Festival Review: KAABOO

Even with the punishing temperatures and a lower-than-expected turnout, the inaugural KAABOO Festival finished off its third and final day with a resounding, “Well done!”. This response comes from festival-goers, musicians, artists and vendors alike applauding the start of what might be something great right in our backyard. You probably haven’t been to a festival like KAABOO, but you might in the upcoming years. With great food and drinks, marketers of the event are selling it as the more sophisticated future of music festivals. Of course, there’s a price range to match, with tickets ranging from $125 for a day and up to $2,499 for a VIP weekend.

One of the most unique features of the event was the integration of both audio and visual art. In a large and blissfully air-conditioned building, the festival hosted many local artists. Huge, hand-painted banners ringed the stages outside and stood watch over vendor tents. Walking through the venue, it is impossible to ignore the stunning banners, and KAABOO seems to be channeling Street Scene, a San Diego-born and raised art and music festival that was canceled in 2009. In addition to stunning visuals, KAABOO also incorporated several craft breweries and wineries to pair with top local restaurants such as Herringbone and Searsucker. In addition to the “Palate”, the festival also had “Indulgences,” which contained booths from retailers such as Nordstrom and Pura Vida, not to mention Mercedes-Benz, which sponsored the event. You could even get complimentary hair styling by the Paul Mitchell School. All of these were complemented by vigorous air conditioning, a blessing in this heat wave, and well-maintained permanent restrooms, a luxury for any seasoned festival-goer. In many ways, KAABOO is trying to be the Mercedes of music festivals, including the lofty price tag.

In this, KAABOO markets to a whole different crowd than Coachella, where the average age is 18-34. KAABOO appeals to a broad spectrum of music and art lovers, considering this weekend’s attendance varied from children strollers to cool rocker-grandparents enjoying retirement. This diverse crowd lead to a very “laid-back” debut weekend with plenty of great music and beer, and the age range lends itself to less adolescent mania while retaining vivacity. Still, this is not your mom’s festival but rather an event that spurs excitement and joy in all people.

The lineup also helped attract a diverse crowd, with headliners including No Doubt, Snoop Dogg, Zac Brown Band and The Killers. The other acts ranged from reggae to brass bands and featured artists from Dirty Heads to actress Minnie Driver. With five stages accessible throughout the venue, each feels oddly intimate and almost easy to find a good spot in. The huge main stage, framed by massive colorful artwork, fits the large events easily. One issue with the lineup was the scheduling. The organization left awkward gaps and holes, leaving people bored while they waited for the next act. Undoubtedly, it was to encourage people to eat and peruse the art, but it felt awkward and anticlimactic. However, it gave you the chance to eat in one the the many seating areas. Hopefully in years to come, the lineup will improve as the festival grows. The next festival has already been confirmed for next Sept. 16 to Sept. 18. With an eye for luxury and good art, KAABOO will surely become a staple of San Diego in upcoming years, and if you have extra appendages, it’s worth it to spend an arm and leg to attend.