Cheryl Crowe, Zack Brown, OAR & Set The Stage For Fun Music Festival At Del Mar Fairgrounds
By Wil Barnes
When I first became aware of KAABOO was when Chris Culos drummer for the band OAR told me in May that they would be returning to Southern California for KAABOO after a show in LA in late February.
After looking it up on Google I saw a lineup of some of the top acts in music scheduled to play in Del Mar in September. From that time I heard almost nothing about the three-day affair, no on air talk about the event, almost like someone made it up.
They didn’t, just a case of let’s not get too big too fast and mess it all up I’m guessing. You know like when you go to the opening of some hot new bar or restaurant only to leave disappointed because they didn’t have enough staff on hand.
The Surf Meets The Turf Becomes Concert Heaven
If you missed the weekend in Del Mat at the famous racetrack where the “Surf meets the Turf,” you were not KAABOO’D but you should be, for you missed an awesome weekend by the Pacific Ocean with some amazing music, food, fun and frivolity.
It was a little pricey with tickets for one day cost $125. All weekend VIP’s ranged from $799 to $2,500.
The organizers planned on having a more middle-aged audience that could throw around their plastic cards like playing poker.
As a veteran of Burning Man and Coachella music fests they are less expensive and offer camping but those two, as impressive as they are in their own way can’t hold a candle to being less than 500 feet from the Pacific Ocean in a venue that is a historic racetrack with plenty of space, parking, stage placement and void of porto-johns.
Perhaps you also enjoy 75 degrees versus the temperature of the sun!
What a great venue to hold a bold undertaking, a three day music festival and for people who live in other parts of the country and world need to take down that next September 16-18, it will happen again, same place, same bat station!
“It’s awesome, but I don’t think we’ve really felt the full effects of it yet,” said San Diego surfing legend Rob Machado, who sat in with Grammy Award-winning San Diego band Switchfoot for two songs Sunday afternoon. “A lot of people questioned how this was going to work here, but now they know. I think they’ll be doing (KAABOO) for years.”
That said there were a number of complaints from local homeowners, an amazing 18 of them come Sunday night, bitching about noise from The Killers. It ended right on time at 10 p.m., so those peeps need to get over it.
You will never please everyone, especially someone who has lived in the same dwelling for 40 years and enjoys his or hers comforts of home where their quiet nights are interrupted. They have a point. But it ended at 10pm for crying out loud. That’s an issue that will be dealt with before 2016.
Not only did KAABOO feature such big names as No Doubt. Snoop Lion, Cheryl Crow, OAR, The Killers, Zac Brown, Counting Crows, Train and more.
The opportunity to see some acts that are unfamiliar is what makes these events precious. On Friday I caught the band Delta Rae with two chicks that were Janis Joplin like. They rocked. They weren’t on our early schedule but privileged to catch them. I
t took a few hours of studying the pocket size program, actually until Saturday to get acclimated with the various stages but our photographer Aaron downloading the KAABOO app was genius.
Then it was just a matter of getting to and from stage to stage.
One of the more intimate stages was “Trestles,” located in what is normally the paddock area on race days with balcony views and bars all around. Lots of acts you may never have heard of performed there, bands like Justin Townes Earle, X and a great, absolute genuine funk band Allen Stone.
This blonde, cap wearing lead singer, guitarist sent the crowd crazy with a tight band that looked like they were really having a good time, the keyboard player leaping of his piano numerous times. Another unfamiliar act, but not anymore is Grace Potter who rocked the main stage on Sunday. She earned a Disney Cruise liner of new fans.
Turning right around from the paddock and heading out to the track like you were heading to see the ponies cross the finish line was the “Zuma” stage, the best viewing of all seven. On Friday night Cheryl Crow wowed the audience with hit after hit for a solid two hours, right after her idol Bonnie Raitt got them feeling all right.
Cheryl had the 50-something ladies singing and dancing and then shocked everyone when she returned for an encore with a blistering rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Rock ‘n Roll. For this fossil and old time rocker, it was really special.
As her show was ending it was time to scurry to the big stage, “Sunset Cliffs” for headliner No Doubt with Gwen Stefani. They had Del Mar jumping and dancing right out of the gate with their hit “Keep on Dancing.”
Stefani danced and pranced about in her Indian-like kilt of feathers with knee high boots but was totally on and entertaining. Over on the Harrah’s Grandview stage at the same time was Snoop, rapping away and getting young girls gyrating like they worked at Dream Girls.
Snoop didn’t play long but he hit it out of the park. As we left on the orange tram, one that had some swerve to it our trail took us right by No Doubt closing their show, which was pretty cool, especially the giant 40-foot high video screens.
Saturday was much the same, tram ride to gate 9, short turn to the right where Natural Vibrations (Natty Vibes) was jamming. That was a busy stage featuring Tribal Seeds, Simply Stoopid and Spoon all day.
Saturday’s headliner on the main stage was country rocker Zac Brown, while on the “Zuma” stage it was Awolnation and Young the Giant. After the stages shut down there was Encore, an enclosed tent that featured DJ’s and bands like The White Panda and Big Gigantic and more that cranked until 2:30 a.m., on Friday and Saturday.
This fossil missed those shows, just heard about them.
Sunday got under way on Zuma with the White Buffalo followed by an hour set from O A R who electrified the crowd with hits like Hey Girl, Shattered and the sing along gem Crazy Game of Poker. Dawes was next but we were scurrying to catch San Diego’s own Switchfoot.
It was impossible to see everyone unless you were swift and caught one or two songs a band.
If you needed a rest just take a seat on the lawn in or in the grandstand. Hydration Stations were available throughout the park. When hunger struck you there was food abundant especially at Palate, a large tent filled with booths representing a slew of local restaurants where everything tasty was available and I mean everything, sushi, chili laden plates of fries, you name it.
There was an artist lounge complemented by a Don Julio tequila bar operating inside a silver Airstream trailer. An Acai bar was also in the lounge whipping up tasty dishes of healthy sweetness served by one of the prettiest ladies this side f the Mississippi. I’m now hooked on Acai.
It was a short walk from there to the main stage as the sun had set and it was time for the Killers, who simply killed it! Their version of the classic Credence Clearwater’s “Bad Moon Rising” was epic. They played all their hits in a two-hour closing set and the first KAABOO was history except for the cleanup.
There was plenty for everyone, food stands and beer & wine bars practically everywhere, charging $10 a beer, $12 cocktails unless you were at Angry Orchard who were commanding $16 for the Old Angry ginger special.
Occasional lines formed at bathrooms but when there thousands of people in the building that will happen.
Now it wasn’t flawless, not even close but it was their first time. Brian Gordon, CEO of parent company, The Madison Companies LLC, a billion-dollar private investment holding company based in Denver is 53, music and entertainment nut, a guy who knows how to do this by most likely checking out his competition.
He knew he wanted a fairly older crowd who could spend a little more than the youngsters at other festivals. And it seems he was right.
Upon our arrival on Friday afternoon we were directed to three different gates, before getting dropped off the orange “Wickie, Wickie” bus at gate 9. It was totally unmanned and here we are two guys, with backpacks just walking into an event in this day and age and no one stopping us, a definite security concern.
Not until Sunday did they have a couple of “Elite” security people manning the gate.
With bright sunshine all three days, moderate temperatures and a vivid half moon shining in the night sky, KAABOO certainly made its mark in Del Mar for 2015. Over 100 bands performed on seven stages leaving never a dull moment.
People from all ages rocked and danced away while the occasional pungent smell of marijuana filled the air reminding me of the way old concerts used to be. And they were great!
With a year to prepare no doubt, no pun intended, the producers will only enhance this event perhaps attracting bigger acts like Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, or maybe U2 or the Stones. Who knows?
As Cheryl Crow’s was closing her show on Friday she told the audience, “We have really enjoyed playing here in San Diego and KAABOO. I love my California. We definitely hope we get invited back,” and the crowd roared.
I’m pretty sure she will.
Now whether the local community mounts some sort of anti-KAABOO march is to be seen.
All I know is, it was a terrific weekend and a lot people will love joining her next September where the “Surf meets the Turf” in ol’ Del Mar!