In a weekend full of chill vibes and great music, Travis Barker and John Feldmann’s Back to the Beach Festival returned to Huntington State Beach for its second annual installment. Featuring a “mostly ska” lineup unlike most of today’s mainstream festivals, it showed just how populous and dedicated today’s ska community is. Back to the Beach’s Day one lineup offered an unparalleled introspective into the influence and relevance the genre has in this day and age. While ska is so famously known for being a culture that takes pride in not taking itself too seriously, the festival was incredibly well organized, and selling out a festival with a capacity of over 20,000 really does lead one to to legitimately wonder if we are on the verge of a resurgence in mainstream appeal and popularity for the community. The weekend started on a high note and kept building as the days went on.
Despite a heavy overcast, nothing could rain on Travis and Feldy’s parade. From the beginning to the end, every band gave a high energy set that got the audience riled up. UK band The English Beat brought their reggae-ska sound to an early morning crowd that could not have been happier for the experience. Despite the recent passing of one of the band’s singers and frontmen Ranking Rogers less than a month prior, their set was lively enough to prompt roaring applause from the crowd. After their performance, unanswered chants of “one more song” came loudly from the audience as The English Beat left the stage. The passion the audience had for just the second band of the day was encouraging and prompted questions of just how much the house’s energy would build throughout the day.
The weather began to improve with the general mood throughout Save Ferris’ set. The band delivered an animated set that included most of their hits, and some new surprises. Lead singer Monique Powell addressed the audience early on, giving a speech seasoned Save Ferris fans are all too familiar with “My name is Monique, but you can call me Mo… I have a feeling that by the end of this, we’re going to be very good friends.” Toward the end of her set, Powell poked fun at the festival’s billing, boasting to be a “kid friendly” event before launching into a loud, vulgar, and high energy cover of the Dead Kennedys’ hit “Too Drunk to Fuck.”
Just as The Aquabats’ set began, the clouds parted and the sun came out. The band confidently strutted out, shortly followed by a group of children carrying large inflatable sharks. The crowd then knew what to expect as the sharks were thrown into the audience as the band opened with their hit “The Shark Fighter!”
Reel Big Fish gave a quirky, llight-hearted set that dedicated fans had come to know and love. As the band danced on stage, lead singer Aaron Barrett announced to the audience “We’re going to play all new songs from our new album. Just kidding!” Their set, however, was not without surprises. Toward the end of their set the band invited Taylor Morden, director of the recent ska documentary “Pick it Up!” onstage with them to play trumpet during their song “Sell Out” before ending with their hit cover of Ah-Ha’s “Take on Me” that has become almost synonymous with the band’s identity.
Goldfinger’s performance late in the day electrified the crowd in a major way. John “Feldy” Feldmann ran onstage, immediately jumped on the speakers to embrace the audience, then began with their 1996 hit “Here in Your Bedroom,” Feldy’s feet touching the ground as little as possible. Billed as “Goldfinger with special guests” their set did not skip on the collaborative talent, bringing the frontmen of both bands who had headlined last year’s festival, Nick Hexum of 311 and Rome Ramirez of Sublime with Rome, to help cover their bands’ hit songs “Amber” and “Date Rape” respectively. Feldy’s surprises were far from done, as he then asked the crowd to join him in an extended moment of silence to honor recently deceased member of The English Beat Ranking Roger before inviting Dave Wakeling onstage with them to help cover their song “Mirror in the Bathroom.” At the end of the set, Feldy took an opportunity to introduce the headliners in a way befitting his spontaneous character. He announced “I was brushing my teeth this morning and I realized, I get to headline for blink-182!” Then ended Goldfinger’s set with “Superman” and “99 Red Balloons.”
As the sun set on Huntington Beach, everyone stood in anticipation of blink-182’s headlining set. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of their breakthrough album “Enema of the State." they played the record in its entirety to the overwhelming approval of the audience. Fans could hardly contain their excitement as Mark, Matt, and Travis came onstage, milking the applause before beginning the show with “Dumpweed” and confirming that the album would in face be played in order. The audience was excited for blink’s set, and the band took notice. “She’s dressed like the nurse!” Mark Hoppus exclaimed partway through the set, pointing to a woman by the front of the barricade dressed as the nurse from the Enema of the State album cover, then invited her up to watch the rest of the set from the side of the stage. After ending the album with “Anthem” the band took a brief intermission, then returned onstage to play a second set consisting of “Feeling This,” “Bored to Death,” “Built this Pool,” “Rock Show,” Violence,” and closing with “Dammit” featuring a spirited yet casual Mark Hoppus rap solo. The lights quickly came on after the band walked off stage as the staff tried to clear the beach to keep up with their curfew.