Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson closing out KAABOO 2016

KAABOO Came, Rocked, and Had Its Party Rolled

No two-year old is perfect; but let’s be honest, that’s a bad comparison because we’re talking about a music festival and not a small human dependent on adults for everything. But it nonetheless holds true when talking about the 2016 KAABOO festival, which succeeded on almost every level, but will sadly be remembered for the one failure.

First, the successes – by all accounts, the music, comedy, food, and art which highlight the festival were a smashing success. The chef competitions were entertaining, the art, both in the display halls and happening live across the entire festival, amazed as it did last year, and this year’s expanded food and drink options were significantly more delicious than the average festival fare – local favorites like Beerfish, among others, dotted the fancy food options, while drink options ranged from Modelo and Bulleit- both popular purveyors of free hats- to craft cocktails that wouldn’t be out of place in North Park.

But ultimately, people come for the music, and it’s the music which made this year great. The festival re-arranged, moving the second main stage to the infield of the track, which, while further away and had a few bottlenecks, worked well for dual headliners on Friday and Saturday nights.

Friday featured local music hero Steve Poltz, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Andrew McMahon, and a Citizen Cope acoustic show before most people were off work, but it was Grouplove, LA band The Dustbowl Revival, and Hall and Oates who warmed up people’s evenings before headliners Jimmy Buffett and Fall Out Boy took the stages. Jimmy Buffett played everything a parrothead would want to hear, while Fall Out Boy’s show featured lots of pyrotechnics and mediocre live performances. Importantly, Friday’s late night of DJ Snoopadelic and Dana Carvey went off without a hitch.

Saturday got started with ListenSD favorites The Verigolds, but the day’s theme was 90s nostalgia, as The Gin Blossoms, Third Eye Blind, and the Goo Goo Dolls – practically 9 of the 10 songs you’d think of when you think of 90s pop radio (Sorry, no Del Amitri) – played the hits throughout the day. The Trestles Stage, nestled in the paddock, was easily the highlight, offering close views and easy crowds for Rooney, The Mowglis, and the Goo Goo Dolls. The Struts, who seem to play here relatively often so far, rocked the main stage early afternoon and earned the Queen comparisons they often draw.

Saturday night featured the festivals highs and lows. Lenny Kravitz wound his way through 20-minute renditions of songs and showed off why he’s still considered one of the best guitar players and musicians at 52. Aerosmith’s only show this year did not disappoint, as they played the hits from the last 30 years (did you know that the Armageddon song is their only song to reach #1?) all while Joe Perry smoked a very impressive joint on stage. The Chainsmokers lead one hell of a dance party… and then everything ended at the same time, leading all attendees to head to the same spot, at the entrance to the late night tent where Ludacris was playing. Four arrests, some pepper spray, and a police helicopter later, KAABOO had given Riotfest a run for its money with the name. Saturday night wasn’t the organizer’s fault, really; it was calm until people pushed and shoved and acted selfishly. The end result was a backed up parking lot and unhappy festival-goers; an event significantly different from the easy-going vibe the festival has the rest of the time.

Sunday felt very San Diego, Jack Johnson, who famously got his start by being played on local radio, headlined the evening, and Shakey Graves, Atlas Genius, and Blues Traveler entertained a smaller, more docile crowd.

The festival has some logistics to work out as it heads in to Year 3 and will continue to grow, but even in these two years has found its niche, offering a more comfortable, relaxing music-packed experience without the downside of most festivals. Despite Saturday night’s missteps, look forKAABOO to keep bringing in a great mix of bands, offering something for everyone.

Photos By: Alexander Dantés
Review By: David Israel