KAABOO has been on a mission lately and clearly to bring their signature “anti-festival” model to the masses. With three locations under their belts, Kaaboo Del Mar, KAABOO Caribbean and now Kaaboo Texas, they are quickly becoming one of the biggest destination festival brands in the World. This past weekend KAABOO Texas saw its debut May 11 through May 13 at the AT&T Stadium and grounds in Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys football team with a huge line-up of over 80 artists that included, The Killers, Kid Rock, Sting, Lionel Richie and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bush, Alanis Morissette, Paul Oakenfold, Black Eyed Peas, Ludacris, Little Big Town, Joan Jett, comedian Dennis Miller and many others.

Organizers turned the massive commercial location into an adult musical wonderland complete with multiple indoor and outdoor music stages, amazing art installs, live onsite murals, comedy arena, tasty and healthy food stalls, massage and detox zones. Also on hand were event sponsors like Bai, Bank Of America, Ford and Geico with freebies for fans at every turn. KAABOO even had a custom, built onsite “Vegas Style” pool party and nightclub for an extra fee where you could take a dip or just soak up some great dance grooves. Despite possible bad weather conditions, which included lightning storms, fans still came out by the thousands.

There were plenty of notable performances throughout the entire weekend. First day highlights kicked off with Texas bred rockers Blue October opening the indoor Metroplex stage to a scattered light audience, but quickly built up the crowd’s energy with their adrenalin driven set. Illinoi born hip hop superstar and actor Ludacris brought his classic old school beats to the outdoor Pegasus stage as fans sang along. One of the hottest acts on the bill, 90’s English rock act Bush kicked things into a high note as they rocked the Dallas Cowboys stadium opening with their classic hit, “Machinehead”.  Gwen Stefani’s ex-husband, lead singer Gavin Rossdale was in prime form with vocals, ripped physique and energy to match. They hammered through their catalogue of hits as Rossdale, ran through the audience, getting close and personal and giving excited fans multiple rare selfie opportunities.

On the Pegasus stage, Ms. Lauryn Hill took fans through a nostalgic performance as she celebrated the 20th anniversary of her classic solo album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill performing every song and more to delighted fans. Another throwback and highly anticipated artist was Canadian singer Alanis Morissette. Clearly a crowd favorite especially among female fans, she sounded and looked great singing all of her hit songs. What was duly impressive beyond her amazing vocal range was the fact that she was pregnant and still able to play a 90 – minute set, wow!

One of the older rockers of the festival, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts was a pure delight. At 60+ year’s old she commanded the stage like a teenage rebel God, ripping guitar solos and rhythms, belting out her classic tunes like “I Love Rock And Roll” and “Bad Education” and commanding the stage with charm and her sarcastic punk humour. As night approached, fans geared up for the final headliners of the evening. First, up the legendary R & B crooner, Lionel Richie hit the outdoor stage with confident charisma. Although it was starting to drizzle down, fans rushed to catch a glimpse of the superstar singer-songwriter. As Richie strolled across the wet stage, he slipped and fell, which caught fans by surprise. The singer quickly got to his feet and said, “You have just witnessed history here at Kaaboo, this is the first time I’ve ever fallen on stage.” He later went on to joke, that he was renaming KAABOO, Kaaboom, then shouting “I’m here for one reason, to play all the hits” and he held true to that promise, reminding us how much impact his songs have had from “Penny Lover” to “Hello” to “Easy”.

Closing out the night belonged to Vegas Indie Rockers, “The Killers”. Lead singer Brandon Flowers was superb, opening with “Mr. Brightside” and strutting across the stage like a true majestic veteran. Awesome visuals and massive video screens filled the Metroplex stage giving fans even in the highest areas, a prime living room view of the band. The Killers closed out the festival in style, making for an impressive first-day debut for Kaaboo Texas.

The weather for day two warmed up a bit as many fans flocked to sponsors like Geico and Ford to grab a free pair of sunglasses and cooling towels. The music was also some of the best of the weekend including a fun early set by American Chicano power trio, Los Lonely Boys on the Pegasus stage. The Texas natives brought their signature sound, which they dub, “Texican Rock n’ Roll”.  They sounded spectacular, especially during an awesome rendition of “Heaven”, where you could clearly hear their amazing vocal harmonies.

Another favourite was 90’s alternative mood rockers Garbage led by the charismatic and talented singer Shirley Manson. Decked out in an American Horror style white dress and pink hair, she led fans through many of their best songs including, “Stupid Girl” and “Only Happy When It Rains”. Another throwback artist, Australian singer Rick Springfield played the metroplex stage showcasing his impressive guitar chops as older fans sang along to classics like, “Jessie’s Girl”, “Don’t Talk To Strangers”. 

On the Rowdy stage and bask area, superstar DJ Paul Oakenfold (arguably considered the Godfather of EDM by many) shared selfie moments before turning up the volume for an awesome dance mix. The production in this area was pretty impressive, with massive video screens overlooking the pool and stage. However it was a bit of a downer for fans wanting to take part, but discovering there was upgrade ticket needed to get into this area so most opted to watch from the outside. Note for next year’s Kaaboo Texas to have this really cool EDM pool party included in the main ticket price.

On the other side of the festival grounds rapper FloRida got the crowd hyped with crowd surfing stage antics, fan participation and serving up some of his best tunes. The weather continued to hold up into the night as The Black Eyed Peas hit the stage with their blend of hip-hop, pop and dance. They also had a new member to replace Fergie, Filipina The Voice finalist Jessica Reynosa. She was beautiful with a voice to match and brought a fresh energy to the group as she traded lyrics on upbeat songs like,  “Boom Boom Pow” and “Lets Get It Started”.  

Inside on the Metroplex stage, Lynyrd Skynrd another crowd favorite was just mesmerizing as the opening act for the highly anticipated Kid Rock. With a musical legacy that spans over five decades, the southern rockers took eager fans on an epic musical ride through their greatest hits. One of the biggest highlights was an over the top encore performance of “Freebird”, which turned into a free for all 15 minute spectacular jam session as confetti canons exploded everywhere and definitely exceeding fan expectations of the classic rockers.

“A legion of Kid Rock Look a-likes filled the stadium”

Then the torch was passed to the overly cocky showman himself, Kid Rock. Rapper, singer, country star, hell, he pretty much does it all, as a legion of Kid Rock looks alike filled the stadium floor. I didn’t catch his entire set, but from what I saw, Kid Rock was literally on fire lol, as flames filled video screens and I’m assuming erupted from the stage to cheering fans.

The final day of KAABOO finally brought some great Dallas weather, as it was Hot! This definitely resonated with fans bringing a much better overall festive and lively experience to the grounds! Big shout out to sponsors Bai and their great staff for keeping the fans hydrated with an unlimited amount of their healthy, stevia sweetened beverages and for free all weekend.

Highlights were also plentiful. New Orleans multi-talented singer and trombone player, Troy Andrews known to fans as Trombone Shorty, got the party started. Along with his band Orleans Avenue they played a great set of funk, R&B, Jazz and Rock as fans soaked up the afternoon sun. The Avett Brothers also played an afternoon outdoor set which seemed to go over well with fans whether they were familiar with their music or not. Brothers Scott and Seth Avett traded lead vocals and harmonies that blended bluegrass, folk and indie rock – think Mumford and Son’s, distant cousins. 

Pitbull brought his commercial Latin, hip-hop and colossal stage charm and music to the indoor metroplex, closing his set with a huge confetti finale. Next up was one of the best performances of the weekend, Berkeley, California 90’s rockers, The Counting Crows. They just nailed it! Lead singer Adam Duritz was at his best, performing an overly passionate set of all their best songs. It was a sing along frenzy as Gen X-ers and younger fans chimed in on great renditions of, “Round Here” and “Mr. Jones”. Duritz turned up the volume for a heart-searing version of “A Long December”, as he showed off his amazing piano skills. 

As the final hours of KAABOO neared, country stars, Little Big Town played the closing set on the outdoor stage, but the night belonged to the Englishman in New York as headlining superstar Sting played the final set of the event. Something about English artists, like Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones and Elton John to name a few, they just seem to get better with age and Sting is no exception, as he opened to the Police classic, “S.O.S.” and followed with many of his solo hits. It was a 2-hour ride through his musical legacy closing out Kaaboo on a high note.

Other attractions were the Humor Me stage, where comedians like Dennis Miller, Brad Garett and Orny Adams who was joined by a surprise appearance by Bob Sagat. Those wanting to ensure a seat or skip the line could opt for an upgrade ticket. I didn’t get to see much of the comedy acts, unfortunately, but if Kaaboo Del Mar was any indication, it is definitely a treat for fans looking to change the pace from the music for a bit and get a big belly of laughs.

The food options were great catering to all palates and even offering up many plant-based and vegetarian menu items. I was able to partake in my first ever vegan corndogs from both Corndogs Inc. and Fletch and they were delicious, as well as was a tasty falafel bowl I had from Shawarma Point. Kicpops were also some of the best ice cream fruit pops I’ve had, their Blackberry Lavendar was delicious! 

The artwork, also a signature attraction at all the Kaaboo’s was extremely impressive, from live massive murals painted onsite, to an entire indoor gallery representing some of the Worlds best painters, jewellery makers, photographers and more. As I roamed around amongst many other art fans and those just curious, it was clear that KAABOO’s art curators have definitely locked into something special, helping to further the growth of so many talented artists and I’m sure they will continue to expand on this exciting area.   

Kaaboo Texas started out a bit slow with fears of bad weather and a lighter than normal attendance, but that’s to be expected with any first-year market. Given that both other Kaaboo’s have sold-out, including the first Caribbean edition, there is no doubt that KAABOO organizers have their eyes set on a long-term play to grow the Texas event. Overall Kaaboo Texas delivered as organizers did an incredible first year job with production and utilizing the massive Dallas Cowboys venue. So if you weren’t lucky enough to make it out this year, Kaaboo Texas is one annual festival that Texans, as well as other music lovers globally, need to lock into their calendars as I’m sure 2020 will be bigger then life. Kaaboo is now gearing up for their flagship Kaaboo Del Mar event in September. For complete info go to www.kaaboodelmar.com with tickets are on sale now. 

For more info on Kaaboo Texas go to:  www.kaabootexas.com