Recap: KAABOO Day 1
By Spike Brendle
The 1st annual KAABOO “Arts and Entertainment” Festival found its home at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, just north of San Diego, California. My initial reaction to the venue was very positive, as it was spread out enough for no stage bleed, but close enough together so it wasn’t an expedition or a “gonna miss my flight” run through an airport when trying to see the next act. The venue was also very clean, and kept up well. It is a horse race track, so I guess there is a little money wrapped up in that to keep the ritzy rich folk coming back. I’m just glad they had parking for my yacht!) Also worth noting, I don’t think I saw one porta-potty the whole day. The restroom facilities are already existing in the venue, and the portable facilities I did see came in the form of luxury air conditioned trailers. Good job KAABOO, you are already winning!
Upon walking in, I was able to catch was Arizona’s own Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. Knowing they exist is a fact that is either absorbed into your skin by the hot Arizona sun, or after seeing their sticker fly by you on the 101 that you finally have to ask someone what it means. Regardless of knowing they exist and are one of the bigger acts to come out of Arizona, I had never seen them live. I would love to see them play a smaller venue sometime; Crescent Ballroom maybe? They were really fun to watch, interacted with the crowd, and super nice people.
Jamestown Revival was up next, and they can also put on a great show. Dubbed “American Rock,” their alt-country soul shines through in a less southern fashion than Lynyrd Skynyrd, but still leaves you feeling like you’ve been listening to it your whole life with a smile on your face; it's “comfort music” if you will. Their song “Cast Iron Soul (California)” was enough to convince me to dive into their full catalog, and I’m glad I did.
Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers were a perfect transition to fall into after Jamestown Revival. The stage they were playing on was in a grassy courtyard nestled between a few buildings, which provided a nice cozy intimate feel to their show. Bluhm had a smile on her face the whole time, and donned an angelic white jumper that flowed with the San Diego breeze as it whirled through the corridor. Trying to describe their music is not a difficult task, but for some reason I can’t get “a not as casual Fleetwood Mac” out of my head, so I will leave you with that. Comparisons aside, they were on point and I am super stoked I got to see them, as they played in Phoenix last week and wasn’t able to make it!
Fitz and the Tantrums and Foster the People took over the main stage next, and were as fun as ever. I have already seen both groups several times, so I knew what I was getting into - and still loved it. They both put on stellar performances and lived up to the legacy they have created. One thing I thought was nice was both groups warned us they were nearing the completion of their new albums, and after Mark Foster had made that apparent he said he is hoping to see Fitz at more festivals next year. #bandbuds
I missed mentioning one band, Delta Rae. I was able to catch a few of their songs between Fitz and Foster, and they blew me away. Their set up was very non-conventional, but it worked perfect for what they needed. There are four singers, three of which are siblings, with the guys handling keys and guitar while the girls take vocals and auxiliary percussion. They are another folk-rock group with harmonies you can melt with. I'm glad to have stumbled upon them and will be adding them to my favorites list.
I was also lucky enough to meet Fairground Saints prior to their set. As far as their performance, I was absolutely blown away (and a little fan-girly but don’t tell them). The dynamics of their music make it impossible to ignore, and impossible not to enjoy. They played a great show, and the only thing I could want more was for them to play on one of the bigger stages. They are a young band, so they will be there soon…mark my words!
Finally, the end of the night comes about and No Doubt takes the stage. Gwen Stefani greeted the crowd in a super sweet multi-colored jacket that looked like it came from the early 90’s - and probably did! They had so much energy and so much love for the southern California crowd, which was the birthplace to the band over twenty years ago. Coincidentally speaking, next month marks the 20th anniversary of Tragic Kingdom. As the show went on, it also became apparent that Stefani must have eaten a few bags of sugar, or maybe even slammed a few Red Bulls before she took the stage. Running around like a maniac, her little nonsense banter that was not far off from a 5-year-old that had one too many sippy cups of Kool-Aid made the show that much more enjoyable. She had taken a few of their songs and slowed them down into acoustic reggae versions if you will, which got the crowd a little emotional. Not only that, but next up came “Don’t Speak,” which in turn brought me to that lull, since hearing that song live brings on a whole new level of emotion-tugging feels. It was at that point Stefani may have noticed the loss of energy in the crowd, when she proceeded to climb about forty feet up the side of the stage and demanded the crowd sing along to “I’m Just a Girl.” She shouted, “SHUT UP! That’s all you’ve got? I’m risking my life for you guys, sing louder!!!” The band left, and then the band came back. It was a few more songs until No Doubt played “Spiderwebs,” the last song of what might be their last show, at least until after Stefani finishes her new solo album. I have been wanting to see No Doubt for a long time, and I am a little happy my first time was this situation.
As I was walking out, a man was standing at the exit asking if anyone was selling their three-day wristbands. I overheard a couple reply, “Yeah, everyone we saw today was terrible, I don’t even want to come back tomorrow.” Maybe it was the week, (or month) I had just had but the sarcasm didn’t register, and I had to ask them why they felt this way. They both laughed. “No way, you thought we were serious? This has been an amazing festival. Everyone we saw today blew us away!” Phew. I thought I must have been living in La-La-Land or something. I then asked them what they thought of No Doubt’s performance. “We saw them about ten years ago in Austin. That show was incredible, but this one was way better. No Doubt is one of our favorite bands, and always will be.”
Day one in the books and there you have it KAABOO. I know it’s early to say but congratulations, it seems you have already made it to the “top tier” level of music festivals…in my opinion you sure have!