Recap: KAABOO Day 3
By Spike Brendle
Sunday could have possibly been the best day of the festival. The weather was perfect, the crowd had made themselves at home, and the lineup was incredible. Having to wake up just a little bit earlier and pack up my hotel room however was not so much fun, but once I got a few cups of hotel continental breakfast hot brown water (coffee) in me I was off to the races. (If you didn’t see what I did there, the festival was being held at a horse race track.)
Now that I was familiar with the festival grounds and where my wristband got me access to, I was able to get parked and into the festival fairly quick. Since I was early, I walked over to check out The White Buffalo. Despite being the first act of the day, he had quite the crowd, and everyone was almost in a trance to his soulful, honest, southern rock. Had I done all my research prior, I would have known that singer Jake Smith is most known for his work on Sons of Anarchy, which now makes sense why he had such a loyal following there early to watch him. His deep, stern voice is surprisingly soothing to the ears…almost calming. He is the kind of friend you want to bring the acoustic guitar to the campfire and sing until everyone falls asleep.
I was planning on getting to the festival in time to see The Apache Relay, who I heard on a KAABOO playlist and seriously questioned why I had not heard them before. The song “Katie Queen of Tennessee” really grabbed my attention, I think I was running at the time and had to stop and pull my phone out just to figure out who it was. They have a way of constructing songs to feel so casual, and this song is really perfect for the summer to fall transition. Now, unfortunately I was not able to see them play it live, but what I did see was very enjoyable.
First up on the main stage was pro-surfer turned singer-songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter. His set up was simple enough, as it was him along with a drummer and guitarist. Taking note of his guitarist's double-necked guitar, I realized that it was a bass/6-string combo instead of the typical 6-string/12-string. As the songs started, the bass line would come in and get looped, then the lead guitar would take priority and fill in the rest of the song. Frankenreiter is a pretty mellow, laid back guy and that attitude totally reflects in his music. If I were to pick the perfect soundtrack for an afternoon barbecue with all your best friends, he would most definitely be my choice.
As soon as I was able to hear through the crowd, the chorus of “When My Time Comes” by Dawes was funneling its way through the corridor that led to the stage. Dawes has been in my music library since back when they were called “Simon Dawes,” and there is a good reason for that. Their heartfelt, “American” rock, if you will, is appealing to all music lovers, no matter what genre you prefer. Add that to a great live show and you have yourself the perfect festival band, which is proven by looking at their resume. They ended their set by dedicating the last song “All Your Favorite Bands” to everyone at KAABOO, as the chorus ends with “And may all your favorite bands stay together.” It was a large performance with an intimate feel, genuinely loved and appreciated by the entire crowd.
On my way back to the main stage I was able to catch just a few snippets of Switchfoot, who yes...I was hoping on being able to see. “Meant to Live” is one of the staple songs I remember during high school and I frequently re-visit it when I am craving some nostalgia. They ended with “Dare You to Move,” and thanked their hometown crowd for all the love and support they have given them throughout their career. Frontman Jon Foreman announced, “Tomorrow morning, we are going to drive up the street into our studio... and start working on our next album.” At that moment of sincerity, I found myself excited about the next Switchfoot album, which I will be eager to see what they come up with.
KAABOO did a great job with their line up, and with that came some of the best front women in the business: Gwen Stefani, Sheryl Crow, Nicki Bluhm, and more. But my favorite of the weekend was Grace Potter. First off, her whole band wins for “best outfits” as they donned almost hippie-esque style clothing, but instead of tie-dye it was either styled with neon themed southwest Native American or outer space galaxies and planets. Potter herself was prancing around stage covered in bright colors and patterns, but somehow her energy and love for the crowd outshined every part of her outfit. The band was great, and Potter had 100% of the audience's attention the whole show, even if it was getting a little hot and sweaty to be standing in the sun for over an hour.
Speaking of front women, singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile surprised me the most of anyone I hadn’t heard before. So simple and innocent, yet unique enough to set her apart from anyone else in her alt-country/folk genre. Even after delivering a solid performance, she announced that she would “play a song for California” as the band slipped into a stripped down, emotional version of Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California.” I then proceeded to melt into a pool of feels and drift away into a magical dreamland of bliss.
Another nostalgia choice I made was going to see 311. Yes, I am a fan; however, I can not remember the last time I went out of my way to listen to them. After more than twenty years, they still have all the energy you would imagine if you listened to “Down” or “All Mixed Up,” not to mention they still sounded exactly the same. After a few hits, I decided to claim my spot at the main stage and wait for The Killers.
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals were playing as I walked up and I got to hear the last portion of their set. They were amazing musicians and put on a solid show; although something about the look on Harper’s face gave me the impression that he was a little frustrated. Even if so, he wasn’t letting that put a damper on his performance. The crowd was moving all around, and really getting into the music. I am not too familiar, so I just stood still and took pictures, but don’t let that make you think I didn’t enjoy it!
It’s always hard to believe time goes by that fast, but the whole weekend really catches up to you while you are waiting to see the last performance on the last night of a music festival. In my case, waiting for The Killers to come on, I was thinking, “Wait a second… I just got here!” At least I knew I wouldn’t have to wake up the next morning and pack up a party thrashed camp site, then drive several hours home. The crowd grew more dense, as The Killers fans were trying to fill every square inch of open space near the front of the stage. Someone even tried to use the old “It’s cool, I’m just delivering a pizza!” trick to get up to the front, (which totally worked) and to no one’s surprise he did not return to the back. The Killers finally came on and pretty much pushed play on their “greatest hits” album, which was not a disappointment whatsoever. Surprisingly, they played three songs off of their newest (and least acclaimed) album Battle Born, requesting help from the audience several times during “From Here on Out.” A nice surprise was a cover of “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival split in their set-list of hits, ending with “All These Things That I Have Done.” Their encore gave us three more songs, two of which Brandon Flowers sang while wearing a jersey of San Diego Chargers' player Brandon Flowers. He exclaimed, “I’ve been waiting a long time to do this,” as the crowd was roaring and cheering in support. The Killers left us with “When You Were Young” and I have been singing that song in my head ever since. There is surely a magic to what they do, and that was more than apparent at KAABOO.
As a baby festival, KAABOO definitely set an example on how to keep the attendees happy. The only complaint I gathered from the weekend was “There was too much stuff to do!” Now, my newly achieved unemployment status kept me away from indulging in the food and alcohol tasting area, as the cost of these items was just a tad out of my price range (which is free) but it it all looked and smelled incredible. It wouldn’t be too outlandish to dub this a “luxury” festival, as the level of comfort and space way outdid any festival I have attended in the past.
Will I come next year? Yes. Great job KAABOO, and we shall see you in about a year’s time.