KAABOO Del Mar, a festival with something for everyone

Shaun Astor / Tahoe Onstage
Katy Perry dresses up for the well-dressed audience at the KAABOO Del Mar.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Shaun Astor

Music festivals have become commonplace. Audiences that once anticipated their favorite bands’ summer concert tours are now more likely looking forward to the summer festival season. It’s no longer enough for these festivals to simply gather a few big names to be successful.

These days, it’s become essential for festivals to set themselves apart in some way. That is exactly what KAABOO Del Mar seems to have accomplished in its short four years of existence.

Having taken place along the San Diego coastline in the charming beach community of Del Mar, KAABOO’s 2018 installment packed an abundance of music, comedians, chefs, art and overstimulation into its three-day run.

The band lineup found something for nearly everyone, with names from the hip-hop, world beat, psychedelic, new wave, punk and rock worlds. The Humor Me comedy stage brought popular comics from a couple generations, as well. With everything taking place across three large stages, along with a few smaller pop-up stages helmed by corporate sponsors (bringing DJs, dance music and indie performers to the several beer gardens and indoor areas),  the biggest issue was finding the time to fit in everything that sounded appealing on the schedule.

Over the weekend, we made a few notes of our time at KAABOO. Now that the festival is over, we’re left these images of our whirlwind weekend of music, food, drinking, comedy and hot air balloon rides:

  • Shaun Astor / Tahoe OnstageSouthern California’s coastal September air had us in shorts and T-shirts the entire time, although we may have been substantially underdressed considering the festival outfits many people came dressed in, not to mention the roller skates, stilts, large papier-mache crowns, LED dresses, and head-to-toe mirrored garb.
  • Shaun Astor / Tahoe OnstageSeveral bands seemed to change up their songs to include medleys of other popular songs, so those unfamiliar with one band would definitely get excited when they heard a more recognizable tune mixed in.
  • Shaun Astor / Tahoe OnstageBilly Idol won, by no small margin, for the number of wardrobe changes during his set over the weekend, most of which were some variation of an unbuttoned black shirt or jacket.
  • Shaun Astor / Tahoe OnstageFriday night headliners, the Foo Fighters, stopped playing when a freight train ran along the tracks adjacent to their stage, with singer Dave Grohl saying it felt like they should be playing the blues, followed by he and the band launching into an impromptu blues jam.
  • Shaun Astor / Tahoe OnstageShaun Astor / Tahoe OnstageGrohl also mentioned that the first time they played the area was 27 years ago when his band, Nirvana, and friends Pearl Jam were the not-well known openers for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
  • Shaun Astor / Tahoe OnstageN*E*R*D, which features the production team The Neptunes, played a set consisting of some of the more popular Neptunes-produced tracks. These seemed to include virtually every chart-topping hip-hop track in recent memory.
    Tahoe Onstage
    Halsey’s electropop goes KAABOO.
    Shaun Astor / Tahoe Onstage

    Shaun Astor / Tahoe OnstageShaun Astor / Tahoe Onstage

  • With a 1 p.m. daily festival start time, the COOLA sunscreen booth and its free sunscreen station was definitely a crowd favorite, with lines that sometimes eclipsed those for the bathrooms.
  • Also, as far as vendor’s booths competing for attendees’ attention, the Hendricks Gin booth beat all the competition by offering complimentary cocktails and free hot air balloon rides that overlooked the fest to those who stopped by.
  • Shaun Astor / Tahoe OnstageBlondie put on an amazing set, but lost a huge portion of her crowd when Post Malone was going on at a different stage. That was definitely an unexpected crossover crowd.
  • Shaun Astor / Tahoe OnstageI’m not sure who else was playing at the same time as TLC, but spotting anyone under the age of 30 during its R&B set was like finding a leprechaun. The middle-age dance party was exactly like what you imagine goes on with your parents and their friends after they sent you to bed for the night.
  • Despite years-old rumors and rare appearances, holographic Left Eye was absent from TLC’s lineup.
  • Someone who wasn’t absent was the Left Shark from Katy Perry’s Sunday-night headlining set. The costumed single shark was just one of the continually changing sets from Perry’s year-long Witness Tour, of which KAABOO Del Mar was the final show.
  • In his stand-up comedy set, director Judd Apatow noted that Stormy Daniels had mentioned to Seth Rogen that she had just slept with Donald Trump when she and Rogen were onset filming “Knocked Up.” Apatow then asked if the crowd could imagine Seth Rogen ever being called to testify before Congress.
  • Shaun Astor / Tahoe OnstageNot to keep mentioning the Foo Fighters, though they easily had the best set of the weekend, but drummer Taylor Hawkins grew up a little bit north of KAABOO’s location in Laguna Beach. When the band turned the stage over to Hawkins, Grohl took over drumming duties while Hawkins led the sold-out crowd through a flawless rendition of Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure.”
  • Slash played a set consisting of some of his old Guns N Roses material, only with songs extended to well over 10 minutes and consisting almost entirely of guitar solos.
  • Shaun Astor / Tahoe OnstageSaturday night headliners Imagine Dragons had one of the most spirited performances of the weekend, as well as the closest I witnessed of a crowd ready to jump the barricades and take on the platoon of security reinforcements. (It didn’t ultimately happen, luckily.)
  • Shaun Astor / Tahoe OnstageDue to location surrounded by homes, the music on the main stage ended up night by 10 p.m., ensuring that those who parked in the parking lots and left following the headliners each night could likely make it out of the parking lot and onto Interstate 5 — a half-mile away — by about midnight each night.

In all, the sold-out KAABOO Del Mar combined a boutique festival approach with a major festival budget and talent. When it was over, we found ourselves needing a vacation to relax from the weekend! With KAABOO branching out to festivals in the Cayman Islands and Austin, Texas, this upcoming year, they’re taking their destination status and expanding it to new places. Luckily they’ve announced Del Mar will take place again in 2019! http://kaaboodelmar.com

— Shuan Astor

Shaun Astor / Tahoe Onstage
Jimmy Eat World
Shaun Astor / Tahoe Onstage
“She’s Not There,” The Zombies are.
Shaun Astor / Tahoe Onstage


ABOUT Shaun Astor

Shaun Astor
Shaun Astor cites pop music singers and social deviants as being among his strongest influences. His vices include vegan baking, riding a bicycle unreasonable distances and fixating on places and ideas that make up the subject of the sentence, "But that’s impossible…" He splits his time between Reno and a hammock perched from ghost town building foundations. Check out his work at www.raisethestakeseditions.com


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