KAABOO Del Mar was the most relaxed fest I’ve attended, and it has a great San Diego vibe. This is not a pop-up on dirt, and the Del Mar Fairgrounds are first class. Musically diverse with a splash of New Orleans, a heavy does of roots and alt-country, tried-and-trues, funk and jammers, worldly influenced, indie heroes, local heroes, and a dish of late night EDM and comedy. Lots of creature comforts – craft beer and artisanal alcohol, food from local chefs, art everywhere (oh, and you don’t see hammocks, a pool and a volleyball court at most fests either). 

It’s the brain child of Denver based Bryan Gordon and a huge supporting cast. Gordon even went so far as to bring in the stage from the Santa Clara Fare Thee Well shows, a loving touch, for sure. Weekend highlights included an intimate VIP event with Sheryl Crow on Thursday night that felt more like a backyard garden party.

Friday, September 18, 2015

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Jamestown Revival and Nikki Bluhm & the Gramblers got my Friday started. New Orleans’ The Revivalists and David Shaw won over a new legion of fans and it took Shaw all of three minutes to mix with the crowd. L.A.’s Ozomatli and Los Lobos (riding on their excellent new release, Gates of Gold) have been at it for decades and still rule. Delta Rae and the Hölljes sibs were urgent and passionate (despite those taking it in by hammock). No Doubt ended their current tour with their Friday performance, and yes, that Gwen Stefani sure knows how to hold a stage. And before the night was out, Lewis Black was pretty damn funny.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

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Saturday highlights included Rodrigo y Gabriela and X. The former never cease to amaze me how 12 nylon strings bent on metal can captivate big stages and the latter is still a buzz saw in the best way. I confess to being a sucker for the abundance of earnestness Adam Duritz and Counting Crows bring to their nuggets. Utah’s Neon Trees lit it up and I opted for the rambunctious roadhouse of the Old 97s over The Roots. Fun to catch hometown heroes Slightly Stoopid on their own turf. Zac Brown Band had everyone singing when they weren’t throwing curveball covers like “Enter Sandman” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” into the mix. Totally enjoyed Spoon with their the feedback drenched opening and angular melodies.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

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The last day won me over with lots to choose from. By this point, I knew my way around and how best to navigate the music/food/drink trifecta. Checked out Donovan Frankenreiter, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and O.A.R. before Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and band play their asses off and hit the road hard year after year. He hung around after the set, completely gracious and one very special dude. Dawes (with Duane Betts in tow) and Brandi Carlile, showcased their excellent songwriting and roots driven material. Switchfoot, had me good vibing with pro surfer Rob Machado capably sitting in. Day or night, Grace Potter’s incendiary energy cannot be contained and no coincidence her signature Flying V axe is a KAABOO icon that splits the waves and the sun on the official fest poster. Michael Franti & Spearhead could make a rock smile, spending way more time with da people than the stage. Lettuce was stunningly tight and Ben Harper covered career spanning tunes with the Innocent Criminals. JJ Grey & Mofro closed with characteristic soul and grace. After nightfall, the swell of KAABOO flowed west to closers The Killers at the Sunset Cliffs Stage. No photographers for this one and after 3 full days and a few songs (including a “Bad Moon Rising” cover?), it was time to head back up the 5 and return to the responsibilities, traffic and stress I had so successfully escaped for three days.

KAABOO has a definite personality. The chill surfer sensibility, the dial-in sunshine, da riddims, the sun dipped frocks, the abundance of beautiful bods. Relaxed, great food, great facilities. Art, comedy, a late night party and music for everybody. It aimed high and had a very solid first outing and I’m definitely in for KAABOO 2016.

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