San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

KAABOO embraces San Diego vibes for inaugural festival

It’s hot in San Diego, but that didn’t stop a crowd of at least 40,000 festival-goers from spending the weekend outside at the Del Mar Fairgrounds for the inaugural KAABOO festival Friday, Sept. 18 to Sunday, Sept. 20.

Founder Bryan Gordon created KAABOO with the idea of throwing all conventional music festival experiences out the window and instead focusing on the “joys of discovery” through music, food, art and experiences. It was labeled as a high-end festival experience, a place for adults to hang loose and enjoy an array of experiences — and it did just that.

As the first of its kind, KAABOO could obviously come to fruition in no other place than San Diego. Festival-goers looked like locals (or else just at home in San Diego), several artists were locals (Switchfoot, Slightly Stoopid, Tribal Seeds) and the accompanying art and food were all supplied by local vendors. It was a discovery of the senses and I was hooked.

Festival-goers fashioned typical San Diego vibes — flip flops, sundresses and sunnies were abundant. There were a few misplaced ravers decked out in furry boots and bikinis, and even someone attempting to be a unicorn, but they all stood out among a sea of casual styles.

With seven stages, more than 30 kinds of craft beer and spirits, 18 local restaurants and chefs and more than 100 musical acts, it was the classy cousin to other music festivals, but maybe the older, richer, cooler-than-you cousin.

The Fairgrounds lent to the perfect venue — it was spacious enough where festival-goers weren’t packed in like sardines, but small enough to where each stage was in close proximity, allowing people to have more time to enjoy the amenities rather than hiking to the next concert.

In addition to the awesome lineup, the “Posh Nosh” and “Indulgences” tents featured chef presentations, samplings and classes. There was ample seating, including hammocks, to chill out between vibing to music and art.

KAABOO’s greatest strength lay in the details: The clean and plentiful bathrooms, the oversized canvases painted by local artists (or in some cases, created onsite during the weekend), the colorful banners that decorated the stages, the complimentary “hydration stations” where festival-goers could refill their water bottles — everything contributed to the evident joy that festival-goers displayed because of a well executed event.

The KAABOO app was executed perfectly and complimented the experience as we mapped out our weekend — and hopped from stage to stage to follow the music. My Saturday afternoon consisted of Neon Trees, AWOLNATION, The Roots, Tribal Seeds and Counting Crows.

The cost of a three-day pass might have been off-putting for the typical San Diego State student, but KAABOO’s concept and execution was one any San Diegan could get into. It’s the place where festival-goers joined, embraced and indulged in the shared space of art in all its mediums.

This festival was ideal for the post-graduate 20-something, and its lineup and emphasis on craft libations indicated it was geared toward a slightly older crowd.

KAABOO offered a plethora of experiences so festival-goers could create their own experience. From acts such as Joel McHale to The Killers, to the exquisite food offerings, the myriad of experiences could appeal to anyone and subsequently expose you to types of art you maybe hadn’t considered before. I wasn’t familiar with The Roots (besides the association with Jimmy Fallon), but lying on the turf and listening to their set was refreshing.

I felt completely immersed in the KAABOO experience and everything — the food, the art, the music — was an indulgence in the finer things in life.

A wall with a J.R.R. Tolkien quote probably summed up the festival’s goal best:

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

Editor’s Picks:

  • No Doubt rocking it on the mainstage Friday night. Will I ever be as cool as Gwen Stefani?
  • Watching artists create masterpieces in the gallery. There’s something so inspiring and relaxing to watch paint on canvas become something beautiful.
  • Young the Giant lead vocalist Sameer Gadhia in a glitter bomber jacket on the Zuma Stage Saturday night.
  • The trailer bathrooms throughout the venue. It was advertised there would be no Port-a-Potties in sight, and thank goodness that promise was fulfilled.
  • The sand on the Sunset Cliffs mainstage added a true San Diego vibe for enjoying headlining acts.
  • No lines, no crowds. The venue was relatively small and the crowd was relatively large, but KAABOO made sure the experience was at the forefront and precious time or space wasn’t wasted.
  • Hammocks close enough to the stage so festival-goers could relax and still jam to Tribal Seeds. The best of both worlds.


About the Contributor
Kelly Hillock
Kelly Hillock, Editor in Chief
Kelly Hillock is the editor in chief for The Daily Aztec for the 2015-16 academic year. She is a senior studying  public relations and English here at San Diego State. Previously, Kelly served in many roles at The Daily Aztec, such as the features editor, public relations specialist, copy editor and senior staff writer. For questions or comments, contact Kelly at
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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
KAABOO embraces San Diego vibes for inaugural festival