If and when there happens to be a revival of folk music in Long Beach, there’s one man who should be held largely accountable.
Shea Newkirk, frontman of local Irish celtic/folk band Dublin Public, is a busy body. When he’s not running his company Long Beach Web Design, playing gigs or spending time with his 5-year-old daughter, he’s leading the charge at Long Beach Independent, the premiere blog on all music-related happenings in the city. Right now, he’s knee deep in organizing LBI’s signature summer event, the all-day Folk Revival Festival at Rainbow Lagoon Park.
The first one in 2013 was in a modest lot on Pine Avenue. It was a blowout success — they ran out of food and beer (twice). This year, on Sept. 19, he anticipates some 5,000 attendees. Earlybird tickets sold out in a matter of days. The success of the last two years’ events has launched a monthly folk revival open jam (second Thursdays) at The Red Leprechaun, where he has noted a younger demographic taking to banjos and bluegrass in general.
“It seems that every 30 or 40 years, folk music comes back into popularity, similar to clothing styles,” the mustachioed 33-year-old notes. “And I feel we’re on the cusp of another one.”
There’s a scene in the 2003 comedy “Old School” that arguably started it all. When Newkirk and his friends watched the scene where Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell and Luke Wilson throw a raging house party that brings Snoop Dogg in for live entertainment, they launched into a debate. Is it plausible in real life to have Snoop show up your house party?
Newkirk was adamant to prove it could be done, and so he made a website to document the endeavor. He called it the Long Beach Party Project.
“We never did it,” he says, explaining the bottom line came down to money. “If I had a sweet backyard party with Snoop Dogg performing, people would still be talking about it to this day.”
That didn’t deter them from keeping the party going, so to speak. They threw giant house parties with mostly DJs and posted fun recaps laden with pictures, not a common thing in the pre-social media era. Before they knew it, they were tapped to sub-promote parties for a new nightclub in town (V2O, which has since closed) and booking their own nights of DJs and eventually bands.
The Long Beach Party Project booked shows with every venue in town. Eventually they slowed down the bookings and focused more on documenting the scene, with a team of some 10 regular contributors. He says he’s getting ready to launch a new and improved website soon, which will continue to include a steady stream of show photos and video as well as the city’s most comprehensive live music calendar.
“I keep tabs on all my sh*t,” he says with a laugh. “I have for a long time.”
Born and raised in Long Beach save for a few years in Texas and Germany, Newkirk discovered his love for music playing the clarinet as a kid. He was “socially punked” out of continuing in high school because his classmates teased it was a “girl” instrument, he recalls. In the days attending Long Beach City College and SCIARC, where he would obtain a degree in architecture, he picked up the bass and played in a few local punk bands, including Liv Genius and Milestone, which disbanded after a few years.
Dublin Public, which he formed in 2010, has stuck over the years and is only gathering momentum. On the week of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day, Dublin Public played 10 shows, three shows on the day of, starting on the back of a truck for the parade and ending the night with a set at Gallagher’s.
With the same tenacity, Newkirk conjures community-oriented ideas to promote music, including entities (like the Long Beach Music Council, which he cofounded last year) and unusual events, which have included a punk-rock celebration of International Talk Like a Pirate Day on Sept. 19, a 4/20 BBQ reggae fiesta at the now-closed Rhythm Lounge and a fashion-live music mashup event benefiting youth charities.
This December will be the seventh annual Secret Santa Toy Drive, which features four to five local bands and donates proceeds to the Christian Outreach in
Action, which benefits local homeless and underprivileged children. This is one event that “never gonna go away,” Newkirk notes.
“I got ideas for days,” he says, laughing.