One of my favorite things to do after attending themed festivals is coming up with hypothetical bills for the next year’s iteration. Back to the Beach this year was an absolute blast–so much so that I am already fully planning on going again for next year’s. But who would make for a great show? Here is my wishlist.

Back to the Beach’s positioning as a Ska festival first and foremost is perhaps its greatest strength and appeal as well as its weakness. Ska is still beloved and people will still turn up for any of the bands that have already played either 2018 or 2019. Ska fans are nothing if not loyal. But this doesnt preclude an audience–even Huntington Beach, one of the capitols for ska–from getting burnt out on the same list year after year. Much as anyone (and I count myself among them) loves Less Than Jake or Mighty Mighty Bosstones, a more general audience is going to lose interest eventually. So who do you bring in? How do you adapt a festival without losing its roots?

The answer, actually, is seemingly already being addressed by the festival. This year saw the inclusion of a number of both legacy and current darlings of pop punk. While the genre is still popular for the most part, a lot of the fervor has seemingly died down. Even for headliners like The Story So Far. The festival did something smart, though in diversifying their bill and including bands like Blink 182, the Used, Story of the Year, and the Wonder Years. They gave themselves a bit of space to maneuver by going big by jumping to a relatively popular genre like pop punk, which might allow them not only to maintain a hold on their Ska origins, but may allow them to expand or host other more niche subgenres in the coming years.

So lets get into the nitty-gritty. Who could the festival tap to keep up the quality of the last two years, and perhaps even up the ante? Besides pulling from their 2018 lineup (Mad Caddies and Suicide Machines PLEASE) First up, the ska bands;

The New Kids: Bite Me Bambi, Kill Lincoln, Run and Punch A cursory search of the internet will take you down a rabbit hole where ska is the plucky but resilient underdog valiantly soldiering on despite the estimation that the genre is “dead.” It only makes sense to fill some of those early slots with the genre’s nascent talents.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Jqz4iftwy0


The Dad Bands: The Skatelites, The Specials, Derrick Morgan
Ska fans are getting older. I find that as I get older I am enjoying the easier side of listening nearly as much as I enjoy the crazy aggressive and fast stuff. The Specials are celebrating their 40th year, Derrick Morgan is still touring, and The Skatelites would be a treat any time. But make no mistake, these bands would be much more suited to easy beach vibes than the punk show that B2tB normally inhabits.


The Easy Money’s: The Slackers, The Pietasters, The Toasters
Each of these bands is some of the best and brightest the genre has ever offered. The Toasters even played Its Not Dead Fest a couple years back, and The Slackers seem to pop up all-too-sporadically.


The Go-To’s: Suburban Legends, We the Union, The Selecter
These guys are the obvious choices. Ska stalwarts bridging the old school to the new.

The Long Shots: Leftover Crack, Slapstick, Dance Hall Crashers Look, a couple years back I would have said that the possibility of seeing bands like American Nightmare, Jawbreaker, or a handful of other groups was flat-out impossible, but here we are in 2019 and we’ve had them all…some with new music. Hell we have a Dio hologram regularly making tours…stranger things have happened. Leftover Crack probably wouldnt be too into the festival vibe, Slapstick were barely a thing to begin with (but hey The Falcon brought Dan Andriano into the fold), and Dance Hall Crashers have been on radio silent for years. But…who knows. We live in a strange universe.


The Obvious (If Contentious) Headliners: No Doubt, Rancid
No Doubt abandoned ska a long time ago for pop superstardom, but with Blink 182 playing Enema of the State in it’s entirety seeing Tragic Kingdom or their self titled front-to-back seems like just the spectacle to be a big draw. Rancid, on the other hand, have headlined a number of similar festivals already and are already accomplished at the job. Both avenues have some downsides, but both contain distinct possibilities.

The New Horizon: Psychobilly The only genre that comes to mind who’s popularity seemingly fell as precipitously overnight as ska is the horror-punk tinged rockabilly genre inspired by the likes of the Cramps and Social Distortion. But it, similarly, has such a strong underground presence and visual aesthetic that it practically begs for its own themed fest. Rounding out the bill with a headliner like Social Distortion and padding the day with big names like Tiger Army, The Nekromantix, (pray, god) The Horrorpops, and The Creepshow could bring a whole new dimension to the fest.