KAABOO Music festival returned to Southern California on Friday (Sept. 13) at the Del Mar fairgrounds. Just north of San Diego, the three-day festival will celebrate its fifth and sold-out edition with performances from Mumford & Sons, Dave Matthews Band, Sheryl Crow and many more throughout the weekend.
Here are seven highlights from the festival’s first sun-soaked day.
The Plain White T’s get the party going with a sing-along
The gates for KAABOO opened a few minutes later than its scheduled 2 p.m. opening, causing early bird fans to make their way onto the grounds as rock band Plain White Ts began their set. The Illinois band was unphased by the late crowd and soared through a tight 30-minute set. A sizable crowd formed around the USAA Grandview stage as Plain White Ts played their closing song “Hey There Delilah.” Attendees were singing the hit song throughout the festival’s massive sprawl, making it a site-wide sing-along.
Andrew McMahon in the inflatable unicorn
Decked out in maroon pants, gold sunglasses and a skinny tie, Andrew McMahon took over the Sunset Cliffs stage under the afternoon sun. McMahon’s backdrop featured a scene of red and pink rolling sand hills with an umbrella in a fond farewell to the summer season.
“What a beautiful thing to play in the sunshine and celebrate as a community,” McMahon told the crowd. The singer-songwriter climbed all over his piano that was heavily accessorized in various stickers playing through tracks “Dead Man’s Dollar” and “Cecilia and the Satellite.” For his live rendition of “Anesthesia,” McMahon hopped into an inflatable raft shaped like a rainbow unicorn to crowd surf, telling the audience “Don’t be scared. I don’t bite. You going to bounce with me KAABOO?”
Boyz II Men turn up the nostalgia
As the band for Boyz II Men set up, eager fans began to chant for the ’90s R&B group. Original members Shawn Stockman, Nathan Morris and Wanya Morris came out in all-white outfits and immediately launched into 1991 hit “Motownphilly.” The boyband brought out their hits from the legendary harmonies of “On Bended Knee” and “So Hard to Say Goodbye.”
“One season on Dancing With the Stars and he thinks he’s the black Fred Astair,” Stockman jokes about Morris as the former contestant from 2016 began to dance on stage. To close their set of love songs, the group threw several bouquets of roses into the adoring crowd.
Tori Kelly goes acoustic in the Amplify Escape
KAABOO’s Amplify Escape is a haven tucked inside the festival for VIP Hang Five and Hang Ten passholders. The closed-off space has an open turf lawn with special food and beverage options and a private stage for intimate concerts. A standout among the Amplify Escape performers was pop star Tori Kelly, whose powerful voice dominated the serene courtyard. Fans lounged under cabanas as Kelly played through her hits and songs she admitted she’s never performed live before including “The Lie.” Alone on the stage, Kelly silenced the captivated crowd with an acoustic rendition of “Sorry Would Go A Long Way.”
Maren Morris gets personal with all her “favorite people”
Country superstar Maren Morris played KAABOO’s main stage just as the sun was setting in Del Mar. The singer/songwriter kicked off her set with “Girl” in a pair of black Daisy Dukes, telling the women in the crowd they were “looking super cute.” With her blonde hair blowing from the ocean breeze, Morris sang “The Feels,” “’80s Mercedes” and “All My Favorite People.”
“I was dating a super insecure loser,” Morris said of the inspiration for her song “To Hell and Back.” “Never again will I be with someone who wants to water me down,” Morris added. The outspoken advocate for women in country music also told a brief story about how a man in the music industry told her not to release the song “I Could Use a Love Song,” telling the artist that he didn’t think anyone wanted to hear sad women coming out of their radio. Morris joked that the single made it to No. 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart and that guy no longer has a job.
Wu-Tang Clan enters 36 Chambers
Beginning in 2018, iconic hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan has been celebrating the 25th anniversary of their seminal album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). In honor of their 1993 album, the hip-hop collective has been playing the record in its entirety for crowds. At KAABOO, a giant thumping Wu-Tang Clan symbol was barely visible behind the fog of marijuana smoke as the nine-member group entertained the Southern California crowd. Several songs into the album the group asked the audience to amp up: “Is this an assembly or a funeral? Where is the energy?”
Snoop Dogg Closes Out the Night
Following the packed show for Wu-Tang Clan, Southern California native Snoop Dogg closed down the second largest stage at the 2019 festival. The crowd busted out in cheers for Snoop’s greatest hits including “Nuthin’ But G Thing,” “Tha Shiznit,” “All I Do Is Win” and “P.I.M.P.” Snoop was joined on stage by a mascot dog and four pole dancers. During “Next Episode” Snoop yelled for the music to stop, halted the show to take a puff of his blunt and asked the crowd, “What the fuck do we do every day?” As the track played on, the crowd responded “smoke weed every day.”