Wonderfront’s return delights fans and artists alike

The San Diego music festival was hosted for the second time in three years

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Photo by Ethan Karlin

The sun sets on day three of the Wonderfront festival.

by Noah Lyons, Staff Writer

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, especially when it comes to concerts.

This year’s Wonderfront festival marked a return to normalcy for the music scene of San Diego. It was the first time they’ve held this event since 2019, as COVID-19 restrictions prevented large gatherings from taking place. 

In the span of three years, the makeup of the festival has changed. The lineup of 2019 featured a heavy dose of hip hop (Vince Staples, Lil Baby, Miguel) and reggae (Slightly Stoopid, Pepper, Michael Franti & Spearhead). In contrast, 2022’s lineup featured prominent artists from practically every major genre. 

Josh Brown, a fifth year computer science major at San Diego State, appreciated the wide range of musicianship on display.

“The variety offered by Wonderfront was something that I really enjoyed,” Brown said. “We started the day watching Noah Cyrus and Cage the Elephant and by 8 p.m. we were seeing Schoolboy Q on another stage. We got to see reggae, pop, rock, (and) even some jazz.”

Schoolboy Q was the surprise guest of day three of the festival. (Ethan Karlin)

Over 80 bands and artists performed on six stages in the span of three days. Pop-up shops and food stands, selling jewelry and obscure clothing, covered the festival grounds. Nearby, the Hilton hotel was buzzing with energy. It was a massive undertaking, but the weekend ran rather smoothly. 

“Every artist we saw put on a great show,” Brown said. “I even discovered a few artists that I probably never would have heard of.”

One of the 80 bands that performed over the weekend was Echosmith. The trio of siblings just wrapped up a two month tour that spanned 25 cities around the United States. Still, San Diego is a special stop for the LA-based band.

“I love it down here,” Echosmith bassist Noah Sierota said. “We spend a lot of time here and it’s always special to be back. A lot of festivals are in the desert (so) it’s really nice to see the ocean.”

Sydney and Noah Sierota of Echosmith performed at Rocco stage on day two. (Ethan Karlin)

Before and after the biggest sets, audience members had the opportunity to walk along the bay, sit on the rocky cliffs, chat with others and snap shots of the picturesque setting. Near the Sugarshack stage, there were instruments for concert-goers to play and chairs for them to lounge in. Attendees also had the chance to watch football on TV or play cornhole games between the Seaport Village and Embarcadero stages.

There was plenty of food and drinks to go around. Vendors offered a variety of flavors, from mediterranean bowls to carne asada tacos. Plus, there were the classic pretzel and churro stands at every corner.

Beyond the sights, sounds and smells of the festival, there was a deep connection between the artists and fans.

“We were talking to people before and after the show,” Sierota said. “The audience really connected to these songs and it means the world to us. They’re inviting us into their space and we’re getting to create music that can help bring comfort and care.”

For many attendees, this was an introduction to the music festival experience.

Barrett Hauge, a freshman majoring in business accounting, had never attended a music festival until Wonderfront. Like many other college students, he had fully embraced the return of live music.

“I’ve been to more concerts this year than I have in my entire life,” Hauge said. “(This weekend) I got super close to the front for all my favorite bands. There’s nothing really like it.”

The vibrant setting of San Diego combined with an exciting mix of musicians made 2022’s Wonderfront festival a memorable experience for everyone involved.