Another KAABOO Del Mar festival is in the books and just like the previous two years it did not disappoint! This festival has a special place in our hearts here at FestPop as it takes place right in our own backyard at The Del Mar Race Track and Fairgrounds nestled along the coast in the beautiful seaside town of Del Mar, CA. We also love unique festivals that really stand out from the crowd and KAABOO is one of those festivals. KAABOO is a three day event that took place over the weekend of Friday September 15th to Sunday the 17th and bills itself as an “anti-festival”. While that may sound a little strange it’s a pretty fair self applied description as KAABOO strives to remove all the things about festivals that can suck. Built from the ground up to remove unpleasantness and delight at every stage of the experience KAABOO is not to be missed. No long lines, flushing toilets, top notch cuisine and as well as craft beer and spirits are among the hallmarks of this unique festival experience. KAABOO offered double decker buses to shuttle attendees to and from nearby spots in town as well as dedicated pickup and dropoff locations for on-demand ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, this year offering food and drink at those locations while waiting for pickup from the festival. Trams circled at five minute intervals to ferry festival goers to and from these locations as well as satellite parking lots. 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 main 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 teens to 60s and up and even some families with young children in tow, KAABOO was a welcoming event for everyone. Visitors flocked from all fifty states and over thirty countries around the globe to attend.
Some might say the third time was a charm for this festival. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention some of the challenges of the previous year which included over selling of tickets, stages without enough room to accommodate the size of crowd for the artists on them, and poor placement of stages and pathways through the venue to mention a few. Ultimately these issues lead to a riot in the late hours of the festival on Saturday night in 2016, in which police were required to shut things down. Initially there was a question whether or not KAABOO would return for it’s third installment, despite having secured a three year lease after the inaugural year. We are very pleased to report however, that all of these issues were more than resolved for 2017 and from what could tell the festival went off without a hitch! Congratulations to the organizers for rebounding and making KAABOO Del Mar 2017 the best one yet!
Once inside the gates KAABOO was a sight to behold. Access to food and drinks was well spaced around the expansive 200+ acre venue of The Del Mar Fairgrounds, home to the Del Mar Racetrack where “the surf meets the turf”. The food and beverage at KAABOO was top notch, to say the least, with a huge array of options catering to the vegetarian, vegan and gluten free. This year the festival offered RFID wristbands that could be loaded up for a cash free experience, even offering cashless priority lines to speed along those who chose to go that route. Over thirty-five exclusive wineries, craft distilleries and craft breweries were on site to share their best with attendees. There were over ten featured chefs and more than twenty upscale local restaurants represented as well. With too many to call out we’ll just mention a few of our favorites including Searsucker, Morton’s Steakhouse, Sweetfin Poke, The Oceanaire Seafood Room, Wicked Maine Lobster, Hang 10 Tacos and Spicy Pie. In addition to all these feasts for the senses the festival is situated right on the coast in Del Mar, CA, so the venue offered a picturesque location with amazing sunset views to feast your eyes on too.
On top of all the amazing food and drink KAABOO offered some unique experiences that are hard to come by at a traditional festival like a pop-up beach, Bask by Wet Republic, complete with pool, sand and cabanas available for reservation situated just in front of one of the two primary stages. For those of us who weren’t ready to shut things down at 10pm, Club Elevate by JEWEL Nightclub was open. Even offering table reservations and bottle service, should you desire. Late night comedy shows were also an option with Nick Swardson and Sebastian Maniscalco closing out Friday and Saturday nights. Comedy sets were happening throughout the day as well from standout comedians including Patton Oswalt, Arsenio Hall, Norm MacDonald, Demetri Martin and David Spade as well as many others. As in past years KAABOO provided a huge showcase of visual art with more than twenty artists creating large scale installations, some happening right before our eyes as the festival proceeded through the weekend. KAABOO also boasted a contemporary art show with more than eighty artists and galleries displaying their installations, paintings, sculptures, photography and jewelry. Health and beauty offerings for both men and women were also available. And if all that wasn’t enough to convince you this festival is unique, $1 of each ticket sale was donated to charities including The Brees Dream Foundation, Recording Academy Musicares, The YMCA, The Surfrider Foundation and Voices for Children.
As we all know music is the primary reason to attend a music festival, so after reading about everything else that KAABOO offered you know the music was over the top too! As in previous years KAABOO represented with a wide range of acts from years past to today. With seventy plus acts (yes you read that right SEVENTY) taking the stage over the three day festival there was plenty for everyone to enjoy (for the full lineup visit the FestPop Fest Page). Here are just a few of the standout performances:
Red Hot Chili Peppers
With more than 60 Million albums sold and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame status you know the Chili Peppers are no lightweights. As expected they brought their A Game and put on a high energy show. Many attendees we spoke with said it was among the best shows they had ever seen the Chili Peppers play live. From the opening into “Can’t Stop” with only a saxophone and bass solo and throughout the entire face melting set which included hits like “Snow (Hey Oh)”, “The Zephyr Song”, “Suck My Kiss” and “By the Way”, all packed with epic freeform solos, the Chili Peppers left no doubt they’re still at the top of their game.
As the only headlining DJ at the festival, two time Grammy winning French DJ David Guetta did not disappoint. We’ve seen him many times and must say this was one of his best performances we’ve witnessed. While a closeup fisheye camera showed us closeups of all his deftness on the 1s and 2s he cranked through a wildly eclectic set with all the bangers you’d expect from artists like Kendrick Lamar and The Chainsmokers, plus his own tracks including “Ain’t A Party” and “Titanium” as well as deep cuts like “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”. The massive LCD screen and laser show was fantastic and Guetta found creative ways to work in tracks from former KAABOO headlines like No Doubt and Oasis. There wasn’t a person that could be seen who wasn’t dancing his or her ass off!
Despite being “under the weather” as she mentioned during her said P!nk appear anything but. Immediately kicking things off with her 2001 hit “Get The Party Started” she did just that, getting young and old in the crowd dancing. She showcased the range of her style with both old and new, as well as high energy and down tempo acoustic songs during the set. There was no shortage of choreography or backup dancers either.
If this was not the standout performance of the weekend it was a close second. I’ve been a fan of Muse since their early days before they found fame all the way back to the late nineties, but had never seen them live. For years I had heard about what a fantastic stage show they put on and holy shit was everyone right! The level of energy that this band brings to the stage is incredible with powerful vocals and serious guitar shredding including a ton of solos and extended versions of all the hits including “Supermassive Black Hole”, “Psycho”, “Stockholm Syndrome”, “Starlight” and “Dead Inside”. The contrast between their hard driving rock songs and softer pop-esque melodic songs was awesome to see live as well. With plenty of wild intros and outros including AC/DC’s “Back In Black” the set eventually came to a close. After several minutes of raucous applause they returned to the stage and treated everyone to an encore featuring extended versions of “Uprising” and “Knights of Cydonia” that brought the house down!
Who doesn’t love to see Ice Cube at a summer music festival? Following the recent success of his and other NWA members biopic Straight Outta Compton, Cube was in high demand. Boasting one of the biggest crowds we saw at the festival that wasn’t for a headliner, Ice Cube came out punching with “Natural Born Killaz” and “Straight Outta Compton”. To the delight of the crowd he told everyone that “the cops backstage told me I can’t play this one” (or something close to that) before going into “Fuck tha Police” and while that’s likely total BS it was still pretty cool. Tossing in other hits including “Bop Gun” and We Be Clubbin’” Cube finished things off with one of his best ever “It Was a Good Day”.
While it was one of the most entertaining sets of the weekend, sadly it was for all the wrong reasons. After coming out more than fifteen minutes late and audibly slurring her words (or so it seemed) Kesha took the stage. Wearing a tasseled western outfit which reminded us of the later days of Elvis Presley she kicked things off with “We R Who We R”. After “Your Love is My Drug” she did some burlesque style stipping and flashing on stage and then moved on to “Dinosaur” and an awkward cover of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” .Clearly Kesha was working through some personal issues as she cried several times onstage including after playing “Woman” and “Boogie Feet” which she told the audience she had “played in front of people” for the first time. Her set was peppered with audience interaction, rambling dialog and rolling around on the stage and unfortunately will not be remembered as one of her best.
DJ Diesel (aka Shaquille O’Neal)
Yes, that’s right, you’re not hallucinating. Shaquille O’Neal, the NBA Hall of Famer and multiple NBA Championship Ring wearing, seven-footer played a DJ set at KAABOO. It was entertaining to be sure, but we’re also pretty sure someone just showed Shaq where the play button and volume knob on the controller were at and let him go. It was a fun and eclectic set, even including what Shaq called his “white boy classics” like “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “You Shook Me All Night Long”, but to be fair, we’re not 100% certain Shaq put it together. The highlight was Shaq telling the crowd he had a special guest backstage and leading them in a chant of “Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!” before telling them “Nah, Kobe ain’t comin’ out.” BWAHAHAHAHA
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
Closing out the three day festivities Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers took the stage Sunday night to kick off their 40th Anniversary Tour. If you weren’t there you missed out as this was one of if not THE highpoint of the entire festival. “Thanks for forty years!” he shouted to the massive crowd before playing a two hour set that was a tour through time of those forty years of amazing music. Opening with “Rockin’ Around (With You)” the first track off their first album, he closed the night (during encore) with the last track off that same album, “American Girl”. Tracking through all those years of success they played extended versions of songs including “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, “You Don’t Know How It Feels”, Free Fallin’”, “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and “I Won’t Back Down” as well as ballads like “Wildflowers”. Eventually closing the show fans continued to cheer for what felt like an eternity, with many eventually giving up on an encore and heading for the exits. But for those who stuck around the techs came back out to reset drums and guitars and eventually Tom and the rest retook the stage and after thanking the crowd profusely for the applause and support began what appeared to us to be an unplanned four song encore that opened with “Refugee” and closed with “American Girl”. The perfect end to an amazing KAABOO!
Pre-sale tickets are already available for 2018 so grab yours and we’ll see you there!
FestPop Co-Founder Robert Swisher
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