While day one of Back to the Beach Festival had a very clear ska emphasis, day two seemed focused on the emo/skate punk culture that so often goes hand in hand with third wave ska. While not quite an admissions sell out like the day before, day two still managed to draw a very healthy crowd of fans, all passionate about the acts of the day.
The festival had a very Warped Tour type feel to it, as mosh pits and crowd surfing seemed to be the themes of the day, as hardly a band’s act went by without seeing a fan floating on top of the crowd. This trend started early in the day when Story of the Year woke the beach up early. Mosh pits opened up for their set, the audience hardly slowing down until pausing in reverence of their last song of the set “Until the Day I Die.”
The day’s only strictly third-wave ska band, Less Than Jake, performed mid-day to the joy of the crowd. The sound of horns was a pleasant break in the otherwise thrash-ier sound of the day, and audiences seemed to appreciate the mellow mood. Toward the end of the set, members of the band addressed the crowd to remark on what they had noticed throughout the festival. One band member commented “That’s what I like about California, bad parents!” when noticing how many children there were in full punk rock attire on the beach that day.
East Coast pop-punk band The Wonder Years gave a great show halfway through the day. Stating their show with their high energy single “Sister Cities,” they quickly got the audience invested in the act. Lead singer Dan Campbell’s vocals were as heavy and resonant as his well-pronounced beard as he sang every song passionately and with great purpose. The mood of the set was levitating, and inspirational through and through until the band ended with their upbeat yet down to earth early-career hit “Came Out Swinging.”
Teenage heartthrob Anthony Green took to the stage late in the day to serenade the audience with a much softer sounding music than had been the theme throughout the day up to that point. To the crowd’s surprise, Green was eventually joined on stage by festival organizers John Feldmann and Travis Barker, who couldn’t help but accompany Green for a brief moment during his set.
The Story So Far’s set took place just as the sun was about to set over Huntington Beach. The festival’s penultimate act, it more than lived up to the buildup leading up to it. Lead singer Parker Cannon’s short trench coat and aviator shades were hardly appropriate beach attire, but the crowd did not seem to mind. Cannon’s firm stance in front of the microphone did not inhibit the crowd from moving around throughout the set, moshing and crowd surfing to their heart’s content, all the way up until the band played their final song “Nerve.” In the intermission afterward, several executives came to hype up the crowd before the final act, including one festival organizer claiming The Used to be his favorite band.
The headlining set by The Used more than lived up to the hype. From pyrotechnic displays to onstage collaborations with well-known percussion group “Street Drum Corps” in what seemed like every other song, the set was by a wide margin the most stimulating and aesthetically pleasing performance of the day. Lead singer Bert McCracken’s energy was turned all the way up to 11 as he moved throughout the stage with great purpose. There was surely something supernatural about this show in more ways than one. Close to the end of the night, rain began to drizzle down seemingly from the heavens above as McCracken spoke about the influence late musician Chester Bennington had on his own music before covering Linkin Park’s “Shadow of the Day” only to have the rain stop immediately after the song was over. It was truly poetic. However, the poetry didn’t stop there. The set ended somewhat anticlimactically, as McCracken began a dramatic reading of T. S. Eliot’s classic 1922 poem “The Waste Land” made even more theatrical by dim lighting and demonic vocal distortions, only to be cut off by the organizers at 9:00 pm on the dot to avoid breaking their curfew. Despite the abrupt ending, Back to the Beach 2019 otherwise went on without a hitch, and we can only wait eagerly in anticipation to see how it will improve on itself next year.