California's KAABOO Del Mar is a perfect mix of the new and old

A blast from the past and future, apparently.

click to enlarge Katie Toupin plays KAABOO Music Festival  in Del Mar, California on September 14, 2018 - Tracy May
Tracy May
Katie Toupin plays KAABOO Music Festival in Del Mar, California on September 14, 2018

“You’ve seen acts like Robert Plant this weekend, which most likely has you feeling very nostalgic,” headliner Katy Perry shouted into an ocean of fans on Sunday night at the close of three fun-filled days at KAABOO Del Mar. Fans of all ages surrounded the brightly colored stage to “Witness” the Super Bowl XLIX performer, instead of seeing the Led Zeppelin frontman at the other end of San Diego Racetrack and Fairgrounds.

“I also wanna take you back to the good times, a time before the internet,” the “California Gurl” said in between high speed and remixed versions of her classics like “Hot N Cold,” “Swish Swish,” “Firework” and more. Perry took half a breath and a cover of Joan Osborne’s 1995 hit “One of Us” came out.

All the photos from KAABOO Del Mar 2018

If the 90s are when America was great then living your best life meant going to KAABOO. This not-your-average music fest was more like a time machine trip to when scrunchies, Mary Kate & Ashley and “Not hav[ing] sexual relations with that woman” were popular — Incubus, TLC, Foo Fighters, Melissa Etheridge and more made crowds reminisce during the fourth year of the southern California festival that sold out thanks to a lineup jam-packed with popular bands from different decades and genres.

The funky pop group Earth, Wind & Fire may have dropped its self-titled album in 1970, but was the group was still anticipated and celebrated by old and young festival-goers on Saturday night. Billy Idol put out punk dance hit “Dancing With Myself” in 1981 but didn’t let physical signs of aging stop him from going shirtless and singing provocative classics about sex and drugs.

While older ensembles remembered the years of their prime, Post Malone (born in 1995), remembered a time when his friend and fellow rapper Mac Miller was still alive. “Y’all know I’ve had a couple of tough weeks. But I’m happy to be back on stage,” the 23 year-old admitted on Friday while pouring out some of his red solo cup for his homie and wearing an airbrushed jersey that read “R.I.P Mac Miller.” Thirty-one year-old rapper Wiz Khalifa also paid homage to Miller and young Pittsburgh rapper Jimmy Wopo before singing his famous duet with Charlie Puth, “See You Again” during his Sunday afternoon concert.

Like the performers, KAABOO’s crowd consisted of humans from every walk of life. Month-old babies were snuggled up in their strollers with noise-cancelling headphones on, toddlers were breaking it down during Wiz’s raunchy performance, brace-faced teenagers blushed when they were caught on the jumbotron lighting one up, and grey haired individuals and couples were definitely not too old for this shit and fit right in.

KAABOO did its part in providing fun for all ages — customers were subject to a slew of entertainment. “KAABOO-ers” were not only engulfed in incredible music but were able to do things like take a free ride in Hendricks Gin’s hot air balloon, watch ARTWORK come together as artists spray painted and meticulously sketched murals all over the venue, enjoy gourmet food in PALATE and receive free samples from health-conscious brands like Hippeas, Odwalla and RXBAR. The fest also included air conditioned bathroom trailers rather than port-a-potties, which are usually the biggest party pooper of festival life.

Going to KAABOO was like taking a trip down memory lane to when festivals were all about the people who went.

“I’ve gone to [KAABOO] for three years and they’ve changed every year. It’s because we would give their people constructive criticism, and they listen and implement change for a better experience” a middle-aged woman at the airport, satisfied with her weekend trip to San Diego said.

Today music festivals have become more about the numbers than the experience. Despite KAABOO being sold-out, plenty of room was open to dance to your faves and everyone (besides that one couple fighting off to the side) looked like they were genuinely enjoying themselves. That included Katy Perry, who is now on a long and well-deserved vacation after a year on her “Witness” tour, which stopped in Tampa last December.

“We thought San Diego would be the cherry on top of a long tour,” she said. During her set, Perry mentioned she was accompanied backstage by childhood friend, Suzanne, who had seen her grow from playing for 20 people to being in arenas and to being the main act of shows.

“It’s truly the end of an era tonight,” the reformed church girl constantly mentioned. It was like a coming of age happened before the crowd’s eyes. After a long set with four costume changes that would have anyone exhausted, Katy still managed to scream, “See you in a couple of years,” as she ominously stepped back into the spaceship she was birthed out of in the opening. Fingers crossed that we don’t have to wait until the new decade.

About The Author

Mady Dudley

Mady Dudley is a born-and-raised "St. Petersburger." She received her bachelors degree in Editing, Writing and Media from Florida State University in May, 2018. Mady enjoys concerts, movies, rollerblading, theater, traveling, food, the company of dogs and spending time with family and friends. 

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