My hometown friends and I grew up on a combination of Alt Rock and Rap from the ‘90s, and the classic rock of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Music has always been a big part of the way we have bonded with each other, and it continues to be something that keeps us in touch over the years. Since completing college, we have quite literally spread to all corners of the USA – Portland, ME; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Seattle, WA; San Diego, CA; and just about everywhere in between, too.
When we saw the lineup for KAABOO Del Mar, a three-day music festival in Del Mar, CA (just north of San Diego) we were immediately interested. The musicians of our day would be there in force, as would some of the elder statesmen of rock ‘n’ roll. When our friend who lives in San Diego announced that he wanted this to be his bachelor party, we snatched up our plane tickets and three-day passes and started getting hyped. A few months and several trips to the airport later, it was time for KAABOO Del Mar.
The first day, we got dropped off in the venue’s designated rideshare. The morning was foggy and dark, but the sun was shining brightly that afternoon as we excitedly walked the half lap around the Del Mar racetrack towards the main gate. Immediately after entering the venue (which we discovered was huge), we were greeted by the sound of funk and jazz coming from a stage on our left, and the smell of tacos wafting from the food tents ahead of us. We made our way towards the second of the three main stages to see Smash Mouth. They did not disappoint, getting us dancing with a slew of fun songs from their 1999 album Astro Lounge, like “All Star” and “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby.”
We caught the second half of Dave Mason (of Traffic fame) and his band before making our way to the main stage. We found a good spot in the crowd, and as the sun was setting, we rocked out to a wonderful, seemingly endless stream of jams from Weezer. We particularly enjoyed belting out “Undone (The Sweater Song)” in unison with lead singer and guitarist Rivers Cuomo. After a short intermission, it was time for what we considered to be the crowned jewel of the lineup: the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Chad Smith’s drums sounded loud enough to trigger an earthquake, and Anthony Kiedis’s incredible singing and stage presence was something to behold. Flea’s bass and Josh Klinghoffer’s guitar carried us into the night with their catchy melodies and face-melting solos.
Day two of KAABOO once again started off foggy, and once again the clouds pushed back and bathed us with sunlight; my resident San Diego friend reminded me of a weather phenomenon they call “The Marine Layer.” We entered the gate and were greeted with a pleasant surprise, as we didn’t know that Eric Burdon and The Animals would be performing. He entertained us with some great classic jams and sent off with a bone-chilling rendition of “House of the Rising Sun.” Next was Jane’s Addiction, who opened with “Just Because” and closed out with an acoustic permutation of their hit song “Jane Says.” We bounced back over to the main stage to catch Ice Cube who was masterfully engaging the audience with stage banter and crowd participation before performing some of his greatest hits like “Check Yo’ Self” and “It Was a Good Day.”
We went to restock on supplies between sets. KAABOO’s “hydration stations” were a life-saver in the hot sun; we refilled our water bottles and chatted with other guests. There was also a wide range of libations available which drew us to the bar tents. There was a large enough variety of food there to satisfy six hungry guys, including one vegetarian and one with a gluten allergy: tacos, pizza, smoothies, Cajun, Korean, shawarma, steak sandwiches, acai bowls… you name it! While chowing down on our delicious noms, were surprised to see the familiar face of “The Most Interesting Man in the World” from the Dos Equis commercials. We snapped a quick selfie, implored him to “Stay Thirsty My Friend,” and headed off to enjoy a great performance by Muse.
Day three fell on a Sunday, and by the time we arrived at the Del Mar Fairgrounds the Marine Layer had once again dissipated, and we had another beautiful Southern California afternoon shining down on us. Upon our arrival, the vibe was still great, but there was something a little… different. The crowd looked a little less Millennial/Gen-X and a little more Baby Boomer than the previous two days, and we knew it was because a living legend was headlining the final night of KAABOO: Tom Petty. We warmed up with an incredible set from Alanis Morissette that had everyone singing, dancing, and putting one hand in their pocket while the other one was giving a peace sign.
The final capstone of the experience was a set by the legend that is Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Petty swiftly reminded us that age is only a number as he ripped into a platinum-studded setlist of smash hits that sounded every bit as good in 2017 as they did on their studio albums back in the ‘70s. “Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” “You Wreck Me,” – the hits just kept on coming and the crowd was loving it. They closed out with “American Girl,” leaving us, and the rest of the audience, delighted and fulfilled.
KAABOO Del Mar was the perfect bachelor party experience for all of us. There was food and drink aplenty, fascinating live art installations being brought to life before our eyes, and the perfect eclectic mixture of performers. The festival organizers placed a high priority on sustainability with the hydration stations and color-coded recycling bins to reduce waste, and all of the staff that we interacted with were helpful and friendly. And let’s be honest, it’s rarely a bad weekend to be in sunny Southern California. We packed our bags, exchanged some misty-eyed hugs (I’m not crying, you’re crying), and headed off to catch our flights. Our “next time” at KAABOO was no longer a question of “if,” and now simply a question of “when.”