The second iteration of Huntington Beach’s Back to the Beach Fest is officially in the rearview. The seeming last bastion of ska descended upon the OC beach city over the weekend, rounded out by a healthy dose of pop-punk mastery by headliners Blink 182 and The Used (as well as The Story So Far, The Wonder Years, and Story of the Year). The sold-out fest attracted massive crowds and managed to remind everyone why this genre is just so damn good.

This being my first attendance to the fest, I was overwhelmingly pleased by not only the lineup, but by just how many of the thousands of people turning out who were actually there to support the ska bands. Ska is unfairly picked upon by many–the butt of too many jokes from hipsters and the mainstream alike. Such aspersions lose sight not only of how damn fun the genre itself is, but additionally of how many absolutely stellar bands (that are still around, as evidenced by this bill) came out of the third-wave movement. Back to the Beach does an absolutely stellar job of reminding us all of both.

Save Ferris, known perhaps best back in the day for their ability to improve upon the classic “Come on Eileen,” were finishing up as I made it to the grounds. For which I was sad, stoked as I was to see their ebullient chanteuse Monique Powell, who’s reputation for incredible performances is pretty widespread. I wandered around a bit before finally making it to the stage while The Aquabats brought their family-friendly ska-by-way-of-kids-show vibes to full bear. The stage teemed with giant animals and dinosaurs as The Aquabats karate-kicked their way around the stage. They Finished up with “Super Rad” and “Pool Party”–just about the best capper they could have, before making way for Streetlight Manifesto.

Streetlight were one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend for me–I have seen them plenty of times before, but they may be the consummate version of ska that there is and their live shows always kill. They didnt disappoint, but they did a couple deeper cuts that I hadn’t quite been expecting of them. The crowd was pleased regardless, however, most everyone hopelessly trying to keep up with their breakneck-paced-lyrics.

My day finished up with Reel Big Fish, the reigning ska kings since the 90’s. No other band better epitomizes everything about the third wave ska moment than RBF and they keep every element of their schtick up–playing with the same skill and showmanship for over 20 years. I wandered away with a smile on my face and looking forward to Day 2.

Day 2 started with Story of the Year, a band I have always been aware of and pleasantly neutral towards (with the exception of “Anthem of Our Dying Day” which is one of the best songs in Screamo history). They put on a great warm up set, but I was pleasantly surprised again by how many people were there that day just for Less Than Jake.

I have seen LTJ countless times. They are one of my top 3 favorite bands of all time and their live show is always amazing, but their set at Back to the Beach felt plagued by sound issues (a common thread throughout the festival) and felt just slightly…off. Perhaps this was due to the absence of Vinnie Fiorello, who has retired as their touring drummer, but they still brought the house down (with their signature toilet paper cannons) with their string of impeccably crafted ska-punk hits.

Ska is unfairly maligned by critics, but where critics do get it right is in its rarity. The third wave has long since crested and receded, but its incredible to still be left with the best and brightest that the wave had to offer. Back to the Beach, however, does one more thing–keeps the flame of hope alive for those of us waiting for a fourth wave.

There’s always next year.