At FestPop one of our favorite things in the world is discovering brand new music festivals, but what we love even more is discovering brand new festivals that are very well organized and go off without a hitch. KAABOO Del Mar was one of those festivals. A three day event taking place over the weekend of Friday September 18th to Sunday the 20th, KAABOO was billed as an “anti-festival”, a unique new experience built from the ground up with quality in mind at every stage of the experience. While we didn’t find it to be quite an anti-festival, there was definitely a curated attention toward the quality of the experience. Before even arriving at the venue, it was clear the organizers meant to deliver on their first promise of “no long lines”. KAABOO offered double decker buses to transport festgoers from the nearby train station in Solana Beach, perfect for anyone who opted for public transportation. For those who chose to drive or take Uber or Lyft, there was an adjacent designated Uber lot and plenty of onsite parking. Trams were circling at five minute intervals to shuttle attendees into the main gate. If you opted for one of the two levels of VIP passes, there was a directly connected lot or valet parking with a priority entrance in the back on the venue allowing for entry right next to the Sunset Cliffs stage. KAABOO was definitely designed to cater to a bit of a more well-heeled crowd than your traditional festival, but it was immediately clear that there was an eclectic crowd of all types. Ranging in age from early 20s to 50s and up and even some families with young children in tow, KAABOO was a welcoming event for everyone.
Once inside KAABOO, the other promises were delivered upon as well. Access to food and drinks was well spaced around the expansive 370 acre venue of The Del Mar Fairgrounds, home to the Del Mar Racetrack where “the surf meets the turf”. Situated right on the coast in Del Mar, CA, the venue offered a picturesque location with amazing sunset views that added to the overall experience. The food and beverage at KAABOO was top notch, to say the least, with a wide array of options. Over thirty breweries and many craft distilleries were onsite pouring beer and small-batch tequila, mezcal, gin, rum, vodka, sake and other spirits. A long list of wineries were also onsite, pouring nearly one hundred different wine selections. In addition to the liquid refreshment, there were plentiful food options. The typical festival fare was offered, but most were more artisanal takes on those items including vendors like Spicy Pie Pizza, White Guy Pad Thai, Southern Fried Vegan, Peace Love Tacos and Phat Daddy’s Jambalaya + Creole Kitchen. For those interested in even more upscale options, you could head over to the indoor and air conditioned PALATE area where local restaurants offered the opportunity to sample local and regional delicacies and small-batch specialties. Some of the eateries featured include Napizza, Pamplemousse Grill, Agave Del Mar, Cucina Enoteca and both Herringbone and Searsucker by celebrity chef Brian Malarkey of Top Chef fame.
In addition to all the top shelf tasting options, KAABOO offered a pop up beach complete with sand, pool and cabanas available for reservation with full view of the main stage. As we traveled around the venue, it was impossible to miss the amazing public art installations from sculptors and mural artists spaced throughout. Some were being created on the fly during the event, which drew continuous small crowds of onlookers. There was also a contemporary art fair and auction featuring eighty regional and national artists. With one member of our group recovering from a broken ankle, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Accessible Festivals. This contracted company offered the best ADA friendly, disabled access I have ever seen at a festival, anywhere. There were accessible viewing areas at every stage and they even went so far as to make golf cart rides available around the festival when needed. If you like feeling like you’re giving back when attending a festival you’re in luck. KAABOO also partnered with Feeding America, The YMCA, San Diego Music Foundation and Surfrider Foundation, so we could all give back while partying down. All of this and we haven’t even gotten to the music yet!
When it comes to the entertainment, KAABOO killed it! No question. There were nearly 100 musical acts and comedians spread out over the three day event; covering a wide range of genres offering something for everyone. Smaller groups played during the day; with the headliners closing down the main stage each night. Electronic artists kept the party going till 2:00am on Friday and Saturday at the indoor ENCORE stage. Obviously there are too many acts to list in this review, but for the full lineup take a look here. With so many choices, there’s no way we could mention them all, but here are a few standouts that made our list:
This seven piece New Orleans based rock/soul band was featured on both Friday and Saturday and was new to us. They put on an amazing high energy show and if you haven’t heard them before, I definitely recommend giving them a listen.
In case there was any doubt that Bonnie could still rock a stage with the best of them, she demonstrated that fact with authority. The set showcased her range with ballads like Angel from Montgomery, hits like Something To Talk About and a strong dose of good old fashioned blues. She also put on a clinic, reminding everyone in attendance that when it comes to the slide guitar, she’s one of the best out there.
This Chewelah, WA native describes himself as a “hippie with soul”. His stage presence was high energy and his music a bit of Al Green and Stevie Wonder, with a dash of George Clinton and Prince tossed in for good measure. The whole crowd was dancing their asses off!
Always a fan favorite, these guys have probably never had a bad gig in their career. In a set that really never stopped, they rolled through hit after hit, with their beat box man, Jeremy Ellis, at one point slaying the crowd with an insane Super Mario beat.
Opening with Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf) and closing with Sail, this set was jam packed with awesome music. One of the best stage presences of the festival, the band had everyone rocking the entire time.
Zac Brown Band
Drawing the biggest crowd of Saturday, the band treated listeners to a solid dose of their hits. They also blew minds with their covers of Metallica’s Enter Sandman and the fastest Devil Went Down To Georgia of The Charlie Daniels band I’ve ever heard.
Come on, it’s Snoop Dogg. What do I really need to say 🙂
Gwen Stefani exploded onto the stage, with hits from both No Doubt and her solo effort. She also treated the audience to a solid dose of vitriol, likely inspired by her recent split from Bush frontman, Gavin Rossdale. Definitely a crowd favorite, but no surprise there.
Closing out the weekend, The Killers hit the stage and put a cherry on top of what was a fantastic festival. Drawing the largest crowd we saw during the event, it was wall to wall hits. The curtain fell, so to speak, with Brandon Flowers coming back onstage for an encore of When You Were Young; sporting a San Diego Chargers jersey for the hometown crowd.
All in all, KAABOO was an extremely well organized and executed festival with plenty to offer every festival fan. The dates have already been set for September 16-18 in 2016; so if you missed out on this inaugural festival, make sure to mark your calendar and don’t miss it next year!
FestPop Co-Founders Scotty Moore & Robert Swisher
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