I love live music, so when I saw one of my old favourite bands were playing down in LA, a city I’ve been hoping to experience for a long time, and it wasn’t in the peak of summer, I had to jump at the chance to get down there and get double the bang for my buck.
Back To The Beach is a music festival put on by John Feldmann of Goldfinger, and Travis Barker of Blink-182, two bands I loved as a kid, and still enjoy today. They put together an appropriate line-up of Pop-Punk, Ska Punk and similar stuff, a lot of the bands were big when the organizers bands were more prominent, meaning the whole thing is a blast from the past.
Getting to the festival was an interesting experience, I flew into LAX from Calgary with no issue, and spent a night at the HI Hostel in Santa Monica. That was the easy part compared with getting through LA and down to Huntington Beach. Despite the continuous urban sprawl that goes from Malibu down almost to San Diego, there are many different cities along the way, they’re just smushed up against each other. However, as they are different cities, they have different transit systems, and are not easy to get between at all. The Amtrak is pretty much the only way to cover any real distance, so a Metro up to LA downtown, and a walk over to Union Station, followed by a nice wait for the train to Santa Ana, then a walk into Santa Ana town to catch a bus through to Costa Mesa where I’d found a reasonably priced Airbnb. It took most of the day, but it certainly wasn’t a wasted day, I did get to see some of Downtown LA and I was surprised to find that Santa Ana looked more like a rich Mexican town than an American city. The Airbnb was comfortable, and I chilled that night to be well rested for the festival and so I could explore a bit more in the morning.
My wander through Downtown allowed me to knock a few off the check-list items, and a few surprises. I stumbled upon The Santee Alley, which reminded me strongly of the markets in Asia and Mexico, cheap clothes and electronics all being sold from little shops over-flowing with merchandise. If you want a suit in LA, I now know where to go, the whole area around is has more of these stalls, and it’s really interesting to find them in an American city, but fascinating to walk through. I was tempted to check out Skid Row, but after a quick look at the google street view I decided against it, apparently this was a good thing! I’d wanted to go just because of the band named after it, turns out it’s not so nice. So the Theater District was next, old banks and theaters and what constitutes as old buildings for North America. I found the Last Bookstore, an awesome adventure through books, not only stocking everything you would expect, but also housing art studios and galleries, and a maze of corridors through the building along with structures made of old books. Grand Central Market is just down the road a little and is one of the trendy food court style places, I got there just at the lunch rush though, so it was crazy busy with long lines for everything. It’s not cheap either, and I always want to try as much as I can – not great for the belly, or the wallet. My last stop on the way to Union Station was Little Tokyo, where I found some lunch (at about 3pm) delicious and crazy good value sushi.
I had a few hours that morning so I headed to Newport Beach to see the famous beach, and see what all the fuss was about. Well, the beach is much like you’d expect, big golden sand with expensive houses right up as close as they could get. The sandy area was huge, so there was loads of space to hang out, and a surprising amount of cool looking stores and shops, probably ones that had been there long before the area peaked in price. It would be a nice place to spend a day with the family, safe and easy going, although the food options weren’t exactly designed for a budget. Along the beach there is the Balboa pier, and a funzone, so definitely a good family spot. I headed back to the main town to catch the bus over to Huntington Beach and the festival, and I needed to find some WiFi to make sure I got the right bus. As I wandered, I noticed a big advertisement for a restaurant opening at a place called GuacAmigos, featuring a skate demo, with the legend Tony Hawk himself. I thought this was a bit weird, so once I got myself some WiFi (and the coffee to be allowed to sit and use it) I did some googling, turns out Tony has got into restaurant ownership along with a Playboy Bunny friend of his, and was doing the demo to get people down for the opening. I’ve never seen a real Skate Demo, and I’ve played the Tony Hawks Pro Skater games since I was a kid, so I couldn’t say no to seeing him. It was pretty rad, with a bunch of old school skaters from his era, alongside new school younger skaters all ripping it up on a mobile vert ramp in the middle the restaurant car park. They skated for a good amount of time, and really showed off some tricks that had me impressed. No 900 from Tony, which would have been amazing, but considering the guy is now into his 50’s it’s crazy to see how good he still is. It was weird seeing the council officials and fancy locals in shirts and blazers alongside the skate dudes in ragged jeans and old tees that had come for the boarding.
I missed a couple bands to see the show, but getting over to the festival was easy (for a change) and I made it in time to catch The Aquabats, a frankly ridiculous band of ageing guys in silly superhero costumes. They play fast silly ska-punk songs about pizza and farts, not a band I’ve ever enjoyed on record, but actually quite entertaining live. The night progressed with the Ska-punk with Streetlight Manifesto and Reel Big Fish putting in fun sets of fast and energetic madness interjected with dumb jokes and quips (mostly from RBF). Goldfinger really took it a step further – as these bands age they seem to get more humble, thankful and generous with their guest spots. Gone are the kid jokes, but they entertain with cover songs, and not taking the whole thing too seriously. Also, they play a lot less shows now they have other bits and pieces going on, so playing is a joy not a chore – and it really shows. John ‘Feldy’ is running around, shouting, messing up his own lyrics (deliberately?) and more. This is his show, and he’s making the most of it, with guest appearances from old band members, other guys from different bands and more.
Finally Blink-182 are on, a band I’ve loved for years, playing a very special show as it’s the 10th anniversary of their break out album, Enema of the State. So they’re playing that whole album in full (and then a few more tracks as well). Blink-182 have recently had a big change, their original co-lead vocalist and guitarist Tom Delonge quit/was kicked out, and has been replaced by Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio, a goth themed punk rock band. While they’re still making good music, it doesn’t have the spark that the core line-up had, and hearing Matt singing Toms parts sounded pretty strange, the on stage dynamics were a bit off as well, but overall it was a pretty awesome show.
Getting home was a whole lot of fun, as by the time they finished up and I’d gotten out of there, the buses has stopped long ago. So it was a long old walk to try to find some WiFi to get myself an Uber. I skipped a pizza place (that I went to the next day) foolishly and must have walked about 5km to find a place that I could connect to – but everything was shut up or just didn’t have WiFi at all. Eventually I went into a gas station store and asked if the guy would hot-spot his phone for me – thankfully he said yes and I managed to get home about an hour after I should’ve!