Only Cowards Will Roast the Planet's First Great All-Ska Festival Lineup

Back to the Beach has Sublime, 311, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Fishbone's original lineup. Get in losers, we're going skanking.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones in 1991. Photo by Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.

Ska-punk a.k.a. third wave ska exited the limelight the late 90s after running alt-rock radio in 1996 and 1997. The exact reason North Americans suddenly fell in love with upstroked guitars, horn sections, and scratchy-voiced dude vocalists for a few years is still unknown, but the dated goofiness of the subgenre has made for an easy punchline over the decades. To that I say this: while jokes about checker-patterned fedoras are pretty funny, ska-punk, like many other forms of punk, definitely means a lot to what's still a significant number of people. Whether it's nostalgia, community, or honestly being down with the sound, there are genuine reasons to have forged a connection with ska. So, the news today that there will at last be a festival with an all-star, all-ska lineup should be treated with excitement. Put some respect on ska-punk's name.


Back to the Beach may not be the first all-ska festival ever—the Victoria Ska Fest in Canada, of all places, has been going since 2000—but it might be the first to be an event by gathering some of the genre's titans. Headliners 311 and Sublime are crossover acts, and are here by virtue of them being big, influential names. But you also have the Aquabats (whose former drummer Travis Barker is one of the festival's presenters), Mustard Plug, and Less Than Jake, all of whom are touchstones for hundreds of amateur bands throughout the years. Most important is the fest grabbing the original lineup of Fishbone, who essentially fathered pretty much every band on this poster. That's a display of love and attention to the history of ska-punk right there.

Is it at least a little funny that Back to the Beach exists, has 311 as a headliner, and is literally on a beach? Yeah, sure. But you can also argue that 311 are better than people give them credit for. Maybe the notion of "good taste" is dumb and we should all just chill out and listen to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

Phil is on Twitter.