Artists, musicians and friends will gather in Long Beach tomorrow to celebrate Markus Manley, a local community activist and co-founder of Work Evolution Laboratories (WE Labs), who passed away March 18 due to complications from autoimmune hepatitis. He was 39.
As an artist, concert promoter and entrepreneur, Manley had a unifying impact on wide swaths of Long Beach culture for years. His community work culminated in WE Labs, an office and workspace for small business start-ups, freelancers and creative professionals that has become a downtown hub of innovation. Before that, Manley established himself as a force for good by filling Long Beach venues like the Blue Café and the Basement with local music and community events.
"Markus was the brains behind one of the first free music festivals in downtown Long Beach that featured local bands, which was a predecessor to summer music festivals like Buskerfest," says Menchie Caliboso, who collaborated with Manley and Sarah Bennett to start an organization called the Society for Long Beach Music, which champions the LBC's outsized impact on music and culture. "The essence of his role in Long Beach was that when someone had an idea that they wanted to execute, he was a really good resource … if you brought him an idea, he would help it take off."
The Society for Long Beach Music will commemorate Manley with an event tomorrow, April 24, at 4th Street Vine in Long Beach. The free gathering will feature live acoustic sets from local performers, including hip-hop artist Rajh, blues/rock singer Dennis Robicheau and other special guests. The Society will also release its inaugural zine and a mixtape of local artists that were close to Manley.
"For the last year, Sarah, Markus and I had been meeting to conceptualize the Society for Long Beach Music, and unfortunately he won't be here to see our first event," Caliboso says. "The event will be in honor of Markus."
A photo exhibition called "Snapshots From the Epicenter," featuring images of bands like Nirvana and The Offspring playing at now-defunct Long Beach venues, will also be on display at 4th Street Vine. The punk-rock pictures are part of an ongoing exhibition by L.A. Record Truck owner Kirk Dominguez and his photography partner, Jenn Kitner.
"Long Beach has kind of been a cultural underdog for a long time, and the city has contributed so much to popular music that people don't even know about. We want to bring that stuff to light and document it," says Bennett, executive editor of the Long Beach Post and an early tenant of WE Labs. "The ultimate goal is to get locals thinking about and talking about Long Beach music, instead of just showing up at the bar to get drunk and hear their friend's band play."
(Full Disclosure: Kyle Cavaness briefly played bass in Feed the Feeble, Caliboso's band. Bennett is also an OC Weekly contributing writer.)
The Markus Manley Mixtape event will begin at 7:45 p.m. at 4th Street Vine, 2142 E 4th St., Long Beach. Live music will conclude at 10 p.m.