Summer and Music Festival's New Doc is a Love Letter to the Long Beach Indie Scene

Downtown Long Beach during a S.A.M. festivalEXPAND
Downtown Long Beach during a S.A.M. festival
Graham Lovelis

Graham Lovelis is a man who loves his city.

“I was talking to Jay Buchanan, the lead singer of Rivals Sons,” Lovelis says during a recent phone conversation. “He just moved out to Nashville recently, and I could hear it in his voice that he had this deep longing for Long Beach after seeing the film. It was kind of cool seeing him get choked up about it, and realizing that the scene in Long Beach, even though it might seem small to the outside world, it’s really big when you’re in it.”

The film Lovelis is referring to is his new project, “A Love Letter to Long Beach: Summer and Music”, which is having its premiere public screening at the Art Theatre in Long Beach this Thursday.

The scene that he is referring to is Long Beach’s music scene, which is the focus of his film, and more specifically, the Long Beach rock and indie scene and the Summer and Music festival, the annual, free, music festival that takes place all around the city, and even out in its streets, where local bands like De Lux, Free Moral Agents, Fart Barf (“Which is the best name ever,” Lovelis says) Tijuana Panthers, and Rudy de Anda have performed in years past, and have since gone on to some national notoriety.

Since the closing of the famed Vault venue in downtown Long Beach, and arguably the 1986 gang brawl at the Run-D.M.C./Beastie Boys Raising Hell tour at the Long Beach Arena, bands, artists, and rappers have had a hard time finding large venues to play in the city, forcing most popular and bigger named musicians to bypass Long Beach in favor of Los Angeles, or most recently Santa Ana’s The Observatory. But with a vacuum of big name concerts, local music makers thrived, taking over every spare space in bars, restaurants, and record stores to perform. This is the scene that Lovelis documents in his film, a scene of stubborn, nose to the grind stone, D.I.Y., music lovers who worked hard to get their music heard, and to create a community.

“There was a scene of people here that meant something important to Long Beach, and I was lucky to be a part of that” Lovelis says. Before becoming a filmmaker, he played in the band The Fling, based out of Long Beach of course, “and I wanted to document that, so for the last seven or so years I’ve been picking up the camera a lot more and documenting what’s been going on in the city.

The film includes interviews from Long Beach bands, and Summer and Music alumni, Rivals Sons, Fart Barf, and Tijuana Panthers, but like the Summer and Music festival lineup itself, it doesn’t include any local rappers, beat makers, or members of the local hip-hop scene, which Long Beach is no doubt known throughout the world for.

Lovelis explains that “there’s a lot of rock-n-roll bands here” and that “There is a hip-hop scene here for sure, and I know what hip-hop there is here is great, but I don’t think [the festival] is skewed because Summer and Music has been more than open to different styles over the years, ” and that, “The goal is to shed light on the scene and make it known what’s happening, but I think it is more for us, the people who were a part of this, as a document for these people to look back on fondly, but I do hope that people understand that Long Beach is a much bigger music scene than it might give off.”

See the full documentary below:

Summer and Music: The Documentary will screen on May 19 at the Art Theatre, located at 2025 E. 4th Street in Long Beach. Doors will open at 6p.m.. The event is free and open to the public but is limited in capacity; seats will be provided on a first-come-first serve basis. 

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