This past weekend, September 18-20, 2015, the inaugural KAABOO festival opened its gates to those young and old (and I mean old). KAABOO is not your typical festival. First of all, ticket prices ranged from $129 to $2,500 for the highest VIP ticket. Next up was the infusion of luxurious amenities for VIPs and attendees alike. Features included a pool that faced the main stage, cabanas, multiple elevated VIP viewing decks, a range of high-class local restaurants, and even a masseur.

In fact, according to an article in the San Diego Union Tribune, KAABOO’s budget was “in the seven figures,” stated Bryan E. Gordon, the festival mastermind and chairman of The Madison Companies, LLC, a billion-dollar private investment holding company based in Denver, Colo.

Given all the amenities  that were provided and the price of tickets, the festival was clearly geared toward an affluent crowd. According to some attendance figures, the overall attendance at the fairgrounds appeared close to 15,000 or 16,000. This was far below the predicted number of attendees, but left us—the festival-goers —with smooth sailing and easy access to bathrooms, gourmet food, and craft cocktails.

Taking place on the Del Mar Fairgrounds (where the Del Mar horse races take place each year), in Del Mar, an affluent city within San Diego County, Calif., the festival was arranged along a vertical street that was lined with vendors, restaurants, stages, and more. Initially, it was hard to find the aptly beach-named stages, as they were nestled in outdoor areas of specific buildings around the racetrack. Apparently there were seven stages; I saw five, but as I mentioned, they were nestled throughout.


Top Music Acts

Allen Stone: We caught Allen Stone, at the Trestles Stage, and let me tell you, they definitely set the standard for an exceptional performance. Allen Stone is a modern soul band with a hippy grunge vibe. Stone is gifted with a beautiful and powerful voice that will make your heart flutter. The band covered Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” which I personally thought was better than the original version. During their set, the crowd couldn’t stop grooving. My favorite song they played was “Voodoo,” which made me feel like a psychedelic hippy child. After seeing their set live, I can tell you that this a band that you must keep your eyes peeled for! (–Erika M.)

I must add that it was honestly quite funny seeing the elder crowd vibe out to music. It seemed as though they weren’t really sure what to do with their hands: They would sort of just throw them up in the air sporadically. It was really rather entertaining.


No Doubt: We arrived early to the main stage because we knew it was going to be one of the most crowded sets of the weekend. After anxiously waiting, the band came on stage and opened with “Hella Good.” I couldn’t help but immediately start dancing and singing my heart out. As expected, Gwen Stefani was wearing an eccentric outfit, which included black-and-white striped socks, military boots, baggy green pants, a studded leather belt, a tribal-inspired crop top layered over a fish-net pattern, and heavy bracelets.


The best part of their set wasn’t even the music—all the band members had a punk-rock ’90s persona, which made the whole crowd feel nostalgic. Throughout their set, Gwen kept sharing unfortunate commentary like, “This is so rad because I just met you guys … and I already love all of you!” Nearing the end of their set, the band played “Don’t Speak,” and Gwen didn’t even start off the lyrics. She pointed her mic to the crowd and we all started singing the beginning of the track. It was absolutely amazing! The band closed out with one of everyone’s favorite: “Spiderwebs.” As soon as the drums started, chills ran down my whole spine, and everyone starting jumping, screaming, and dancing. Their set not only left me in awe but it also left me speechless. It was easily one of the best rock shows I have ever experienced. (–Erika M.)


GRiZ: Walking out with his typical swag, Grant Kwiecinski, otherwise known as GRiZ, is an American DJ and electronic producer from Michigan. He is known for playing the saxophone along with producing funk, electro-soul, and self-described future tracks. His set went as expected, with a variety of old school sampling intertwined with new tracks off his most recent EP, Chasing the Golden Hour Pt. 1.

Seamlessly mixing from one jam to the next, while playing saxophone, really showcased GriZ’s true skills. He even kept me on my toes by dropping a little GRiZ-Matik, the epic combination of GRiZ and Denis Jasarevic, otherwise known as Gramatik. Check out one of their epic collaborations below (cue second drop):


Slightly Stoopid: Having seen this band in the past, I hoped for the best, as their live performances really aren’t the best way to experience this band. The performance ended up being quite fun, as the band brought out Kingston-native Don Carlos, a.k.a. Don McCarlos, a Jamaican reggae singer and composer. Don Carlos brought a great reggae vibe to the Del Mar crowd, as those young and old seemed to unanimously enjoy the Devil’s Lettuce. It was a sight to be seen.


Big Gigantic: Gracing us with a sax solo introduction, Dominic Lalli, half of  Big Gigantic, stormed the stage. As soon as Jeremy Salken took to the drums, the half analog, half digital duo ravaged the stage designated to host the late-night music activities. Dropping some GRiZ from the night before, along with their collaboration with Snails early on in the set, led me to believe that these guys were about to give us their all. Dom and Jeremy even had Cherub (the next act) come out for a song to finish off their set.


Girl Talk: Let’s take a minute and gossip about Girl Talk. As usual, Greg Gillis, the 33-year-old American mash-up and digital sampling specialist came on stage with about 30 of his closest friends and held an all-out dance party. Girl Talk came on stage and jumped on his DJ booth, wearing sweats, a casual sweater, and a baseball hat. After he played his first song, confetti fell from the sky while tons of people ran on stage and started dancing. I couldn’t help but wish I was dancing on stage with everyone. As the set continued, Greg seemed to be losing clothes by the minute. His hat, sweater, and shirt came off while throwing down his new beats. I was hoping to hear some of Girl Talk’s old jams, but I loved his most recent mashups that included Lorde, The Weekend and Waka Flocka Flame. While the crowd was partying, people from the stage were squirting the crowd with water guns and launching  toilet paper with leaf blowers. By the end of his set, I was physically exhausted from dancing so hard. As always, Girl Talk’s set will always be my favorite dance party.  (–Erika M.)

All in all, the inaugural KAABOO festival seemed to run very smoothly—almost too smoothly for a first-time festival. With an incredible variety of food, craft liquor and beer, and, of course music, we look forward to covering next year’s edition. Mark your calendars for KAABOO round two: September 16-18, 2016.

What did you think of the festival?


Photo credit: Getty Images