Ludacris helped kick off Friday afternoon.

KAABOO Del Mar has engaged audiences over the last four years, and is returning in September. But the brand has ventured outside of our sandy shores, finding success in the Cayman Islands, and now, at the massive AT&T Stadium, aka Jerryworld, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

As with any inaugural festival, crowds were somewhat sparse, which made for a relaxed, open atmosphere for those who were wise enough to attend.

The main stage inside the stadium spanned most of a football field… literally.

This was KAABOO‘s first foray having the main stage indoors, and it worked. The stadium provided both GA floor and seating options, along with VIP lounges and plenty of food options in the concourses. A pool stage, a food stage, and two other music stages circled around the exterior of the stadium, providing ample room at each for onlookers.

The food was one of the main differences from Del Mar, where exhibit halls are filled with local vendors; here, it was primarily catered by the stadium vendors, with significantly fewer outside options. The art element, while still ever-present, was less centrally located and could have been missed by crowds taking only direct paths from place to place. All in all, everything also felt Texan, from Lucchese Boots selling their (enviable) boots, to Torchy’s Tacos, to the stage art featuring a cowgirl.

Much like Del Mar, the music was the main draw. Friday’s lineup featured KAABOO alumni Ludacris and The Killers, who were the bookends of major bands throughout the day. Luda broke in the rainy outdoor stage, playing hits from throughout his career, promoting Fast and Furious movies all the while. The Old 97s re-endeared themselves to the Republic’s crowd, covering George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning.” True to form, Ms. Lauryn Hill kept her fans waiting for 35 minutes of her hour-fifteen minute set, but delivered the goods once she did arrive.

Legends Joan Jett and the Blackhearts showed they’re still very much rock n roll, performing one of the most memorable, rocking sets of the evening. Jett, who performed as Nirvana’s frontwoman at Cal Jam last year, demonstrated her power and grace, which was ultimately the perfect lead-in to Alanis Morissette back inside afterward. Alanis, who crushed it at KAABOO Del Mar in 2017, delivered a performance that had a packed stadium hooked on every word, all while six months pregnant.

The Killers headlined the inaugural Texas festival, as they did in Del Mar. They’ve added a few albums to their repertoire since then, but still came out strong by opening with “Mr. Brightside.” Their confetti filled set was the perfect cap to day one of the festival, which sadly saw the late night programming cancelled due to rain.

Saturday featured Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynard through some rain and clouds, but Sunday’s weather allowed for the stadium roof to be opened, showering the main stage in sunlight for a jam-packed day. The day kicked off with Your Smith throwing a party for her audience, which continued with Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue bringing their upbeat New Orleans jazz a bit west in to Dallas. All the while, Pitbull played the main indoor stage, and the B-52s serenaded an enthralled audience with their classic hits.

Mid-afternoon, comedian Orny Adams played the Humor Me tent, with an appearance by Bob Saget to fill some time after Adams had covered for an absent Brad Garrett (due to travel delays) the night before. Adams had the crowd in stitches with his original, creative comedy, while Saget provided raunchy jokes, intentionally antithesis to his Danny Tanner character. The Humor Me tent was a great way to break up the day and rest our feet before heading back out to see The Avett Brothers, whose style was perfect for the warm Sunday afternoon, complete with Seth Avett taking a lap of the crowd while performing.

The packed day was but a preview for Sunday evening, where Counting Crows played an hour and a half of hit songs, making them the first artist to play all three existing KAABOO locations, and Little Big Town brought their country roots to the outdoor Pegasus stage.

As the sun set and moon rose through the open roof, most attendees filled in to the stadium to see Sting. Sting opened with “Message in a Bottle,” and played hit after hit to close out the inaugural Texas festival.

While not perfect, KAABOO Texas was as close as you can expect from an experienced festival in a new place. KAABOO will assuredly bring these lessons learned to improve Del Mar’s September festival, featuring Kings of Leon, Mumford and Sons, and the Dave Matthews Band. Tickets are already available here.

Photos and review by: David Israel and Taylor Israel

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