Photos by Alive Coverage

Written By Cameron Finn

Sandy beaches, gourmet munchies, craft cocktails, and vibrant sunsets over the Pacific was the atmosphere at the San Diego adjacent music festival, KAABOO DEL MAR, which took place this past weekend, September 13-15th.  The vibe was reminiscent of a seaside resort combined with every essential element of a classic summer fest. In its fifth year providing guests travelling in from all over the world with three fun-filled September days of stellar musical performances, exquisite art displays, a trendy comedy lineup, and sumptuous nourishment in an extravagant pleasant-weather setting, KAABOO DEL MAR has come into its own as the preeminent American luxury music festival.

The meticulously clean, dust-free location, equipped with upscale air-conditioned restrooms and plenty of comfortable, shaded attractions such as the IFC “Humor Me” comedy lounge and the Amplify Escape VIP retreat, was the perfect backdrop for the lively entertainment to take place while hosting a sold-out crowd of over 35,000 attendees each day.  A surplus of guards and a considerable police presence provided festivalgoers with a sense of security that fostered the fun, family-friendly environment. 

A wide-ranging musical grouping featuring legendary acts such as Sheryl Crow, The Cult, Duran Duran, Wu-Tang Clan, and Dave Matthews Band alongside modern superstars such as Maren Morris, Sublime with Rome, Mumford and Sons, Kings of Leon, and The Revivalists was the highlight of the weekend. The all-encompassing musical lineup was specially curated to offer top-notch entertainment for fans of any genre, with the aforementioned headliners representing Alternative Rock, Hip-Hop, New Wave, Indie, Folk, and Country Music.

A multitude of other bands, solo acts, DJ’s, and collectives from genres including Pop, EDM, R&B, Christian Rock, & Reggae truly provided enjoyment for fans of any age or musical preference. An added benefit of the diverse musical grouping was that it solved the “set-time conflict” issue that occurs at many festivals. The expertly arranged schedule scattered acts from similar genres throughout the day, which allowed fans to enjoy their preferred performances one after the other with minimal overlap. The stages were perfectly placed to avoid any sound “bleed” between concurrent performances, and the sound systems were loud, clear, and far-reaching.

Here are some of the musical highlights of the weekend we experienced:

Silversun Pickups
Los Angeles alternative rock band Silversun Pickups played the BMW Encinitas Trestles stage on Friday afternoon, providing fans with a heavy start to what was going to become an epic evening. The band is currently on tour following their recently released “Widow’s Weeds” album, and started things off with the lead single “It Doesn’t Matter Why.”  Bassist Nikki Monninger began the tune with her signature bass sound, and quickly had fans dancing. She and Singer/guitarist Brian Aubert had dual mics set up, trading vocals while they played songs from Widow’s Weeds, and added a few tracks from older albums including fan favorite, “Lazy Eye”. They closed things out with their hit, “Panic Switch”, which left fans head banging and cheering to the next stage.

REO Speedwagon
Eighties rock band REO Speedwagon took to the main stage, Sunset Cliffs, just as the weather was starting to cool and fans began anticipating a sunset over Del Mar beach, visible behind festival barriers. They drew a huge crowd to the stage, which included features such as a faux beach complete with sand and beach balls, elevated and covered viewing areas for VIP ticket holders, and a private pool lounge, Bask by Jemaa, which hosted swimsuit-clad fans rocking out to the seminal band. They played classic hits “Take It On the Run” and “Keep on Loving You” while fans swayed their arms in the air. Everybody was on their feet to sing along to “I Can’t Fight this Feeling” as the band closed things out with a bang.

Boyz II Men
Motown crooners Boyz II Men were next up, performing at the other end of the festival on the USAA Grandview stage. Clad in matching white denim with red hats reminding fans of their nineties heyday, the trio began with “Motownphilly”. There wasn’t a static body in the crowd as the group, along with their talented backing band, energetically belted out the classic. It was obvious that this was the highlight of the day for plenty of attendees as Boyz II Men merch could be seen throughout the crowd on adoring fans. The group livened things up with a few cover songs, putting their own spin on “Come Together” by the Beatles, the Lenny Kravitz version of “American Woman”, and a medley of Bruno Mars songs. They finished their set with “End of the Road” as fans held each other and reminisced.

Wu-Tang Clan
After cruising the “Kaaboolevard” for refreshments and watching the fiery sunset, we were back at the Grandview stage to catch legendary New York hip-hop collective Wu-Tang Clan, at KAABOO to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their seminal album, “Enter the 36 Chambers.”  Group leader, producer and rapper RZA, started things off with his chorus from “Bring Da Ruckus” as the crowd screamed along. Ghostface Killah was the next to appear, sprinting onto the stage to recite his verse. Raekwon and Inspectah Deck were in attendance as well, perfectly delivering their high energy verses. The crowd seemed a bit disappointed when GZA didn’t show up for his part of the song, but quickly forgot when YDB, son and spitting image of late Wu-Tang member ODB, appeared to perform the second cut from Enter the 36 Chambers, “Shame on a N*****.” The crowd went absolutely crazy as he channeled his late father on classic hit’s from Wu-Tang Clan and solo ODB songs such as “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.” Wu-Tang continued celebrating the album with “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F’ Wit”, “C.R.E.A.M.”, and “Method Man”, delivered by its namesake artist and possibly the group’s biggest star with an energy reserved for special performances. It was easy to see that this performance was indeed special to the group as they ended with a treat, a first-time a capella rendition of “Protect Ya Neck” which highlighted the verbal prowess that originally made the group famous. Video clips of the group’s incomparable career played in the background as they took a bow while the entire crowd help up their “W’s” and chanted “Wu-Tang!”

Snoop Dogg
Long Beach rapper and pioneer of the gangsta rap genre, Snoop Dogg, was also celebrating a 25th anniversary at KAABOO, playing hits from the influential album “Doggystyle.” He performed the album’s most well-known song “Gin and Juice” as the crowd rapped every word. Snoop Dogg later called back to his earlier alias, “Snoop Doggy Dogg”, while the crowd went wild for “Who Am I.” Snoop was flanked by four bikini-clad pole dancers and a psychedelic video montage played on the three gigantic video screens surrounding the stage. After a tribute to the late Eazy-E and a performance of his hit “Boyz-N-The-Hood”, Snoop brought out the festival setlist and played some of his biggest hits. He performed his verses on previous KAABOO headliner Katy Perry’s song “California Gurls” and Lil Duval’s “Smile (Living My Best Life)” before closing with a cover of close friend and KAABOO alum, Wiz Khalifa’s “Young, Wild, and Free”. The crowd was absolutely elated after seeing two legends of hip-hop perform back-to-back and walked to see the final performers of the night, Mumford and Sons, with smiles on their faces.

Blind Melon
Midwest alternative rock band Blind Melon brought a blast from the past to the stage on Saturday afternoon as they played songs from their 1992 self-titled album. Vocalist Travis Warren paid respects to late singer Shannon Hoon on stage between performances of songs from the multi-platinum 90’s smash. The singer also mentioned that the band was working on its first new album since 2008’s “For My Friends” and teased a new song from the record. Blind Melon closed out their set with a drawn-out rendition of their hit single “No Rain” that would have made Shannon Hoon proud. Fans sang along and plenty of laughs were had as people could be seen doing the “bumblebee girl” dance all over the crowd.

Cheat Codes
The youngest crowd of the day gathered at Grandview to dance along to EDM DJ trio Cheat Codes in a scene straight out of the Electric Daisy Carnival. Unique festival-chic costumes were on display in the crowd as the DJ’s played their signature songs, “Sex”, “No Promises”, and “Highway.” The DJ’s mixed current top-40’s hits with EDM classics while the crowd two-stepped and chanted along. At one point, members of the trio jumped into the crowd and made it rain with cash as they ran around the plush turf of the VIP viewing area at the front of the stage. Flashing strobes and frantic video effects created a festival-within-a-festival as the vibe switched to pure EDM for an hour. The appeal of the diverse lineup was certainly apparent with the addition of Cheat Codes, as many parents could be seen giving a quick hug to their teens before leaving them at Grandview and heading over to Sunset Cliffs to watch Bryan Adams perform.

Sublime with Rome
One of the most anticipated performances of the weekend was next on Grandview, when reggae/rock pioneers turned modern party-reggae kings Sublime with Rome took the stage for, “kind of a home town show” as described by singer Rome Ramirez between songs. He explained the he went to high school in nearby Oceanside, while drummer Carlos Verdugo was raised in San Diego, and bassist Eric Wilson currently resides in the town next door, Carlsbad. “We are so freaking happy to be home in California. We’ve been walking around KAABOO all day, this s*** is awesome!” exclaimed Rome as the band started the show with “Smoke Two Joints.” Fans of all ages could be seen in the crowd as the generation transcending band played their classics, “Wrong Way”, “Date Rape”, “40 oz. to Freedom”, “Garden Grove”, and a slew of others from their famous catalog. Verdugo’s pet Rottweiler could be seen walking around on stage to the crowd’s delight. The sun set behind the backs of the audience as the band played the perfect song for the occasion, “Doin Time.” “Summertime, and the livin’s easy”, couldn’t have been a more apt description of the vibe at the end of summer bash, KAABOO DEL MAR. Sublime with Rome played a few songs from their recent album, “Blessings”, including “Light On” and “Spiderweb”, before closing with their biggest hit, “Santeria”, as the crowd bonded. Sublime with Rome drew the most varied crowd of the weekend; it felt as if everybody in attendance at the festival packed in front of the Grandview stage to watch the legends perform.

One Republic
Pop superstars One Republic were a welcome addition to the bill for the younger crowd and they took the stage to huge anticipation as the sun set behind them, igniting the festival with a vivid orange glow. The scene was absolutely gorgeous and the group noticed, posting “Amazing evening at KAABOO. LOVE this venue.” as the caption on a KAABOO highlight on the band’s Instagram page. They played their hits, “Secrets” and “Apologize” with great enthusiasm and their enjoyment was apparent. N’Sync member Lance Bass could be seen in the front row singing along to “Counting Stars” and singer Ryan Tedder gave him a shout out. He was one of many celebrities and influencers in attendance at the festival and it was a fun surprise for fans to rub shoulders with stars. The multi-talented members of the group played guitars, basses, piano, and violin, and even covered a few Beyonce songs to great appreciation of the fans.

Dave Matthews Band
Legendary improvisational rock group Dave Matthews Band were the headliners Saturday night and the selection couldn’t have been better for the mature crowd at KAABOO. Fans were able to choose between standing up close to rock out with the seminal jam band, or to relax with a blanket as is tradition with fans of the group. Elevated viewing areas at the back of the lot provided by Aflac, MGM, and USAA were packed with fans looking for a unique experience, as were the VIP pool and covered VIP platforms surrounding the stage. Dave Matthews was in rare form as he busted out multiple funky dance moves during performances of “Ants Marching” and “So Much to Say”. The entire crowd joined in as he went absolutely wild during an extended saxophone solo by Jeff Coffin. Dave ripped the acoustic guitar alongside his amazing band for over an hour as the crowd yelled for encores. The group finally played beautiful renditions of the songs “Crash Into Me” and “The Space Between” as fans wound down for the evening. The group took multiple bows before praising the crowds energy and saying goodnight.

Bai’ Silent Disco
Many fans went home for the evening following the performances of Dave Matthews Band and Black Eyed Peas on the main stages, but for KAABOO fans in the know, the night was just beginning. The Bai’ Silent Disco has become one of the main attractions at KAABOO in recent years due to the venues unique ability to host thousands of fans at one of the largest silent discos in existence. The party was moved to the Grandview stage to accommodate more fans this year, and attendees took full advantage. Looking on from the back of the crowd, one would think they were arriving at a full-blown rave as they were handed a pair of headphones tuned to the sounds of the DJ’s on stage, Erick Diaz, Niiko x Swae, and DJ Murphy Kennedy. When attendees took their headphones off, they were given chills as they could hear the sound of thousands of voices singing “Don’t Stop Believing” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in unison. The party exploded when Rome Ramirez and LDonTheCut from Sublime with Rome hit the stage to close out the night. They played funky reggae party jams, modern hip-hop, and EDM while the late-night crowd danced for hours after most had left the festival grounds.

The Revivalists
New Orleans rockers The Revivalists were one of the hottest bands on the KAABOO bill this year and a huge gathering awaited their arrival at the Grandview stage. They began with a drawn-out rendition of their song “Criminal” with drum and guitar solos galore and singer David Shaw hyping up the crowd for a stellar performance to come. The crowd sang along to “It Was a Sin” and the single, “Oh No” before an on-stage guest took the crowd by surprise. Comedian Bob Saget joined the band to sing a cover of The Who’s “My Generation” that left the audience laughing, if not scratching their heads. The group played their recent hit “All My Friends” before closing with their No. 1 smash, “Wish I knew You”, which provided the enthusiastic crowd with energy for another day of joy at the festival.

The biggest “local” band on the bill, Christian rock group Switchfoot, was excited to play to their hometown crowd and they hit the stage with a bang, playing their current single “Native Tongue”. Lead singer Jon Foreman proudly announced, “We’re Switchfoot from right here”, before jumping into the band’s mainstream song, “Stars”. He further explained that “it’s so good to be home” while his band mates rocked out. The local legends played the mega-hit, “Meant to Live” and camera phones could be seen recording from every angle in the crowd. The band played songs from their recent album “Native Tongue” before closing with early 2000’s chart-topper “Dare You to Move” with Foreman shouting, “God bless you San Diego!” as the band exited the stage. Switchfoot fit the bill perfectly on a lineup that is a bit more light and wholesome than traditional American summer festivals offer.

The Bangles
The weather was glorious as The Bangles took the stage on Sunday afternoon, taking fans back to the eighties with their catchy pop-rock ballads. Susanna Hoffs still has the same hypnotic voice that can be heard on top-10 singles, “Manic Monday” and “Eternal Flame”, and she performed the songs to perfection alongside lifetime band members Debbie and Vicki Petersen with newly recruited bassist Annette Zilinskas who was the group’s original bass player in the early 1980’s. It was a treat for fans of The Bangles to witness the reunion of sorts and the group didn’t miss a step on classics “A Hazy Shade of Winter” and “In Your Room.” The Bangles played “Walk Like an Egyptian” close to the end of their set and nearly the entire crowd was doing the namesake dance.

Sheryl Crow
Most of the crowd stayed exactly where they were following The Bangles set, eagerly anticipating Sheryl Crow’s first 2019 California appearance. By the time Crow’s set began, there was wasn’t a spot to be found anywhere near the stage. It was clear that Sheryl Crow was one of the most popular acts on the bill, and she did not disappoint as a catwalk was unveiled, allowing fans to get an up close view of the singer/guitarist. The crowd got an even closer look during, “My Favorite Mistake” when Crow walked around the Astroturf surrounding the catwalk, high-fiving fans and allowing them to sing into the mic with her. She played an acoustic guitar as she belted out her popular song, “All I Wanna Do”, even changing her lyrics to say, “This ain’t no disco, and it ain’t no country club either, this is KAABOO!”, to the delight of the audience. She busted out an electric Fender for a dynamic performance of “If it Makes You Happy”, and the crowd exploded when The Bangles reappeared on stage, joining Sheryl Crow for a supergroup version of “Soak Up the Sun”, that could only occur at KAABOO.

Duran Duran
Closing out the festival on the Grandview stage opposite Mumford and Sons were eighties new wave champions Duran Duran. Attendees were worn out from three days of amazing performances but nearly everybody stuck around to see the worldwide superstars who’ve sold over 100 million albums. They reignited the crowd, smartly beginning with “Hungry Like the Wolf”, and the setlist only got better from there as Duran Duran played fan favorites “A View to Kill”, “The Reflex”, and “Chauffeur” among others. The band put on one of the biggest stage exhibitions of the weekend with coordinated laser lighting and video effects for every song, colorful neon jackets on every band member, and backup singers and dancers who nearly stole the show. The night felt truly magical as fans reflected over a marvelous weekend and held their lighters in the air as they sang along with Simon Le Bon to “Save a Prayer.” The band played a stunning cover of Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines”, adding the signature Duran Duran synth-pop twist to it, before closing with the festive, “Rio.” Fans were dancing on their way out the door as Le Bon and Duran Duran put an exclamation point on KAABOO DEL MAR 2019.

KAABOO had an abundant lineup of food and drink vendors at this years festival, with a mini food-truck festival and chef exhibition stage, “Palate” by San Pellegrino, being the main attractions. Booths hosted by San Diego area restaurants featuring gourmet dishes from Nacho Taco, Napizza, Red O, Stoked Poke, The Baked Bear, and dozens of other local favorites were available inside the art hall. Vegan plant-based protein burgers by Light Life and free samples from Hippeas were available along the main refreshment corridor, aka the “Kaaboolevard”, along with drink offerings from Hendricks, Ruffino, Captain Morgan, Bulleit, Ketel One, Monkey Shoulder, and dozens of others.

Each vendor had giveaways such as visors from St. Archer, hats from Aperol, and bandannas from Blue Moon that left attendees with a swag bag of goodies to bring home. Local celebrity chef Richard Blais was the star of the Palate stage, putting on a comedy act as he prepared a larger than life dinner including a 32oz. burger cooked with the “Trail-Blais” flamethrower , macaroni and head cheese, a grilled lobster tail, creamless spinach, smoked biscuits made with another novelty utensil called the “smoking gun”, and an altar of six standing bone marrow offerings. The winner of season eight of Bravo’s Top Chef told the crowd the story of how he got banned from The Today Show while preparing dessert, a Skrewball peanut butter whiskey sorbet made with liquid nitrogen that shocked and wowed the audience.

Humor Me by IFC had a stacked lineup this year and the venue was well equipped with an indoor air-conditioned comedy hall capable of holding 1,000 festival attendees. Comedian and director Kevin Smith spoke to a packed house on Friday afternoon, and renowned comics Cristela Alonso and Cameron Esposito provided crowds with laughs and a break from the sun during the festivals first day. The comedy headliner Friday night was star of HBO’s “Crashing”, Pete Holmes. Pete cracked jokes about musical headliner Kings of Leon unnecessarily wearing jackets in the San Diego sunshine, and how it’s obvious that KAABOO is the “upscale” festival because there isn’t a port-a potty in sight. The crowd loved the relevant observations and Pete brought the house down with new material and stories of his time in San Diego and on tour.

Saturday brought out current comedic stars Jimmy O. Yang, Tig Notaro, and old favorite Tom Green before headliner Bert Kreischer took the stage on the festival’s second evening. As one of the hottest comedians on earth, the crowd eagerly anticipated Bert’s arrival with some fans screaming, “Bert!” and a few even taking their shirts off. Kreischer arrived on stage to the loudest applause all weekend, quickly removing his shirt himself. Bert mentioned that he had enjoyed himself at the festival all day and may have had a few too many, but his looseness only increased his hilarity as he put on an epic show on the Humor Me stage. Bert told stories about his family and his recent foray into gun ownership to intense laughter before recounting his classic anecdote involving fellow comedian Tracy Morgan. The “2 Bears, 1 Cave” podcast star finally told his viral hit story, “The Machine” with a new spin, before receiving roaring applause from the satisfied audience.

Sunday featured performances by trendy comedians Jen Kirkman and Taylor Tomlinson along with stand-up classic Bob Saget. Improv legend and host of CBS game show, “Let’s Make a Deal”, Wayne Brady, was the highlight of the final day of the festival. He and comedic partner Jonathan Mangum put on their own hilarious version of the television show, “Whose Line is it Anyway”, of which Brady is a former cast member. They took suggestions from the audience on topics for Wayne to freestyle rap about, premises for improv skits between the two comics, and even brought a few audience members on stage to become part of the show. Wayne roasted a few festival security guards which greatly amused the audience, then bid the crowd farewell before they left to enjoy the final music acts of the weekend.

One of the yearly main attractions at KAABOO is the artwork portion of the “music and art festival.” Celebrated local artists join famous international artists who are invited to paint and display at KAABOO in a beautiful annual gathering of the arts. This year, artists Caia Coopman and Georgia Hill had their paintings featured alongside the main stages of the festival, with both artists completing live murals on the festival grounds as fans watched over the three days of KAABOO. Internationally famous artists Greg Mike and Sabek also completed gorgeous and unique murals at the festival.

Displaying artists in the art hall included Cody Kuehl who creates Western theme acrylic painting on layered fiberglass, Valency Genis who crafts whimsical imaginary animal taxidermy mounts, Jaclyn Rose who puts a modern spin on traditional embroidery, and KAABOO alum Brett Crawford who paints hyper-surreal pop character scenes. Artists Carly Ealy and Madeleine Tonzi collaborated on a breathtaking installation in the middle of the exhibition hall, complete with stairs leading to a photo-op which festivalgoers gladly took advantage of all weekend. Prints of many other displaying artists work were displayed on banners throughout the festival grounds, adding an element of beauty to KAABOO that sets the festival apart from its competitors.

It feels like KAABOO DEL MAR has reached a high point in year five, and the outlook for the future is even better as festival organizers announced plans to rebrand the event as “KAABOO SAN DIEGO” and move the festivities to downtown San Diego in 2020, when the event will take place at Petco Park on September 18-20.

“As the KAABOO brand and our live event properties continue to grow and evolve, it’s imperative that we continue to deliver an unparalleled experience for our guests by holding KAABOO in a world-class venue with exceptional room for growth,” says Jason Felts, Managing Partner of KAABOO. “The location of Petco Park and its surrounding venues in downtown San Diego provides fans and artists alike the opportunity to enjoy everything that the vibrant metro area has to offer. We couldn’t be more ecstatic about this partnership and our relocation.”

KAABOO San Diego plans to utilize various areas inside of, and surrounding the perimeter of, Petco Park, including the playing field, Sycuan Stage at the Park, Lexus Premier Lot, and the Tailgate Lot creating an entertainment and musical playground for all ages. In celebration to KAABOO San Diego’s new look and home, KAABOO is offering HANG LOOSE (GA) passes at a special price of $199. HANG FIVE and HANG TEN (VIP) passes are also available.

For more information, email amplify@kaaboosd.com. 2019 AMPLIFY KAABOO pass holders and Padres Members will receive access to a special loyalty discount beginning September 15 at 6 PM PT.

To purchase passes or more info on KAABOO SAN DIEGO visit:  www.kaaboosd.com