I’m pretty sure KAABOO, when they were making this year’s lineup for their second annual festival at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, hacked into my phone’s music library and custom made it for me. We’re talking Jimmy Buffett here (I own a full-bodied parrot suit specifically for JB tailgate parties), we’re talking Rooney (Oh haaay, emo boys from high school!), and we’re talking Aerosmith (I literally started sending Steven invitations to my birthday parties when I was 10). Needless to say, when I read the lineup, I was like “THANK YOU Jesus/KAABOO!” and knew I had to go.
First things first, I’ve been to one music festival when I was 26 in Denmark. I slept in a tent, I “showered” in a river, and I had beer for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Did I mention I was 26? I was prime Coachella age. I didn’t get hangovers! But now that I’m in my mid-30’s, I fear the Coachella ship has sailed. I’ve watched the Snapchats; I’ve heard the tales; I know about the prices and the lines and the flower crowns… I’ve seen the lineups. Maybe you have to still be in your 20’s to have heard of half those indie bands, and maybe you have to still be in your 20’s to think it sounds fun to wear a felt vest with tassels down to your ankles over pasties in triple digit weather in the desert. However, if that’s not quite up your alley anymore (or ever) maybe KAABOO, in beautiful San Diego, is the festival for you. It’s basically a classier Coachella with the average age group a good 10 years older than that hippie/model/Insta-glam fashion show crowd.
KAABOO is three days long, and each day has a completely different vibe. Friday was mellow. Coming and going was fairly easy, with no lines at all as you arrive, and (depending on what time you left) not too bad exiting either. Friday saw the likes of Sugar Ray and Hall & Oates. The crowd was peppered with plenty of Hawaiian shirts all awaiting Mr. Buffett to sing songs about Margaritaville and cheeseburgers. I wore the parrot suit and high-fived (winged?) pretty much everyone. Dana Carvey headlined “Humor Me,” the festival’s very own comedy club, and a certain DJ Snoopadelic (yes, that’s code for Snoop) closed down the night at ENCORE, the festival’s nightclub.
Saturday was hectic and the Day Pass people were out full force. Everyone and their mother was there. Literally everyone— even some of that Coachella crowd (and I don’t blame them for being curious). Third Eye Blind, Lenny Kravitz, and the Goo Goo Dolls played making the day straight out of 90’s Heaven. Aerosmith and The Chainsmokers rocked different stages at the same time and did not disappoint. I chose Aerosmith (because, duh) and can honestly say ST puts on thee best show on earth. He’s up there looking like he’s having the time of his life, even though he’s been playing shows, festivals, and arenas… FOR DECADES! He’s messing with everyone in the band, sharing the mic with Joe, pointing at people in the rafters, and even throwing his freakin’ harmonica into the crowd. (Note: I. Would. Have. Died.) It was stunning to watch and thanks to it being a festival, being front row was simply a matter of how much you wanted it, and baby, I wanted it. It took me a good hour to inch my way up to the stage after Lenny had finished but worth every single inch.
By Sunday, all the Day Pass people were gone, and the laid back vibe of Friday was back. In and out was once again easy as pie. Cypress Hill, The Avett Brothers, and everyone’s favorite beach bum, Jack Johnson set the tone, while comedian, Natasha Leggero had her audience squirming with awkwardness in their seats as she played matchmaker with a couple random single people in the crowd. Youtube ladies Garfunkel and Oates sang their catchy folk songs about mom’s and babies and all that other inappropriate life-stuff people past their 20’s understand and secretly enjoy.
KAABOO isn’t just about the music or comedy though. It’s a “mix-perience.” Three days aren’t enough to explore all of the festival’s offerings. The Palate tent featured food from some of San Diego’s finest restaurants, and premium liquor and beers were served from local brands. The Indulgence area had spas, massages, and even a place you could get your hair done, which— face it Coachella— screams classy! World famous artists live-painted murals throughout the event, while Hendricks Gin offered free (as in free!) hot air balloon rides! I’m serious.
To boot, there are no port-a-pots at KAABOO; the bathrooms are all flushing, there’s running water, toilet paper, and mirrors available so that you may adjust your flower crown— if you so choose to wear one. Or maybe you’re just there wearing a big old floppy hat with a string tied around your neck for convenience… because after all, you’re 30 and you care about things like SPF and skin care and sun damage.
You’re not in your 20’s anymore. You’re classier, smarter, and you definitely know the enjoyment of a cheeseburger in paradise. And that’s why KAABOO is your festival. See you next year!