Festival season finally started to heat up for ska fans last weekend as John Feldmann and Travis Barker’s Back to the Beach Festival successfully made the genre cool again. Thousands of people flocked to Huntington State Beach over the weekend to catch a stacked lineup comprised of some of the most kickass names in two-tone, 3rd wave, punk and reggae. The first annual festival dubbed “The Coachella of Ska” found plenty of favor from the time it was announced, especially in OC’s community of diehard skankers who’ve enjoyed a notable ska scene resurgence in recent years. With the sun finally set on the festival, we’re looking back at what made this festival “Super Rad” and suggestions for how Feldy and Barker might want to “pick it up” for next year.
Camaraderie and unity are two of the greatest assets in the ska scene. Ska bands proved they still supported one another as they invited each other to play during their sets throughout the weekend. As The Mighty Mighty Bosstones closed their show on Saturday with the infectious “The Impression That I Get,” singer Dicky Barrett invited members from The Aquabats, Mad Caddies and Big D and the Kids Table to perform the hit song from the ’90s with them. On Sunday, Feldmann’s seminal ska/punk band Goldfinger invited Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish to perform RBF’s “Sell Out” with them. Ska fans welcomed the surprise as the Huntington Beach-based band would have been a no-brainer for the lineup but could not perform due to contract restraints from signing onto this summer’s Vans Warped Tour. Barrett remained on stage for the rest of Goldfinger’s set, and No Doubt’s Tony Kanal and Angelo Moore of Fishbone joined Feldmann and company for a cover of The Specials’ “Night Klub.” And, of course, what would an Interrupters festival set be without an appearance from Rancid’s Tim Armstrong?
Travis Barker on drums
Any time the Blink-182 percussionist sits behind a drum kit, you know you’re in for a treat. Back to the Beach fans had the opportunity to see Barker play at the festival twice over the weekend. On Saturday, he reprised his role as the Baron Von Tito in The Aquabats, whom he played with in the early ’90s before joining forces with Mark Hoppus and Tom Delonge (and now, Matt Skiba). On Sunday, Barker filled in on drums with Goldfinger, with Feldmann dubbing him the “greatest drummer of all time.”
Back to the Beach was a paradise for people of all ages. Feldmann and Barker, both fathers of young children, made sure the kids were treated right and had a good time. The Lil Punk Kids Zone offered amenities like healthy food options, crafts, an area for breastfeeding moms, beach games, a pool with mermaids and more. Admission for the youngsters (age 10 and under) was also free with paid adult admission. Bands also frequently brought children up on stage with them. Dicky Barrett’s daughter joined him on stage to sing a tune during The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ set, and Less Than Jake invited a boy with a mohawk and temporary tattoos onto stage. Hepcat also had two girls sing with them, and, of course, a flurry of children contributed to The Aquabats’ grand finale of “Pool Party,” as is typical in the Huntington Beach, crime-fighting band’s set.
The Lack of Water
Sure, the concert was directly next to the Pacific Ocean, but that didn’t mean water was easily accessible within the parameters of the festival. Patrons were encouraged to bring clear, refillable water bottles throughout the weekend. The problem was, there was nowhere for the bottles to be filled once inside the venue. (We recognize there’s probably a better chance of Tomas Kalnoky reuniting with Catch 22 than finding water spouts so close to the beach.) And with the festival’s rules prohibiting outside food and drinks, attendees had no choice but to purchase water bottles from vendors. Luckily, on Sunday, the Rockstar Energy booth gave out free H2O (though the gesture was only advertised once on the festival’s Facebook that morning).
“She Has a Girlfriend Now” Without Aaron Barrett
Sure, you could argue that because Monique Powell sang on Reel Big Fish’s original 1996 recording of “She Has a Girlfriend Now,” she might be OK to perform it at the festival, as she did by inviting Fishbone’s Angelo Moore to contribute Aaron Barrett’s part. The puzzling thing we can see here is Barrett (and several RBF horn players) were at the festival, performing with Goldfinger merely two sets later. As legendary as Moore is, it would have been even better to see Barrett and Powell performing the tune together again for old time’s sake. One can only hope Mo made an attempt to get the song’s writer and original singer to perform with her before enlisting help from the legend that is Moore. At the very least, hopefully she got permission to sing the song or told Barrett ahead of time that she would be performing it. If not, well, that’s just a bit awkward.
Hear us out. Of course it’s super awesome that this festival was on a beach right by the water, and with that, obviously, comes sand. But that foundation simply just isn’t ideal for skanking and walking around all day. Throughout the entire area of the fest, there was only one paved pathway in the middle of the area, making it less than ideal for people to walk around during each eight-hour day. Props to the two-day passholders whose calves deserve even more credit for all the soreness they’ve endured and will continue to process for the next few days as they recover. (Leg day, anyone?) And to those who braved the pits in flip-flops, sandals or bare feet, we salute you.