Back to the Beach Festival: 2018 Recap

Huntington State Beach, Huntington Beach, CA

Happy Friday, everyone! We're closing out this week with a look back at another local rock and food and booze festival that took place last weekend.  Across two fun-filled and high energy and good vibe days this past Saturday and Sunday, the inaugural Back to the Beach Festival thrilled fans with a good eats, daft drinks, and a strong line-up of ska rock that turned back the clock, back a decade plus before, when the genre was taking the radio waves by storm.

We sent our resident rock and booze correspondents, Dan and Joey, out to Huntington State Beach to report on all the activities.  They were to listen to the great bands, try out the beer, devour some good grub, and document on the fun times people were having.  All for the sake of science!  Lets see what they came back with...

(All photos in this update by Dan Angona.)


Similar to the Sabroso Festival earlier last month down in Dana Point, Back to the Beach (B2tB) was set up right on the sand, with beer and food tents, merchandise booths, and activities along a stretch of beach fenced off from the public for this event.  A single main stage was located on the parking lot side of the plot, while beach games were lined up along the ocean side.

The festival was, essentially, one giant beach party.  And not only that, but for many fans in attendance, it was a big nostalgia trip, taking them back to their younger days in school and rocking out to ska and alternative bands like The Aquabats, Sublime, Less than Jake, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Save Ferris, Goldfinger, and 311.  There was a relaxed and throwback atmosphere, with plenty of people showing off their rock pride.  Throughout the day, there was a sense of togetherness and easy-going enjoyment of the beach scene. 

Being that it was the beach, there were plenty of places to sit back and relax and lounge out.  Only one large area was shaded however, and it would have been welcome to have more covered areas to escape the direct sun.  Still, that didn't prevent people from having fun.

Fun was a clear objective for guests when they weren't taking in the sounds of the bands on stage.  All through the recreational area were large scale (and sometimes very large scale) versions of popular board games, like Connect Four, Jenga, and Battleship--plus other activities like corn hole and giant beer pong.  It reinforced the sense that this was really like a big family gathering... a picnic or reunion on the beach of sorts.  Only instead of blood relatives, everyone was bonded by their common love of Third Wave Ska, coming together in one of the big hotbeds for the genre during the 90's--Orange County.

There were other activities and items of interest if one wasn't interested in playing games.  A mechanical shark challenged anyone who might think he or she could hang on for a while ride.  Plenty of merchandise booths were also available for fans to purchase souvenirs.  There were beach performers and costumed characters, and a cheerful environment all around.

Food & Booze

Of course, these days, you can't run a successful music festival without good food and good drinks.  Especially around Southern California, gone are the days when guests would be satisfied with watered down big name beer and basic burgers and hot dogs.  These days, quality and/or unique food is part of the draw, and B2tB certainly had its fair share of that.

Unlike Sabroso, there was no beer or other alcohol tasting offered.  Everything offered was a la carte.  But there was certainly a great number of craft beer, cocktail, and gourmet food options available, catering to carnivores, vegans, and everyone in between.  The stands were run pretty much all along a line, and they functioned well enough for a festival--with lines once the venue really got rocking, but sufficient offerings overall.  The selection of food was excellent, providing a diverse line-up that really represented Southern California foodie culture quite well.

Joey noted that a water filling station would have been welcome to stay hydrated (both against the sun and while drinking), and more actual dining areas would have been helpful.  As it was, people ate wherever they could--a slight inconvenience at most.


Of course, a festival would be nothing without its guests, and Back to the Beach featured an awesome and colorful crowd--many of whom were out showing their support and pride for their favorite bands.

While the music line-up itself was catered to people who enjoyed ska rock during their high school or college years during the '90s, the demographic that actually showed up spanned all sorts of generations.  There were the expected Generation X and Y groups, of course--people who grew up on the acts the festival was hosting.  But a good amount of Millennials could also be seen--kids appreciating what is now starting to fall under the very broad category of classic rock, and families even, passing their love of music down to their little children.

Whether it be for a day at the beach, in proud punk regalia, or in homage to their favorite band, there were quite a lot of spirited characters to be seen.  And again, the general atmosphere was one of fun and enjoyment.  Everyone seemed to be on hand to have a great time.  


Of course, the focus of all of this, though, was the music.  Back to the Beach was first and foremost a celebration of the big Orange County ska and rock bands that brought forth an originally regional music genre onto the national scene. 

And the acts knew it.  Many of the bands crafted setlists catered toward their diehard fans, knowing they would be appreciated.  That mean a range of songs from the big hits to a few deep cuts here and there.  There were also plenty of special guests and band members playing with other bands throughout both days.  Saturday provided a highlight relatively early on when festival co-organizer, Travis Barker, of Blink-182 fame, appeared as his alter ego, Baron Von Tito, and re-united with his old band, The Aquabats, and did a few songs with them on the drums.  The crowd definitely went wild for the moment.  Barker also showed up with Goldfish the following day.

There were other crossover and special guest appearances too.  Fishbone's Angelo Moore joined Save Ferris on Sunday afternoon for "She Has a Girlfriend Now."  Tim Armstrong, from Rancid, was a guest with The Interrupters.  Reel Big Fish's lead singer, Aaron Barrett, led a cover of his own song, "Sell Out," with Goldfinger, who also had members of No Doubt and Fishbone in other songs.  The Mighty Mighty Bosstones had a slew of guests with them when they closed out their set with their hit, "The Impression That I Get," with members of the Aquabats and other Saturday bands on stage for a big finae.

Less Than Jake put on an energetic and rollicking set, while 311 closed out Saturday night with their smooth guitar licks and chill alternative vibe.  On Sunday, Save Ferris launched off the afternoon with an energetic set.  Goldfinger blended the ska and punk notes with a powerful performance.  Lead singer and other festival co-organizer, John Feldmann delivered a defiantly triumphant set in the setting, afternoon sun.  Fishbone paddled out their original line-up for their ska and punk set, and Sublime with Rome closed out Sunday night with all the notable Sublime hits, sending festival-goers home on a high note of OC ska nostalgia. 

Less Than Jake

The Aquabats

Mighty Mighty Bosstones


Save Ferris




If there was anything that this festival showed, it was that ska and rock are most definitely not dead.  More niched than they used to be?  Perhaps.   But the thousands of fans who showed up definitely provided evidence that there is still a home for great, memorable rock.

Nighttime at Back to the Beach.

Nighttime at Back to the Beach.

Back to the Beach proved to be a great success in its inaugural year.  It joins a growing list of music festivals using the "music/food/drinks" formula to provide a fun time for their attendees.  The beach setting and get-together atmosphere really helped keep people relaxed and in great moods, and the fantastic Southern California weather didn't hurt either!

All in all, though there were minor hiccups like with any large scale event, Back to the Beach provided an excellent time, full of impassioned fans and people just looking to have a great time.  And they did.  We look forward to seeing B2tB back next year--fingers crossed.

That's a wrap from Huntington Beach!

That's a wrap from Huntington Beach!

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.