KAABOO Texas 2019 Recap

It has been a busy month here at Living The Fest Life. Our staff has been all over the place, and I personally have been in eleven States in the last 20 days. So it definitely seemed like a crazy idea to add another festival to our schedule. BUT – ever since the lineup came out earlier this year KAABOO Texas has been on our radar. When I got the opportunity to attend, there was no way I was missing this one.

That said, there were definitely moments when I questioned my own sanity (i.e., airport meltdown tweets involving flight delays and lack of sleep). With Texas native Brad holding down the fort on Friday, I woke up Saturday morning thinking maybe I should just head for home . . . KAABOO’s lineup kept calling my name and so I did not give up. Despite the somewhat melancholy beginning to this post (due to exhaustion) I do not regret for one minute dragging myself out of bed Saturday morning after three hours of sleep and a week and a half of driving nearly 2,000 miles.

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Leading up to the festival, people have had a lot to say about the lineup. My honest opinion as someone in my 30s is that it was really appealing, and I found the eclectic mix of artists to be good, not weird. There were times when I looked at the daily schedule and wanted to be in multiple places at once. The conflict between Black Eyed Peas and Lynyrd Skynyrd was a difficult choice for me. Despite the difference in those acts, I wanted to see them both. I chose Skynyrd and was not disappointed.

Day 1: Brad held down the KAABOO coverage on Friday and reported having a great time. He also took some sweet pictures. He arrived with some friends from the area on Friday and reports having an easy enough time getting the passes and getting inside. After spending a little while exploring the setup, they checked out a few bands and grabbed drinks. He says Bush was the absolute highlight of the day. Their lead singer went all the way up to the upper deck of the seating inside the stadium.

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I am not sure if he fulfilled my goal of scream singing to Mr. Brightside, but we got some awesome pictures out of the first day of coverage.

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The festival ended a little early Friday due to storms. But KAABOO handled the elements well and exiting was smooth.

Day 2: This was my travel day and my first day at KAABOO. Unfortunately, the Dallas/Fort Worth area has been experiencing some unusual weather this year.  Severe storms forced the Dallas airport to issue a ground stop and delayed my travel significantly.

After spending several hours waiting in the Boston airport, the flight finally boarded and we were on the way to KAABOO. My mood was buoyed somewhat by a Starbucks sugar cookie. I flew into DFW and besides the delays and a little residual storm related turbulence, the trip was a smooth one. I was able to snag a good deal on a rental car and ended up getting a free upgrade to a sweet looking Jeep Wrangler. Maybe it was all the traveling or maybe I was under the spell of Texas, but I seriously wanted to keep that Jeep and it was fun to drive around town. I made the quick drive to the La Quinta near Six Flags and just over a mile from the KAABOO festival grounds. After checking in and making a quick change, I rushed over to get into the festival.

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Parking was relatively easy and I found a spot in a $10 lot that was only about a 5 to 10 minute walk from the security gate. The festival took place on the grounds of AT&T Stadium  – for those of you who don’t  follow football, this is where the Cowboys play and is also “lovingly” referred to as Jerry World.  Security was a breeze and I was quickly inside. I had hoped to make it in time for Los Lonely Boys, but thanks to the thunder and lighting that didn’t happen. Instead, I took the opportunity to explore.

KAABOO had a really interesting set up. Interesting is not being used as a code word for bad! Due in large part to the festival’s unique ability to build around and on top of the existing stadium infrastructure, it has a very different layout from most festivals that I have been to. The festival area was mainly composed of the ring around and adjacent to the stadium, and then a main stage on the floor of stadium where the field would have been.

The other stages and activities were largely based outside, including: two more music stages, a culinary stage, and a popup comedy club. If you read our preview post, you also know that there was a Vegas style pool party area called BASK – complete with DJs, lawn games and the Rowdy Stage. Although building in the footprint of the stadium and park area around it meant that most areas were paved, it didn’t feel like a parking lot. KAABOO did a GREAT job of bringing the festival vibe with the art installations all over the property. I mean just really really impressive. Credit for artwork photo to Alive Coverage.

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I think this is a good time for a side note. KAABOO has been putting on a successful festival in Del Mar for quite some time and recently expanded to an event in the Cayman Islands. The KAABOO team’s experience and attention to detail were demonstrated in every aspect of the festival, seriously down to the smallest of things. Every tv in the stadium space had the logo on it, the artwork was on point, and even the plastic cups were cute and branded. If you have noticed, I am freaking obsessed with the KAABOO cups.

You can tell that this is a festival put on by people who both know what they are doing and who are fully committed to what makes the KAABOO brand what it is. These are not the words of a paid spokesperson.  Every one I encountered at the festival, friends and strangers, expressed the same level of being impressed by the pieces this group put into place.

Throughout the weekend there were multiple activities and stages going on at any point. There was so much I wanted to see, but after a long flight and the rush to get into the festival – my big goal at this point was to get something to eat. I grabbed a big brisket sandwich platter with homemade chips and a margarita and caught the end of X on the Maverick Stage.

Fed and with a full water bottle, I watched the beginning of Lukas Nelson (who I had missed out on seeing at M3F earlier this year) and then headed over to the other side of the stadium ring to check out Flo Rida. Despite the cloudy skies and unseasonably cool temperatures, there was a pretty good sized crowd at the show and the attendance grew throughout the night. About midway through Flo Rida’s set, I headed inside to catch some of Collective Soul and to find my new group of buddies.

We hung around the main stage area for the rest of the night. Both shows were well attended, high energy and a ton of fun. I somewhat shamefully admitted to the LTFL team at home that I was pretty excited for Kid Rock. They made fun of me, but he didn’t disappoint and brought a ton of energy and fun to the indoor stadium.

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In between acts we spent time in the Blue Star Lounge that sits down below the floor level directly across from the main stage. It had some comfy seating and a cash bar. It also had bathrooms! One of the best things about having a festival on the grounds of a stadium is that infrastructure is already in place. Yes folks – that means there are real bathrooms to use inside the stadium. After Kid Rock, the party continued at the BASK stage. I was exhausted from a long day of travel, so took a quick peek before heading back to the parking lot and back to the hotel.

Day 3: Sunday morning (mother’s day) started with a solid continental breakfast at the hotel – including Texas shaped waffles. There was a long line for the Texas waffle makers, so I had to stick with a boring circle and don’t have a fun waffle picture to share. On the plus side, there were biscuits and gravy and I was just as excited for that as I was in Florida. This was my second trip in a row at a southern festival – hooray for fried things and gravy. I grew up in the south, so I guess my love of Kid Rock and biscuits and gravy is just in my blood.

Usually when I am in festival mode I turn off the outside world, but I talked to both my parents in the morning. My mom for mother’s day and my dad because he wanted to know if I was “ok.” Apparently my late night texts about wanting a Jeep Wrangler and watching Lynyrd Skynyrd had him concerned. (I STILL WANT THAT JEEP!)

I could have gone back to the festival a bit earlier and done some exploring, but I settled for resting my sore legs and listening to podcasts.  At around two, a friend from Dallas came over to head into the festival with me, and we set off for Day 3. I had a few media tasks to attend to, so my festival buddy headed off to explore. The first set of the day for us was Israel Nash. He has a pretty unique vibe that is perfect for Texas. I also got the opportunity to interview him later that day – so make sure to check out our post on that coming soon! The interview took place in one of the luxury suites at the top of the stadium and added a unique element to seeing the performance that day.  Stay tuned for pictures from his show.

While I was in the interview, my friends all went over to the comedy tent where Bob Saget and Orny Adams were sharing a surprise set time.  Afterwards, we all met up to check out St. Paul and the Broken Bones on the main stage. For the first time all weekend, we had beautiful sunshine and the festival opened up the stadium roof, resulting in blue skies over the seemingly indoor concert. There were always so many things going on, so after this set our group split up in a lot of separate directions.

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I headed to the merch tent to shop and then to the comedy tent to see Whitney Cummings. KAABOO’s merch was pretty cool – unique, stylish stuff. I got a cool bracelet.

This was my first opportunity to check out a show in the comedy tent, because I had been distracted by music up to that point, but I had been hearing good things. Branded “Humor Me” the tent truly felt like a little (1100ish seat) comedy club. All the seats had a  good view and it was air conditioned with a bar inside. The festival had a ton of options on the comedy front, and the ability to avoid the line with a promised seat or a table with bar service. I picked out one of the free seats on the far left side in one of the sections that wasn’t very full. Sometimes I hate sitting still, especially when the festival excitement is swirling so I wanted to be able to leave a bit early. Photo credit to Alive Coverage

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One complaint I have seen in some articles is that you  couldn’t enter the tent after the show started. KAABOO made that pretty clear in advance on their website, and I was grateful that people weren’t opening the doors constantly. It helped make it feel like being in a comedy club.

Whitney Cummings was hilarious, but I got cold and also really wanted to see the B-52s, so I snuck out a little early. The B-52s were one of the most energetic, fun sets of the weekend. Maybe it was the champagne (whoops – didn’t I tell you guys I was bougee) or maybe it was “Rock Lobster” but I found myself swim dancing in the VIP section. I also met a lovely couple from Atlanta and had a great conversation while sharing a table. The tacos were amazing. Also we had a celebrity sighting – as Joe and Kendall were there (fans of the Bachelor).

I left the B-52s and my newly made festival friends and headed back inside just in time to catch the second half of Counting Crows. Yet another bucket list band for me. My phone was dead by this point, which meant that I could focus on scream singing Hanging Around and Mr. Jones.

The next stop was one last trip to the Blue Star Lounge – where we got a couple rounds of drinks (yep more champagne) and then watched Sting before heading out. I had been so excited about KAABOO for months, that most of the time it felt like a dream to be there. I was also so tired from all the traveling I talked about at the beginning, that probably contributed to my dazed state upon leaving.

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The next morning I flew out of Dallas Love Field and the return trip was largely smooth. When I arrived at the gate, I ran into some familiar Firefly Fam who had also been out in the area for KAABOO. Shoutout to Heather!!

On the plane ride home I spent a lot of time listening to the podcast (referenced earlier that I binge listened to on this trip) and thinking about the experience.  We pride ourselves on being both positive and honest at LTFL – so I won’t try and pretend that the festival was packed all weekend. That said, I really think that some of the things people are saying don’t match my experience.

One article, drafted as an open letter to the festival organizers, described “first year issues.” I have been to quite a few first year festivals – comparatively, KAABOO ran like a well oiled machine. Every detail was on point, every person in their place, and there were really no issues once you got inside. Normally first year festivals struggle with organization, with having enough resources, or have weird things happen because they don’t anticipate something (like grass turning to mud after three days of people walking on it). Those are things I would call “issues” and KAABOO had none of those.

When a comedian cancelled last minute, KAABOO had a stellar replacement. The festival handled a storm like pros and every little item remained in place until the last moment. The security is incredibly experienced from working games at the venue and as an observer operationally things appeared incredibly smooth. I think people sometimes underestimate how hard it is to start a festival. I had originally written something much longer on this point, but one of my friends who attended put it succinctly – KAABOO has so much potential for growth.

The sentiment in our group was a somewhat more mature version of “haters are gonna hate, potatoes are gonna potate.” During one of our rounds of drinks in the lounge, someone said that people who actually attended this festival as fans are largely going to report having an amazing time in a well organized setting – the music was fantastic, the art was great, the food was varied and good quality. I agree with that completely and based on some of the social media posts I have seen that does seem to be the case. The criticisms I have heard, have come from commentators and picky people looking to point out problems – I really didn’t hear any complaints from fans on the ground. Everyone I talked to during KAABOO was friendly and having a great time. We all expressed the same hope – that this investment in KAABOO Texas will be for the long term, and that it has a ton of room to grow into the beautiful festival space they have designed.

Final thoughts:

  • Mobile beer vendors (like you would have at a game) were a really cool addition to the festival. They milled around in the VIP and regular sections just as they would at a game. Everyone around me was nodding approval of this.
  • I would like to see a couple more trash cans in the VIP sections. That was literally my only “complaint” we had to walk to the entrance of the section to throw things away.
  • This is both a festival and a stadium, so drink prices were high but not ridiculous. Food was well priced and good. I also insisted on drinking champagne as my beverage of choice all weekend – so drinks being high priced seemed like more my problem than the festival’s.
  • Is it a sign that I attend too many festivals if I have started recognizing some of the vendors. Shoutout to the Bai drink tent peeps who I have now taken selfies with in multiple states.

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