in Long Beach. Reggae and ska. Surf rock or garage rock. Punk. If you can think of a genre, we have it in Long Beach.”
Despite sometimes being eclipsed by its neighbor Los Angeles, which boasts well-known venues such as the Hollywood Bowl and notorious holes-in-the-wall such as the Smell, Long Beach is still home to a hubbub of music and hidden gems for music enthusiasts.
Brick-and-mortar giant Fingerprints Music has been a record store staple since 1992. Roomy and inviting on the corner of Fourth Street and Elm Avenue, it has that quintessentially hip record store aesthetic, with exposed brick walls and an assortment of books, decor, camera and guitar straps, quirky cards and coloring books. That’s in addition to its collection of used and new vinyl, CDs, cassettes and books covering everything from the Beatles to Beyonce.
“Their vinyl is on the pricier side,” admits Soriano. “But they have a great used CD selection.”
Fingerprints also hosts live shows: Jack Johnson, Taj Majal, Cold War Kids, Cage the Elephant and Weezer have performed there, and not one, but two, Beach Boys have made appearances.
Also on Fourth Street is the smaller, lesser-known Third Eye Records, where store owner Gary Farley holds court.
“It’s this really small record store that I never realized I’ve always been passing,” CSULB journalism major Isaura Aceves says of her first time visiting Third Eye.
Nonetheless, that first day she found a perfect-condition copy of Big Brother and the Holding Company’s 1968 record “Cheap Thrills,” which features her favorite vocalist, Janis Joplin.
“Physically holding that copy in my hands was amazing,” Aceves recalls. “I’ve never thought I would actually find it ever and it was for $10 … Honestly, since then Third Eye Records is my favorite [record store].”
Third Eye focuses mostly on classic titles by the likes of David Bowie or Pink Floyd, with a few more obscure artists like symphonic pop band Polyphonic Spree thrown in.
“I just want to have a range of affordable music that’s accessible,” says Farley. “Somebody can come in here and spend $2 and just buy something to listen to or $25 or more on something that they’re gonna wanna keep forever.”
He hosts shows that feature local bands and keeps a music section stocked to show his support for Long Beach artists.
“I think there’s a lot of variety [in Long Beach],” said Farley. “There’s a pretty vibrant kinda scene of house parties and house shows which I think is amazing, because that’s something that you get in certain cities, but in small cities like this it’s kind of unique…There’s a great music scene here, a lot of great bands.”
Local music also finds its way into Long Beach’s many clubs, bars and small venues.
For DiPiazza’s, a family-owned restaurant and nightclub, providing local artists a welcoming space to perform has been one of its passions, along with cultivating its Italian cuisine. The venue features artists from many genres nearly every night, some open to all ages. Performing artists can even ask the DiPiazza sound technicians for a recording of their performances, which they can later use for marketing.
“Long Beach has an exciting music scene that has evolved over the last 20 years to include a diverse community of talented performers,” says owner Maralyn Dipiazza. “We love Long Beach and will continue to support our local economy by hosting musicians in a professional atmosphere…We all support each other in this community.”
Alex’s Bar, another concert-hopper favorite, is strictly for those 21 and older. At this location, featured in scenes from “True Blood” and “Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny,” guests can sing their hearts out during their Tuesday and Wednesday karaoke nights or watch local artists perform against the bar’s distinctive red backdrop.
The lack of all-ages shows can sometimes be frustrating for younger college- and high school-aged music fans. Farley notes that many all-ages venues have shut down over time, leaving fewer places for a younger crowd to enjoy local music.
“Recently [music festival] Music Tastes Good opened…on Seventh and Pine so I got to go to that show, which was pretty intimate and…all-ages,” says Soriano. “It was cool, but really DIY. Long Beach has never really had any spaces for artists to showcase their talent regularly besides bars and open mics [and] showcases at coffee shops.”
Despite this, both she and Farley appreciate Long Beach and its music.
“All in all there’s still a strong scene,” said Farley. “Music’s always gonna be important here.”
Another place where music played in important role is World Famous VIP Records, a hip hop/rap record store with 38 years of rich music history, now in danger of its legacy coming to an end.
Due to a decline in sales, and after multiple announcements of closing shop over the past few years, owner Kelvin Anderson is finally bringing it to a close. Thanks to new terms introduced in his lease, Anderson would no longer have ownership over the store sign, which he had previously planned on selling or repurposing. He would now need the approval of the City of Long Beach to restore and reposition the sign in a new location and launch a commemorative project: The World Famous VIP Record Black Music Museum and Creative Arts and Technology Center.
The museum would be dedicated to chronicling black music history and the evolution of music technology. The Creative Arts and Technology Center is meant to inspire and encourage youth interested in pursuing careers in that field.
Under Anderson’s guidance, VIP’s recording section is where hip hop group 213, made up of Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg, recorded the demo that got Snoop a record deal from Dr Dre. Snoop would later commemorate VIP Records by featuring its iconic store sign in the music video of his 1993 solo debut single “What’s My Name?” Snoop also talks about supporting the legacy of VIP in the upcoming VIP Records documentary.
A petition to Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia outlining Anderson’s requests has been started on Change.org. It currently has 1,844 out of the 2,500 supporters it is hoping to receive. According to the Long Beach Post, at a council meeting March 14, Garcia agreed to meet with Anderson on Wednesday to discuss his requests.