Back To The Beach Festival, Huntington Beach, California

Travis Barker is a man of many talents. One of those talents is playing host to some damn good shows. The most recent iteration, hot off the heels of Barker’s Musink in March, was in the form of the (hopefully) first annual Back to the Beach festival—a punk/ska/reggae revival wherein Travis joined forces with John “Feldy” Feldmann of Goldfinger fame.

The two-day fest, also hosted by So-Cal “rock” station KROQ, was held in Huntington Beach, California. But, not just in Huntington Beach, but actually on Huntington State Beach…in the sand…a mere few hundred feet from the Pacific Ocean. There probably isn’t a more ska setting than that.

Both days held solid line-ups with some heavy hitters within the ska realm. The one band I really wished had been in attendance, however, was Streetlight Manifesto. Maybe Travis and Feldy can make this happen next year. Regardless, our eardrums were pleasantly assaulted with upbeat tunes from the bands on hand.

We were happy to discover that parking was only $15—a reasonable price when compared to other festivals. We’re looking at you, Aftershock. Check-in and security was breezy and easily navigable, though we were slightly perturbed just how relaxed they in fact were—we went through without anyone checking our camera bags. How many other people had gotten through with contraband? Or, heavens forbid, worse? The venue was well laid-out with plenty of room (maybe even too much due to the calf-destroying sand) for patrons to mingle and skank in the sand. There was a dedicated merch tent, a lil’ punks kids zone, a much-larger-than-necessary VIP section, and a mechanical shark—naturally.

A slew of food and beverage vendors were on hand, bordering either side of the venue grounds. And speaking of booze: I drank all day without once being carded or being told to obtain a wristband from the i.d. check station. To be fair, I do have a thick beard, but come on. Get it together people. And the porta-potties! Holy shit, were there porta-potties! I’ve never seen so many in one place. Bravo on the shitter logistics and being extremely prepared in that department. It was a very nice welcome compared to other festivals. We’re looking at you, Blackest of the Black.

The highlights for us? Basically the whole weekend, but to quickly break it down: Big D and the Kids Table making fun of the VIP section; The Suicide Machines with Joe Escalante from The Vandals on drums; Mad Caddies; Less Than Jake (one of my bucket list bands checked off) playing a killer set with help from Feldy and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ trombonist Chris Rhodes; The Aquabats throwing an army of inflatables into the crowd with their energetic theatrics helped along with OG drummer The Baron von Tito, who seemed to take a cue from the Travis Barker drum school; not to mention energetic sets from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and 311.

A pelican tried to steal the show on Sunday during The Aggrolites’ set by buzzing and landing in the crowd, but was later apprehended by wildlife personnel; Mustard Plug made fun of Nazi skinheads; The Interrupters killed it, as usual; Save Ferris enlisted the help of Fishbone’s Angelo Moore; Goldfinger’s line-up included Mike Herrera from MxPx, Philip Sneed from Story of the Year, and of course Travis Barker, as well as guest appearances by Aaron Barrett from Reel Big Fish and Tony Kanal from No Doubt.

Kanal’s appearance made us briefly excited at the prospect of an appearance by Gwen Stefani to possibly perform the Sublime duet Saw Red during the closing set by Sublime with Rome. But alas, it was just wishful thinking. Besides, without Brad, it wouldn’t have been the same.

The Back to the Beach festival was a definite hit in our books. If ska is your thing, we highly recommend attending next year, should it return. We are optimistically hopeful it does.