What to say about the third annual KAABOO Del Mar Festival… what not to say, rather? Being stationed on the coastline of sunny San Diego in mid-September is not a bad place to be in the first place, let alone reveling in celebrities and surprises, with everyone around you having the time of their lives. Whether you’re rocking jet black or wearing technicolor trends, KAABOO attracts both young and old, with the upper class melting into the middle class, the refined temperaments amongst the rowdy, and all celebrating the most prestigious music, art and cuisine together as one. A true MIX-perience, as KAABOO Del Mar likes to say. And, what a weekend the 3rd Annual was…
KAABOO makes sure your eyes are just as entertained as your ears.
Day One started with the bluegrassy set of Ethan Tucker – a man on the verge of mastering a Lenny Kravitz-level of electric guitar shred. Yet, he yielded to a more mild side, playing acoustic to KAABOO early birds as the fairground gates opened. And, speaking of festival grounds, let’s talk layout: this year was much different when it comes to foot traffic and general ease of exploration. Each of the six stages were named the same, yet were erected in alternate places than the two years prior. This strategic placement rendered larger viewing areas and less congestion on the main walkways – something that dinged Year 2 dramatically! With the freedom to walk, dance, skip and even skate around, attendees were able to truly enjoy everything KAABOO Del Mar had to offer. It’s phenomenal how such minor changes, like stage positioning, can produce such drastic improvements.
Day One KAABOO 2017 continued with pure magic: Smash Mouth walking on the sun (not literally though), Shaq DJ-ing amid a twerking Lakers entourage, Kelis literally blending milkshakes to bring all the boys to the yard (she’s a chef now?), Arsenio Hall talking old people taking Viagra on the Humor Me stage, David Guetta blowing everyone’s mind with stunning pyrotechnics, Ke$ha praying, X Ambassadors slaying, Weezer paying tribute to Outkast, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers bringing Raider nation to the Sunset Cliffs stage (really, Kiedis, not a Charger/Ram fan yet?). David Guetta’s dance party really set the tone for the rest of the weekend – fun, fast, explosive, borderline ethereal.
David Guetta’s dance party really set the tone for the rest of the weekend – fun, fast, explosive, borderline ethereal.
An exact description, or even summation, of all the other constituents that made up Day One would be simply impossible, for Friday was like falling down a portal to a parallel dimension. KAABOO makes sure your eyes are just as entertained as your ears. The arena’s atmosphere always maintained a playful nature, with entertainers on stilts, skates, and catapult-like contraptions. A hot air balloon took attendees high in the sky all weekend long, powered by Hendrick’s gin. There were bubble-blowers, exotic dancers, costumes galore and pop-up music sessions in between live art installations 50 feet tall. What was significant about Day One is that the art canvases started out blank upon entry and then transformed throughout the day into intricate murals you had to see to believe. And, on the subject of tantalizing transformers, if anyone caught Club Elevate Friday night (versus Nick Swardson’s late night comedy special), there were acrobats defying gravity dressed in Tron-like LED outfits. Captivating cannot even start to describe the after party.
Then, Saturday came along. Even Ice Cube said it was a good day. Bad joke, but applicable. The gates opened to reggae act One Drop on the Grandview stage while the bombastic DARENOTS boys destroyed the Sunset Cliffs stage on the other end of the grounds. With not a cloud in the sky, it started out a sweaty dance party for most who got there in the early hours. The day progressed with Machine Gun Kelly’s pink cape, Garbage hating on beach balls, The League’s Steve Rannazzisi racking up reasons for birth control, The Tubes’ lead singer in a straight jacket, and Pink came up to get the party started (she literally flew!). More Day Two performances were Toad the Wet Sprocket, Ice Cube, Logic, Jane’s Addiction, The Him, The Knocks, Eric Burdon and the Animals, LANY, among several others. The synergy between sets was scintillating alone, transcending time and space as the day wore on. Members of Slightly Stoopid, Rebelution and Iration even started to emerge in the evening – none of which were attached to the lineup! You know it’s a poppin' festival when celebs are coming out of the woodwork just to experience it.
Day Three is typically the ‘Mellow Day’, but KAABOO just wouldn't stand for it this year. At the crack of noon, Trevor Hall went on to quite a large Grandview stage crowd (considering the hour), with Fishbone skanking the afternoon away on the Sunset Cliffs stage. Bridgett Everett gave people a reason to break from the heat in the Humor Me arena, while Pepper seized the Trestles stage nearby. Out of all the times Pepper has performed at the Del Mar racetrack, this had to be the best they’ve ever been – complete with a DARENOT jumping onstage for a quick collab! T-Pain sang about a strip club, Jason Derulo’s set might as well have been sponsored by a strip club, and +Live+ stripped back time to their classic 90’s rock ballads. And, Alanis… what a goddess she is. You can see every single emotion that she embeds in her lyrics on her face as she sings. Day Three flew by quicker than the others, and before you knew it, it was Tom Petty time, bringing three full days to a close. Tom Petty’s iconic performance brought hardcore fans to tears, playing hit after hit after hit after hit. When a legend closes out a legendary weekend, it's like pure adrenaline streamlined to the jugular; what a rush, what a night.
As the racetrack populace filtered out of the fairgrounds and back to reality Sunday night, there wasn’t one unhappy person in the bunch. Until next year, KAABOO remains the enigma of all events, setting the standard for other festivals to aspire to. Although 362 days out, KAABOO 4 early bird tickets are already available for 2018! Don’t miss out and lock those passes down for 2018 now – you won’t regret it come next September! For more information, visit www.kaaboodelmar.com. For more Top Shelf Reggae KAABOO 2017 coverage, stay tuned for daily photo galleries.
Photography by Christopher Gomez