Building a big music festival is not an easy feat and a risky one at that. It takes years of development, patience, money, dedication, the right location as well as the right team to bring the entire vision to life. Well, CEO and creator Bryan E. Gordon and his talented team have finally gotten closer to realizing his dream as Kaaboo Del Mar, California sold out for the 1st time in its short four year history on September 14, 15 & 16, which took place at the Del Mar racetrack and fairgrounds. More then 40,000 attendees came together for three days of music which included top-tier performances by Robert Plant & The Sensational Shape Shifters, The Foo Fighters, Katy Perry, Imagine Dragons, Incubus, Post Malone and many others as well as well culinary showcases and comedy making it a groundbreaking success and the biggest festival now in San Diego. Every aspect of the festival seemed very well thought out as though its been around for decades and from the moment we walked through the gates it was a non-stop array of entertainment, visual and audio sensory overload and just an experience that consistently left us feeling good about being there. There was just so much to do, that the only challenge was figuring out how to manage a schedule and fit everything in each day.
Friday highlights started out with old school hip hop hero Nelly performing some of his biggest hits including his classic, “Hot In Herre.” Other highlights for Friday included Blondie, with lead singer Debra Harry sounding as current as ever and at her age it’s unbelievable that she can still sing and dance like that. She even told a young fan who tried to bum rush the stage that she would kick his ass if he tried, oozing with her bad girl attitude that made her an 80’s superstar. On the Grandview stage hard rockers Incubus who have always been a crowd favorite didn’t fail to impress. Led by charismatic frontman Brandon Boyd they took the crowd through hit after hit which included, “Pardon Me”, “Nice To Know You”, “Wish You Were Here” and “Drive”, the latter igniting one of the biggest sings a long of the festival. Oakland R & B legends Tower Of Power who celebrated their 50th year in music and had us smiling and dancing all the way through and singing along to one of my favorite songs, “Your Still A Young Man” – that was just epic! One of the most anticipated acts, Hip Hop new-comber Post Malone, arguably drew the biggest crowd of the day as a sea of young hip-hoppers, hipsters and those wanting to catch a glimpse of this new star, packed in tight. Dressed in what looked like a cool pair of colored PJ’s and his gold grill lighting up the stage, he closed out the MGM stage with stride and delivered. On the opposite stage, the festival’s biggest rockers The Foo Fighters just killed it! Dave Grohl has to be one of the best frontmen in music today and just seems an all-around super cool dude. You don’t realize how many hits they actually have until you see them play live and what was even more impressive was drummer Taylor Hawkins who is just an awesome player and considering Dave Grohl is also one the greatest drummers ever, since Nirvana, those are not easy shoes to fill, but Taylor brought the heat, beat for beat. As we headed towards the Uber lot to catch an early ride before the rush, we could hear The Foo’s closing out there final songs and it was just a grand way to end a very memorable first day.
Day two started a bit earlier kicking off before Noon and the weather was just perfect, as we entered the massive Del Mar Fairgrounds. The day was stacked with an over the top line-up with just too many great artists and attractions to fit into the schedule. We decided to grab lunch first with so many great food options on hand and also check out some of the amazing art exhibits. Once we got our fill of food and art, we headed over to the Humor Me stage to catch Comedy Legend Louie Anderson. The line to enter the building was huge with an older generation of fans, but the Humor Me building was clearly big enough to accommodate the excited crowd. Once Louie hit the stage, the laughter erupted and for an hour he had us laughing so hard our bellies hurt blasting everyone from the audience to his late mom to how much he loves to eat fast food and cake. He ended his set with having the crowd join him for several selfies and as we filed out of the building it was hard to believe we still had an entire day and night of music ahead. Musical highlights began for us with EDM star Robert Delong, who is such a gifted artist. He was like a one-man show playing everything from the drums, to singing, to grabbing an ax and ripping solos. His eye candy visuals synchronized with the music and he even had a video game joystick that he used to trigger beats and loops. It was like watching a futuristic musical genius and one that clearly knows how to put on an amazing show and keep the crowd of dance lovers moving. Other Saturday highlights included alternative rockers N.E.R.D. led by super producer, performer Pharrell Williams. Pharrell seemed supercharged and laser-focused asking a sea of fans to make room as he tried to ignite a mosh pit. He even jumped in at one time while his band ripped through an adrenaline hyped set leaving it all on the stage. Reggae legends The Wailers brought the good vibes to the festival channeling Bob Marleys spirit and playing many of their classics. There is just something about Reggae music that has the ability to bring people together and just get you lost in the music and they did just that. San Diego hometown rockers The Stone Temple Pilots brought a heavier sound to the Sunset Cliffs stage. With three of the original members and a new lead singer, they ripped through a killer 90’s grunge set that seemed to go over well with fans. No doubt fans would have loved to see Scott Weiland wailing with his signature vocal style and swag, but I’m sure he was looking down with a smile. On the other end of the fairgrounds, one of my favorite rockers Billy Idol lit up the Grandview stage with an awesome band that included guitar sensation Steve Stevens. Its hard to believe Idol is 62, as his performance was ferocious and arguably with the most stage presence out of any artist on the bill. His vocal growl hasn’t changed since the 80’s as he played though some of his biggest hits including, “White Wedding”, “Eyes Without A Face”, “Rebel Yell” and “Flesh Or Fantasy.” Then it was time for the headliners, each playing at opposite ends of the massive fairgrounds closing out the night. Just walking back and forth between both main stages is enough of a workout to keep you in the best of shape! R & B legends Earth Wind & Fire were sensational. The crowd was clearly on the older side with an occasional young fan squeezed in between the jam-packed grounds. With three of the original member’s singer/drummer Phillip Bailey, Bassist/Singer Verdine White and Drummer/singer Ralph Johnson, alongside an entourage of great musicians they performed all of their hits from the 70’s and 80’s including, “September”, “Boogie Wonderland” and “Shining Star”. As we looked around, you could see mostly older couples dancing, singing, drinking and even showing tears of joy as they soaked up the last sounds of the evening. On the Sunset Cliffs stage mainstream rockers and one of the biggest acts of the festival, Imagine Dragons also played to a huge crowd of mostly hipsters and the younger Kaaboo fans. Dan Reynolds and his Mormon band-mates have no shortage of top 10 hits playing early winners like, “Radioactive”, to current chart holders “Believer’” and “Whatever It Takes”. The shirtless front-man played to the crowd, getting them pumped up during each song and showcasing his acting charisma as recently seen in the hit documentary, “Believer”. They even played one of my all-time favorite Police songs, “Every Breathe You Take”, which surprisingly had one of the biggest sing-alongs of the night. Kaaboo ended day two on a grand scale as fans headed out, with anxious anticipation for the final day.
Sunday was once again talent stacked and the weather, although a bit cooler then Saturday still brought the sunny vibes to the fairgrounds. We got to the festival a bit later on the last day, trying to squeeze in a little more rest. After two days of going buck wild and depleting a good amount of our energy bank we need to recharge for a big climax. However by this time, we pretty much had an idea of the landscape of the Del Mar Fairgrounds and all the areas. It’s much bigger then you would think, with enough room to accommodate more than 40,000+ fans, as each area still seemed very spacious. Also what was evident was that it was much easier to access the main stages and get pretty close, as most of the fans were thoughtful and polite making room for those that wanted to get up close and personal with their musical heroes. Ironically it was the smaller stages that were a bit harder to get very close, but with the impressive production, video screens and sound that Kaaboo provided on each stage it wasn’t hard to enjoy any of the artists from afar, without being bucked up against the stage. Our highlights for Sunday included R &B superstars TLC, minus the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. They were on fire from start to finish, dressed in matching jumpsuits, choreographed dance numbers (with some of the baddest break dancers we’ve seen) and a terrific live band. With eye-popping jumbo tron color video screens in the background, they sounded pitch perfect performing for more than an hour straight. Their biggest moment came when they played their massive hit, “Waterfalls”, stopping occasionally to hear the fans sing along. Immediately following them was one of the best rock bands of the festival, Guns & Roses guitar impresario Slash’s new band with Alter Bridge singer Myles Kennedy, who is hands down one of the greatest rock singers today. They just blew the roof off the Sunset Cliffs stage! I don’t think the energy ever stopped as they roared through new songs to a sea of headbanging fans eager to be part of this super group’s new legacy. The entire band brought their A game but Slash stole the show and it was amazing catching him up close shredding through solos that sometimes lasted minutes. Immediately when they were done we had to make our way to the Grandview stage to catch a reunion of 90’s grunge band, Alice In Chains. Layne Staley the original singer for AIC was such a great singer and we weren’t sure how the new singer would hold up with such big shoes to fill, but we were beyond impressed. William Duvall who replaced Staley in 2006, was possessed, he literally sounded like Staley at times but with his own style fused in blending beautiful and haunting harmonies with lead guitar player Jerry Cantrell. Duvall equally impressed with his guitar skills filling in for the lead when Cantrell took over the vocals. It was like going back in time to the 90’s and given that I never got a chance to see the original AIC, their set definitely filled my void and I’m sure many others who were screaming out their name, especially during, “Man In The Box.” Back on the Sunset Cliffs stage was the beautiful and talented Halsey. Her career seems to have skyrocketed as it wasn’t but a year or so ago when she was playing smaller stages and now she’s on one of the main stages playing a perfect sunset time. She looked and sounded amazing, hair cropped short, with an army of Halsey fan look-alike everywhere you looked which must have caught her fancy, cause she was smiling and pointing at fans through her whole set. Closing sets for the final night belonged to the king of rock himself Robert Plant and his band the Sensational Shapeshifters and considering Robert was the king its safe to say that co-headliner Katy Perry was the Queen of pop of the final night playing the opposite main stage to Plant. Both drew the biggest crowds of the day, Plant having a more musically diverse and sophisticated crowd from Zepellin fans to those just wanting to catch a glimpse of the rock icon. He was, as his band reads, sensational, with so much character and stage presence clearly from all his years of performing. His set was very eclectic from bluegrass to beautiful and full Middle Eastern sounds that showcased multiple exotic instruments, but it wasn’t until he shifted into full gear playing Zeppelin classics that the crowd went into a full-on frenzy. Plant spoke eloquently to the crowd with stories of his early days and thanking fans for being with him for so many years. He closed out his set with a spectacular encore rendition of “Whole Lotta Love”. Fans holding out for a led Zeppelin reunion, might be disappointed as it may never come, so I’m thrilled that we got to see Plant do his thing and Kaaboo organizers were right to have him play the final night as it was such an epic and classic way to close out the Grandview stage. At the Sunset Cliffs stage, the queen of pop Katy Perry was just as epic. She’s an immaculate and gifted songwriter, more so to me than a singer, but given the legion of young fans watching her closing set, its crystal clear why she’s gotten as big as she has. Sporting a cute green hair due that looked like Jared Leto’s Joker character in Suicide Squad, she exuded pure star quality and fashion sense. Her stage props and video looked like sets straight out of the futuristic animated cartoon classic the Jetsons. What was clear is Perry knows how to captivate an audience and keep her show intriguing, changing wardrobes between songs and consistently talking to the audience keeping then engaged. It was cool to see so many young kids, mainly girls enjoying Perry’s performance with their parents and her beautiful good vibe presence was perfect for a family concert. What a climatic way to close out the festival with two musical superstars, one a 60’s rock legend and the other a beautiful pop queen who clawed her way hit after hit to the top and is now one of the biggest stars on the Planet.
Kaaboo was more than just a music festival it was an overall experience an epic journey that included culinary shows and tasty eats, comedy that brought out new and old comic heroes, outstanding art displays and artists showcasing their live graffiti mural paintings to walking through a massive building filled with some of the best assembled paintings and arts and crafts that I’ve seen at a festival and of course the good vibes that could be felt all throughout Kaaboo. Of course when you have organizers that go out of their way to ensure that fan comfort and experience is without expense, it sets the mood for a great time, from the ease of Kaaboo’s entry gates to all the freebies and giveaways as well as trailer air conditioned porta-potties for GA fans that are usually only available for premium ticket holders, nothing was cut short for fans. Big shout out to Bai – antioxidant infused drinks, who gave away thousands of free drinks to fans all three days and they tasted amazing, sweetened with only stevia, zero calories and the perfect thirst quencher for a healthy vegan like myself. Kaaboo also made sure that fans stayed hydrated with multiple free purified water stations – bravo Kaaboo! MGM who was one of the sponsors also had a really hip and decked out lounge area fully equipped with alcohol bars, cool couches and non-stop cirque style beautiful aerial performers to keep fans entertained. You would be hard pressed to feel bored at Kaaboo, there’s just too much to do and so much to see.
Kaaboo Del Mar has already announced dates for their 2019 edition with early bird tickets on sale now at www.kaaboodelmar.com. The good news for fans is you don’t need to wait a full year to go to Kaaboo anymore as organizers also announced two new Kaaboo festivals launching in 2019. On February 15 + 16, 2019 Kaaboo will expand internationally into the Cayman Islands with a festival site overlooking the world famous Seven Mile Beach in Grand Caymand and Kaaboo will also be taking place in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, on May 10 -12, 2019 for Kaaboo Texas. That’s three Kaaboo festivals happening in 2019 and that’s something to be excited about. It’s amazing that in four short years Kaaboo has grown into such a huge international brand and destination festival and given what we experienced this year at Kaaboo Del Mar, we are very excited to see what Bryan E. Gordon and his team have in plan for next years events.
For complete info and to buy early bird tickets to Kaaboo Del Mar visit:
For complete info on Kaaboo Cayman visit: www.kaaboocayman.com
For complete info on Kaaboo Texas visit: www.kaabootexas.com