If there was any year for a ska resurgence, John Feldmann and Travis Barker say now’s the time to “pick it up.”
“There was a point in time where being in a ska band wasn’t the coolest thing to ever be,” remembers Feldmann, frontman of Goldfinger and music producer of bands like Blink-182, The Used, All Time Low and Story of the Year. “I feel like there’s a nostalgia for ska-punk that really didn’t exist eight or 10 years ago.”
He recounts the days of dressing in a suit, riding on his Vespa to clubs and skanking to songs about unity from bands like Madness and The Specials. And now, he says, bands like The Interrupters are commanding a newer generation of rude boys and rude girls.
Feldmann and Barker, who each found their start in music in ska bands in the 1990s, will present the first-ever Back to the Beach Festival at Huntington State Beach on April 28 and April 29.
The event, in partnership with Laguna Hills-based music festival production company Synergy Global Entertainment, will feature 311, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Aquabats, Hepcat, Less Than Jake, Mad Caddies, The Suicide Machines, Big D and the Kids Table and more on April 28.
On April 29, Sublime with Rome leads the roster with Goldfinger (featuring Barker), Fishbone (the original lineup), Save Ferris, The Interrupters, Mustard Plug, The Aggrolites, The Untouchables and more.
Bands will play on a single stage with 15 minutes between each set as fans dance in the sand, Feldmann says.
In curating the lineup, Barker — who once regularly sported a rashguard as the Baron Von Tito in The Aquabats before he joined Blink-182 — says he and Feldmann thought of a number of artists who would fit in with a ska and reggae vibe. Barker adds the lineup was never intended to be “totally rude boy.”
“We wanted it to be like-minded bands,” he says. “There is some reggae influence in 311, and, obviously, Sublime played every genre of music and they did it really well. … Hopefully this festival will open people’s eyes to a whole genre of music. I really do believe we’re going to see a resurgence in the ska scene.”
While Barker says he’s excited to revisit his ska roots, he adds he’s really never left.
“I just don’t play in a band regularly that’s like that,” says Barker, who also played with the Suicide Machines early in his career. “It was such a strong scene growing up and even in the time I played with The Aquabats. It’s kind of like the lost genre. It’s one thing — until now, with great upcoming bands like The Interrupters — that’s been looked over, and there are so many great bands from that genre of music.”
Barker, who performed with The Aquabats for the first time since his departure at a recent anniversary show at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles, confirmed the Baron Von Tito will make another appearance at Back to the Beach.
Feldmann says the lineup came “organically,” first with the headliners, both of whom he was working with in the studio.
And when The Mighty Mighty Bosstones signed on, Feldmann says he knew everything would fall into place.
“In the mid-90s, the Bosstones were such a seminal part of the scene,” he remembers. “‘The Impression That I Get’ was such a massive song that they were kind of my first choice for this lineup.”
Dicky Barrett, frontman of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, says it was a no-brainer signing onto the festival.
“It’s been a long time coming and a dream come true,” he says. “Top to bottom, there’s not a clunker on the list. If The Mighty Mighty Bosstones is your weakest band on the bill, then it’s a pretty strong bill.”
He refers to Boston, his hometown, as the east coast headquarters of ska, while Orange County dominates the west coast. However, he says, there is strong camaraderie everywhere in the two-tone scene.
Barrett acknowledges west coast fans who regularly fly to the annual Mighty Mighty Bosstones “Hometown Throwdown” shows during the Christmas season in Boston.
“[Ska] is the type of music that has the type of spirit that’s all about unity and bringing people together,” he says. “It’s not the type of thing that would have any sort of rivalries. I have a great deal of love for all the ska bands that come out of Orange County, as I do for many of the ska bands that have come out of so many places around the globe.”
Feldmann says Orange County was an obvious choice for a ska festival and credits the area as the hub for the genre.
“When anyone thinks about ska in 2018, they think about Orange County,” Feldmann says. “When I go to England, they all say the same thing and think all the ska bands are from Orange County. I guess because Reel Big Fish and No Doubt were from Orange County, everyone sort of assumed everyone else was from there, too.”
Barker and Feldmann also aim to bring in a new generation of ska fans, with family-friendly bands like The Aquabats and the Lil Punk Kid Zone, which boasts healthy food options, activities, an area for breastfeeding moms, beach games, a pool with mermaids and more.
Taking a page from the book of Warped Tour, kids 10 and under will get in free with paid adult admission.
“As a parent or even if you’re bringing your little brother or little sister, you wonder if an event is kid-appropriate or somewhere they shouldn’t be,” says Barker, who also spearheads the annual Musink Tattoo Convention & Music Festival in Costa Mesa. “We wanted to really make this a family festival where it was cool for all ages.”
The event will also feature a wide range of food vendors, including vegan options, as Barker and Feldmann have both committed themselves to plant-based lifestyles.
Like Coachella, Barker envisions Back to the Beach becoming an annual “destination festival” that’s not tied to one genre.
“It could change,” he says. “One year it can be pop-punk, one year it can be hip-hop, one year it can be reggae. There are just no rules. We’re not boxed in or forced to be just what it is this year.”
As far as lineups go, Tazy Phyllipz, the host of the longtime radio show Ska Parade, considers the festival’s debut roster as the “Coachella of ska.”
“People have come up with fake lineups of Coachella, and someone did the ultimate ska festival,” says Phyllipz, who will emcee portions of the event. “Back to the Beach is the closest anyone has ever come to a grand-slam, out-of-the-ballpark Coachella of ska.”
Feldmann says he believes modern, popular music is “not fun,” and ska music is a perfect way for people to let loose.
“Living in the era that we do, everything is mumble rap or Soundcloud rap,” Feldmann says. “Then, there’s Donald Trump, and it’s like, how have we all not killed ourselves? We need this. We need to be able to laugh, dance, sing and have fun.”