KAABOO Del Mar 2019: Bucket list checkmarks all around

KAABOO Del Mar has been at the top of my own personal festival bucket list for quite some time. Our experience at the new KAABOO Texas (in Dallas) earlier this year was an absolute blast. That experience just made our Del Mar desires even stronger.

As we discussed at length in our KAABOO Texas coverage, the KAABOO brand focuses on curating a more grown up centric festival experience, emphasizing comfort, hospitality, and the ability to spoil yourself if you want to. The tangible result of this focus is clean, comfortable, indulgent and carefully crafted food and beverage options that will appeal to people of all ages and walks of life – but especially if you are on the older end of the festival crowd. It means more seating options, air conditioned bathrooms (no port-a-potties), and a more grown up vibe.

The experience was all that I could have hoped for and more!

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I worked a full day on Thursday before catching an evening flight with more work packed in my bag. For work related reasons, I had to wait to make my flight reservations until a couple weeks ago – but I still managed to find a relatively good deal. I flew American Airlines out of Baltimore with a layover in Dallas. The Dallas airport is humongous or at least it felt like it when I was running and taking the airport train to my connecting terminal. The good news was that when I got to my gate, there was a slight delay, giving me time to make a bathroom break and grab some dinner. The plane from Dallas to San Diego was one of the biggest I have been on and I had an exit row with like four feet of leg room. A big improvement over my middle seat on the first three hour flight I took that day where I had a tiny table and spilled my ice cup all over the floor of my row.

Arriving in San Diego I followed the directions to baggage claim and then to the consolidated rental car shuttle. It was late so I don’t think it was the busiest time for the airport, but everything went smoothly. I was pretty tired by this point seeing as on the east coast it was close to 3am – but I got my car and made a quick 20 minute drive to the Hyatt House in the Mira Mesa area. The front desk check – in folks were very nice, and encouraged me to get sleep and come back later to sort things out with my parking permit. I snagged a bottle of water and basically tumbled into bed. But not before taking in the fact that the rooms here were huge!!! A little kitchen with an island serving as both a desk and a bar with appropriate chairs on each side, a full living room space, a big bedroom and a full bathroom as well. There was also tons of closet and storage space.  If you were going to come with friends and plan to make meals and hang before the festival or even exploring the area on a longer trip this would definitely be a great home base. Just be careful in booking with third party sites, as the one I used had some listings that indicated there was free parking. Luckily the reviews told me this would not be the case and I was prepared. That said, the parking was only $12 a day, which is relatively low especially for a hotel in a major metropolitan area.

Day One: 

Admittedly, the whole time difference thing messed with me a bit throughout this trip (though not enough to negatively impact it). As a result, I woke up way earlier than I hoped to on Friday morning – it just happened to be in the nick of time to catch breakfast, so I guess I am ok with it. The breakfast buffet was solid and well spread out throughout the dining area. It never really felt cramped or crowded.

After breakfast it was time to do a little work and then start getting festival ready. If my tired brain was counting correctly, KAABOO was festival number 10 for me. As the end of festival season (if there is one) is nearing, I spent some time while I was getting ready  for the day thinking about the festival skills and lessons I have learned this year. I plan to do a standalone post covering my festival experience this year more generally, and to include a more comprehensive list of tips and thoughts. But for now – here is a quick preview:

  • You don’t need nearly as much “stuff” as you think you do for a festival trip – pack light, especially in terms of what you are bringing in each day. That bag will start to feel heavier and heavier by the end of the day.
  • Bring a bandana
  • Drink plenty of water – before, during and after the festival. Including leaving a bottle in your car or ready at your camp for the end of the day.
  • Don’t be afraid to go to festivals by yourself – you WILL meet new people, you will enjoy music and the experience without worrying about what anyone else wants to do, and you will not feel lonely.
  • I don’t care how cute your outfit is – wear comfortable shoes. Your body will thank you later.

Alright, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

I won’t lie, you should likely be prepared for tough traffic on Friday of KAABOO. Though perhaps I didn’t do a particularly good job of thinking about that in advance. In any event, it took me a long time to get the nine miles from hotel to festival grounds and I ended up not getting checked in, through security and set up until an hour later than I had hoped. So leave early on Friday and be prepared for traffic. I parked in the “dirt lot” across the street from the entrance and it was maybe a five minute walk to the gate. Super convenient. My parking came with my credential, so I don’t know how much it would cost – but this lot is also open to the public and there was plenty of space.

Due to traffic, I was a little later than I had hoped getting to the gate, but I was able to catch the last few minutes of Plain White T’s set and actually walked into the fest to “Hey There Delilah.” After that it was a whirlwind of sets, photos and fun. I saw parts of Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul, Andrew McMahon, REO Speedwagon, Grizfolk and the Silversun Pickups. Before heading over and settling in for the long haul at the Grandview stage where I caught Boyz II Men followed by Snoop Dogg and Wu Tang Clan.

Every set I saw was great, I was a little disappointed in the crowd vibe for Wu Tang – it honestly seemed like many of the people were just waiting for Snoop. Who did come out and put on a heck of a show. But I had been waiting to see Wu Tang for years, so that was probably my highlight of the night.

Given the number of sets I wanted to see, I didn’t have much time for exploring on that first day. I did have the awesome opportunity to meet Grizfolk in person after the awesome interview we got to do with Adam earlier this summer. That was a ton of fun and they were just about as nice as could be. Look out for some updates to that interview and some new pictures.

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Other than that, Day One was mostly full of music. Though I did find time to sneak in an Aperol Spritz. One of my favorite cocktails that I was excited to see with an activation at the festival.

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When Snoop Dogg was winding down, I collected all my stuff and got ready to make an exit before traffic. Due to the noise requirements, the festival’s music components end around 10PM. However, for those with more energy – the KAABOO party was nowhere near over. The Humor Me comedy stage offered another comedy show and Bai sponsored a silent disco with live DJs (including White Panda) playing for another couple of hours. On the way out, I saw lots of people heading in ready to end the night dancing and watching one of the special films being shown on the stage’s giant screens.

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Back at the hotel, I grabbed a Gatorade and a lean cuisine from the lobby’s 24 hour market and headed to bed.

DAY TWO

My attempts to sleep in were thwarted by the time change, but I still woke up super excited for day two. After a hotel breakfast and getting some work done, I headed out to the venue. There was no traffic and it was a super quick trip.

I arrived right about the time that gates were officially opening, which is one of my favorite things. KAABOO had dramatic music playing from the speakers (I think Star Wars?) and it was a super fun way to start the day off. I always recommend trying to get to every festival for gate opening at least once, to see the unique ways festival organizers celebrate the beginning of the day.

Saturday was jam packed with music and food. Actually I am pretty sure I basically ate non-stop from the start of the day all the way up to snacking before bed time.

I started out the day checking out a rising band from the LA area called Sir, Please. They were playing in the special VIP only Amplify area. Despite playing on a small stage, the group brought big sound and it was a fun way to start the day. The group’s debut single Dance With Me recently surpassed a million streams. It is definitely worth checking out.

Friday had been so busy that I didn’t get a chance to check out much food and beverage wise – so that was my goal for Saturday. Remember when I mentioned eating non-stop, this is pretty much when it began. My first stop was the Blue Moon activation where I got to try both the original and Mango Wheat beers. Mango wheat was delicious and worth trying even if you aren’t usually a beer person. They also had super cute swag, including free screen printed bandanas.

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After my fill of Blue Moon, I headed into one of the indoor event spaces that utilizes the existing fairgrounds infrastructure. Inside there were a ton of art displays, vendors and all kinds of food and drink options. I grabbed barbacoa tacos from Madre a Cali based Oaxacan restaurant. They were delicious and a little spicy. While I was browsing the art, I also snagged Meatballs and garlic bread from the Morton’s Steakhouse stand.

With a belly full of delicious food, I headed back out to catch Cheat Codes, Sublime with Rome, One Republic and The Artisanals. All put on great shows, but Sublime and One Republic were favorites for me.

As I mentioned, this was a non-stop eating day so I also snagged some of our catered media dinner. This is a great place to say thank you to the team that welcomed us there. We were so well taken care of and the food was really delicious in our media area. It was absolutely key in getting through the long days.

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After finishing like my eighth meal of the day, I split time between the headlining sets for Dave Matthews Band and the Black Eyed Peas. I was surprised by how fast these two days went, there was just so much to do and check out.

The trip back to the hotel was relatively quick and I finished the day with some popcorn and Gatorade. Also maybe some candy.

DAY THREE

Wow! The time absolutely flew by at KAABOO. I was bound and determined to soak up every ounce of sun and music on the final day, so I headed in as early as I could. I made the decision to get a hotel near the airport on my final night since I had an early morning flight – I would recommend this option if you don’t mind making a move on the last day.

I got to the festival right as gates opened and was ready to dance and walk off all the food I ate the day before. I spent the early part of the  day catching sets from Xavier Rudd, Toots a& The Maytals, Alec Benjamin, and Perta. Great sets and really an eclectic set of music for the early afternoon – in a great way.

I grabbed another Aperol Spritz and a couple of fried items, including a delicious corndog for an afternoon pick me up. Then headed out to catch much anticipated sets from The Bangles and the Revivalists. Both sets were absolutely amazing. It was so cool to see an all female band and to see The Bangles still totally rocking. The Revivalists put on an energetic and excellent show as well. It was amazing seeing the entire band get down off the stage and jump into various parts of the crowd with their instruments in tow.

At 6:45 I headed into the media area for an announcement from Jason Felts – Partner and Chief Brand and Marketing Officer for KAABOO. And that announcement turned out to be a big one. KAABOO will officially be moving to San Diego, specifically to Petco Park (where the Padres play) – starting in 2020. He also announced next year’s festival dates as September 18 -20, 2020. KAABOO Del Mar will now be known as KAABOO San Diego. It was pretty cool to get to be in the group hearing that announcement and then going back out and seeing that the festival had the new branding up on some of the big screens.

I finally got the opportunity to scope out the comedy tent – Humor Me – and grabbed a seat for Wayne Brady’s show. He was as funny, if not funnier than expected. The entire show was improv based and pulled in a lot of fun audience participation. The Humor Me tent is open to all attendees – though there is a line if you don’t buy an extra ticket. The tickets ranged in price from around $20 to $50 for specific shows and included both a drink and a guaranteed seat. I think it would definitely be worth buying a ticket in advance if you knew there was someone you wanted to see for sure. This comedy set was a blast.

My final set of the festival was Duran Duran. They put on a fantastic show and it was a really fun way to end the day and the festival.

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FINAL TAKEAWAYS:

  • The KAABOO brand continues to take festivals to the next level, providing an upscale, grown up environment.
  • There are no porta potties
  • There were families, but the festival didn’t attract a ton of young kids so the vibe was mellow throughout.
  • Lines for food and drink were reasonable and everything that I tried was awesome
  • There were a lot of awesome beverage options – with activations from Aperol, Hendricks, Blue Moon, and tons of wineries.
  • Speaking of Hendricks, their activation was hilarious and amazing and almost indescribable. They had this little tower with spots where various actors were peeking out and entertaining the crowd with ridiculously hilarious jokes and activities. It was a ton of fun to spend time checking out their “show” while waiting for a drink. They also had super swag and free hot air balloon rides
  • Parking and navigating were very easy. Things will obviously be a bit different next year, but given KAABOO’s experience I expect great things.
  • The move to a ballpark will be pretty cool – especially if the KAABOO Texas setup from Dallas was any indication.
  • There are so many activities and stages to check out. The time flew by and this is a festival I strongly recommend everyone get out to at least once!

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Seriously the weekend absolutely flew by. I met so many awesome people and got to check out a bunch of acts I had been wanting to see for awhile. It will be exciting to continue to watch KAABOO grow and change. We are especially excited to see what the new digs have in store for us next year.

As always, we love to hear from other festival goers. Please let us know if you went to KAABOO this year or hope to in the future. Tell us all about your experience or what your favorite aspects of the festival were. Do you have tips we missed? Because if so, we always love to catch those too. See you all soon!

PS: Look out for some more photos coming soon! We want to get a bunch more edited to share with you guys!

 

 

 

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