KAABOO Del Mar 2019 – Full Coverage

Our KAABOO experience opened with a guy familiar with playing down the shore. Little Steven brought his Disciples of Soul diagonally across the country whence he got his start. Rather than the dank clubs of Asbury Park, he and his band were basting in the Del Mar sun. Despite layers of chic gypsy attire, the band members delivered a scorching set.
Steven Van Zandt studied well the likes of James Brown in how to lead a huge band onstage. The baker’s dozen musicians followed Van Zandt’s lead, weaving through loping reggae inflected numbers (“I Am A Patriot”) as well as a series of songs pulling on Latin American vibes.

Intriguingly, unlike his prior San Diego appearance (also near the shore), Van Zandt eschewed the wonderful catalog he crafted on behalf of the Asbury Jukes. Southside Johnny ably picked up the torch on Saturday, choosing well from those classics. The Jukes were anchored by a tight three piece brass section.
As Friday’s golden hour approached, we wandered through the myriad activations. Some of our favorites included Aperol Spritz; as we discovered last summer in Greece, the beverage is now making a splash domestically. The cacophony of music was actually pleasant to walk through. The USAA House afforded an elevated view of Sunset Cliffs, the main stage.
The fashionistas strutting at Coachella were mostly absent at KAABOO; the demographic skews older at the latter. With the recent decriminalization of cannabis, I overhead much chatter about THC dosages, etc.

We found ourselves in the Bask area, which is centered around a purpose built swimming pool. As we settled into our Adirondack chairs with our toes in the imported sand, I found I liked Kings of Leon better. Friday ended pleasantly.

Difford and Tilbrook astounded everyone when they burst on the scene forty years ago. England had failed to produce any possible replacement to the Lennon / McCartney songwriting duo, but with Squeeze, an air of hope emerged. On Saturday at KAABOO as the sun set, they revisited a broad swath of their prodigious songbook and reminded us of the importance of finely crafted melodies, erudite lyrics and prodigious instrumental talent.

Black Eyed Peas revealed life after Fergie, with one of their first gigs in America since 2011. Commending “San Diego as America done right” they gave an inspired and aerobic set in the show “closest to our hometown LA.” With no other gigs soon in America, clearly Black Eyed Peas was a booking coup for KAABOO.

On a decidedly cooler Sunday, Toots led his Maytals through an all-too-quick lesson in reggae. As the guy who coined the word reggae, he was well-equipped in working the crowd. “Pressure Drop” and “Country Roads” were the his highlights, the only set I saw all weekend that ran past its slotted time.

Sheryl Crow dropped several tracks from her new (and final) album into her set at the Golden Hour. Fans found much to like with her exuberant renditions of her hits “If It Makes You Happy” and “All I Wanna Do.” Punters swimming in the Bask section were ecstatic when she assayed “Soak Up The Sun.”
Mumford and Sons closed out KAABOO #5 in good form. They played to a relatively fuller crowd than Duran Duran, not surprisingly in that the latter appeals to a narrower demographic. Sunday finished with a British flavor on both ends of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Off to Petco next year.

The announcement about the shift from Del Mar happened right before the last acts of the evening. The majority opinion I encountered was one of disappointment; the KAABOO organizers are already facing the challenge of shifting the demand from a beach vibe to an urban stadium setting.

Let’s see what one year brings.

(photos by Brad Auerbach)


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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