The first annual KAABOO Del Mar festival was held on September 18-20 at the Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds. An absolute aural and visual spectacle, this brand new addition to San Diego’s vibrant musical landscape was an ambitious project to say the least.
Featuring over 100 bands, a cadre of comedians and chefs, and so much more, the festival tried hard to present a diverse array of entertainment options and was truly a high end experience. Many top touring bands and talented local musicians played across seven stages positioned throughout the vast Del Mar Fairgrounds.
Highlights of the festival included Friday night headliners No Doubt. Having only made appearances at a handful of festivals this year, it was a treat to see this SoCal band perform live. Lead singer Gwen Stefani was a wonder, stalking the stage and showing off some serious moves. She even climbed up the giant 60-foot scaffolding at one point in the show. Bassist Tony Kanal seemed to relish in the opportunity to perform live, leaping from the drum riser on several occasions and beaming for the crowd.
Songs like “Don’t Speak,” “Spiderwebs,” and “Just A Girl” incited huge singalongs from almost everyone in the diverse crowd. From young kids on the shoulders of their parents to older folks relaxing in their private cabanas, everyone seemed to be excited to see these ’90s alt-rockers.
Other highlights of Friday’s lineup included local artist KI, who were winners of a competition designed to highlight local talent at the festival. Their early-afternoon set was a powerhouse and earned them plenty of new fans. LA based Fitz & the Tantrums were another great act. With almost endless energy, singers Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs danced and sang on the huge Sunset Cliffs stage and set the mood for the whole day.
Day two included headliners Zac Brown Band, who put on a powerful late night performance. Brown and his colorful group of musicians may play country music, but in this large festival setting, they perfected a well-rounded show that offered something for everyone to enjoy. Channeling tons of covers from bands like Metallica and even Bruno Mars, they delighted the huge crowd that gathered for their day-ending set.
Mexican acoustic duo Rodrigo y Gabriela were another standout of the large lineup. The two played fierce flamenco-inspired riffs, and it was amazing to hear how much sound they could drive through a huge venue with only two acoustic guitars.
The inaugural KAABOO festival was truly fun to experience, especially for its first year. It offered a a luxurious concert environment that had to be felt to be appreciated. Despite some reported stumbles including lower-than-expected attendance and local noise complaints, this festival is poised to become a San Diego institution, and it has a great base upon which to expand. Next year’s iteration has already been announced — reserve your dates now for September 16-18, 2016.