Now in its second year, Back to the Beach continues to prove that ska is not dead. In fact, it can still attract packed crowds.
The festival, held April 27 and 28 at Huntington State Beach, sold out weeks ahead of time, with headliners blink-182 and The Used drawing in an eclectic mix of attendees who arguably have not grown out of the music they listened to in high school or the skinny jeans and black eyeliner they sported.
But even more people in the crowd appeared to support the ska portion of the weekend on Saturday, with acts like Reel Big Fish, The Aquabats and Streetlight Manifesto attracting attendees clad in checkered clothing and plenty of skanking in the sand.
Now that the festival’s last horn has sounded, we take a look back at some of the hits and misses of the sophomore event.
Enema of the State in Its Entirety
Blink-182 featured its 1999 album Enema of the State during the pop-punk trio’s headlining set. I was thoroughly impressed when Mark Hoppus proved he could still sing the fast-paced lyrics of “The Party Song,” and hearing songs like “Going Away to College” live reinvigorated 10-year-old me. However, I can’t help but wonder if Hoppus and company feel weird now singing lyrics like “Wish my friends were 21.” Also, while I can appreciate everything Matt Skiba has done for the band, hearing him — or anyone but Tom Delonge — sing “Aliens Exist” just wasn’t right. Still, the album is a staple for pop-punk fans, and it was rare not to see anyone singing along.
Reel Big Fish
The ska outfit was noticeably absent from last year’s inaugural event, so it was only fitting when their name appeared on this year’s bill. The Huntington Beach-based band graced the stage with ska hits like “Sell Out” and “Everything Sucks” and reunited with trombonist Dan Regan for the first time in more than five years.
Fun for all ages
One area where Back to the Beach truly succeeded was making sure there was something for everybody. Child-friendly superheroes The Aquabats returned for this year’s lineup, attracting ska fans of all ages, from tots to ska kids from the ‘90s. The event also featured a Lil Punk Kids Zone with mermaids, activities and healthy food. Admission for the youngsters (age 10 and younger) was also free with paid admission.
Last year’s festival brought out surprise performers, including Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish and Tony Kanal of No Doubt during Goldfinger’s set. This year, Goldfinger invited Rome Ramirez of Sublime with Rome and Dave Wakeling of The English Beat, among others, to perform with them for covers of those groups’ songs.
The English Beat
For a festival that has celebrated ska — rather than make fun of it — it was only appropriate the event would include a two-tone legend band. The English Beat, featuring Dave Wakeling, brought attendees further back into the genre’s roots and on their feet with songs like “Mirror in the Bathroom.” The group also paid homage to band member Ranking Roger, who died in late March following a battle with cancer.
Beginning with a fluke in The English Beat’s early-day set — when an audio tech was heard over the stage’s speaker asking if the band only had one more song (during a song!) — and later during Blink-182’s headlining set, the sound was not up to par for such a massive festival. During Blink’s set, the levels seemed to be continually adjusted and not well balanced. Did they even do a soundcheck beforehand?
Lack of female performers
One could argue that this is more of an industry-wide problem than a BTTB-specific one, but there was a serious lack in female performers at the festival. In fact, the only woman on stage all day — at least in the forefront — was Monique Powell of Save Ferris. The presence was even less than last year, when Powell and Amy Interrupter of The Interrupters represented the women. This begs the question of who the fest’s co-producers John Feldmann and Travis Barker can bring in next year to balance the sexes a bit more. Perhaps looking into local OC bands, like Bite Me Bambi and Half Past Two, would be a good start.
This one also made our “Worst Of” last year because while a festival on the sand is a good idea in theory, it can also prove to be a burden. (And we’re not just talking about in the context of Fyre Fest.) Sandals on the sand are an ideal choice, but when you throw in mosh pits, your feet will likely get stomped on and you’re going to have a bad time. On the flip side, you could wear sneakers and risk sand getting caught in your shoes. There’s really no win in this situation.
The sun appeared to have been playing a game of hide and seek throughout the day, only really revealing itself in the afternoon for a brief time before hiding behind clouds again. While blazing heat is not ideal at a festival, neither is cold and consistently debating if it was time to change from shorts into pants. (Or maybe that was just me.)
Less Stage in the VIP Area
While this would be a perk for the commoners in the general admission session, VIP fest-goers complained their side of the stage was smaller than it was last year. Considering the markup of VIP passes compared to regular tickets, one would expect a little more stage for those guests. But down with the man, I guess.
By day, Brittany covers hard-hitting city news in San Diego. By night, she’s prowling the Orange County music scene, and is usually a regular attendee of local ska and punk shows. Reporting and music have always been Brittany’s passions. She wrote for her middle school and high school newspapers and studied journalism at Cal State Long Beach, where she graduated in 2012. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her French Bulldog, watching probably too many Disney movies for someone her age and napping.