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Tom Petty Closes 2017 KAABOO Music Festival With Hits, Album Classics

During his two hours on stage, Petty played the hits and delved into album territory.

“Thanks for 40 years,” Tom Petty shouted out to the thousands of people gathered near the Sunset Cliffs stage at the KAABOO festival in Del Mar, Calif. on Sunday, Sept. 17. His two-hour set, the final performance of the three-day gathering, was a celebration of those four decades.

Petty, along with the Heartbreakers, opened with “Rockin’ Around (With You),” the first track on their very first album. Some 120 minutes later, Petty ended the festival with the last track on that debut release, “American Girl.” His eponymous LP debuted on The Billboard 200 the week ending Sept. 24, 1977, so the KAABOO performance really hit the exact 40-year mark of Petty’s long and successful career.

During his two hours on stage, Petty played the hits, like “Free Fallin’,” “Refugee” and “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” but he also delved into album territory, with tracks like “Crawling Back to You” from the 1994 solo release Wildflowers. The set was balanced between uptempo numbers and ballads. There was scattered dancing for the former, and quiet reverence for the latter.


There was non-stop dancing earlier in the day for Andy Grammer’s performance on the Grandview stage. Fans worked up their own choreography to “Fresh Eyes,” “Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)” and Grammer’s biggest hit, “Honey, I’m Good.” Grammer also went for the sentimental, singing “Spaceship,” a song he wrote for his seven-week-old daughter while she was still in her mother’s womb. “I sing it to her all the time,” Grammer told Billboard in a pre-show chat outside his dressing room.

Grammer is no stranger to festivals, having played BottleRock and Arroyo Seco Weekend. “It’s a little more freeform when you play a festival,” Grammer said. “The set times are longer. You’re outside and people are sweaty. It’s looser, which lends itself to good music and a good community hang.”

As KAABOO came to a successful conclusion, the multitudes not only enjoyed the music, they indulged in everything the festival had to offer, from a full-size swimming pool to haircuts and beard trims to chair massages. Mercedes Benz, one of the sponsors, had models on display and a test track simulator. There was food everywhere, from vendors like Oodles of Noodles, Rita’s Italian Ice, Sambazon’s acai superfruit from the Amazon, the Gouda Guys’ take on mac and cheese and dozens more.


Art installations were everywhere and if you were wearing a wristband that indicated you were over 21, there were plenty of places offering alcohol. Water was $5 a bottle, but you could refill it endlessly at hydration stations throughout the three days.

For those who couldn’t get enough KAABOO, tickets are already on sale for the 2018 event.