The final day of KAABOO Del Mar 2018 began early on Sunday, September 16th under balmy southern California skies. Early bird concert goers again were greeted by light crowds and some great sets of music. By 1 PM an energetic young crowd had gathered in the courtyard in front of the chill Tourmaline stage. The Los Angeles based Vista Kicks treated the gathering to a spirited set. Ever since the four young musicians in the band moved from their hometown of Sacramento to a tiny apartment in Hollywood in 2015, Vista Kicks have been making a name for themselves in the southern California music scene. The young long-haired musicians have a very retro almost Beatlesque sound. The band's youthful good looks and the sheer musicality of their endeavors have led to a loyal following of excited young fans. The group features Derek Thomas on guitar, keyboards, and vocals, Sam Plecker on guitars and vocals, Trevor Sutton on bass and vocals and Nolan Le Vine on drums and vocals. The band immediately launched into a very retro sounding set of music mostly culled from their new album, Twenty Something Nightmare and their debut album from last year, Booty Shakers Ball. The band definitely has more in common with the pop music of the 60’s and 70’s, than most of the other bands in the Indie pop world today. But in their case, that is a compliment as the band producers a rich pop sound not unlike that of the Raspberries. But somehow the band portrays their retro drenched music as fresh and new, and the young crowd at KAABOO responded accordingly.
Nearby at the Encinitas Trestles stage a true blues-rock icon, representing the other end of the generational spectrum from Vista Kicks, played a set for a much older audience. The 75-year-old Chicago blues guitar master, Elvin Bishop, led a trio through a crowd-pleasing set of classic Blues rock. Bishop has played in many bands, but it was his participation in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band that garnered him an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. Bishop played his beloved Gibson ES-345 "Red Dog,” guitar with the trio, pulling most of the setlist from his newest album, the 2017 Elvin Bishop's Big Fun Trio. The set included a hilarious song from the album, “Something Smells Funky Round Here.” The song, a not so subtle swipe at the current president featured bandmates Willy Jordan and Bob Welsh on lead vocals and lead guitar respectively.
On the main Sunset Cliffs stage, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors brought their folksy, feel-good sound from Memphis to a sweaty crowd sweltering in the early afternoon sun. Meanwhile, on the far side of the venue, Detroit rapper Quin XCII was playing a very different set of his own unique mix of hip-hop, reggae and EDM music to a delighted young audience.
Back on the Sunset Cliffs yet another utterly different genre could be heard as the 90s supergroup TLC took the stage. The R&B trio dominated that decade with nine top 10 hits on the Billboard 100. TLC was actually the second most successful girl group in history, selling over 65 million records. Only the Spice Girls have topped that feat. The band initially featured the singing trio of "Chilli" Thomas, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, and Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. After the untimely death of Lopes in a car crash, the group took a hiatus. But they returned as a duo in 2015 and later released a new album, TLC with the help of Kickstart in 2017. The duo backed by a rocking R&B band wowed a large crowd in the afternoon San Diego sunshine. The pair traded vocals and joined a troupe of dancers for numerous dance routines as they belted out old and new hit songs.
Over on the Encinitas Trestles stage, the first hard rock band of the day was belting out some great Post Grunge material. The Seattle band Candlebox featuring original lead singer Kevin Martin was another 90’s phenom forming at the beginning of that heady decade for hard rock. The band played material from their 2016 album Disappearing in Airports as well as classic hits from their early platinum-selling albums like their most significant songs “Far Behind” and “You.”
That set opened the door to a train of multi-generational hard rock acts. On the Grandview stage, the All American Rejects played a sweltering set in the late afternoon sun. The Oklahoma Alternative rockers came on the music scene a decade after Candlebox, but arrived with no less veracity and have sold over 10 million records since their self-titled debut album in 2003. The band featured the animated bass player and lead vocalist, Tyson Ritter who guided the band through a big energy crowd-pleasing set.
Back across the vast venue on the Sunset Cliffs main stage, one of the most anticipated sets of the day offered up some of the best hard rock of the festival. Iconic guitar player Slash joined Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators for an ear-piercing guitar drenched orgy of rock. The band, which initially formed for Slash’s solo project have stayed together touring while Slash was back with Guns N Roses. The group is a powerhouse of live hard rock on their own. Adding Slash to the mix creates another dimension resulting in a wall of pure hard rock sound that few bands can match. Kennedy once jammed with members of Led Zeppelin and was considered as a replacement for Robert Plant on a possible tour. The full-throated singer beamed a wild smile through most of the set at KAABOO Sunday afternoon, as did the other members of the band. Even the usually stoic Slash cracked an occasional smile, seeming to enjoy the jam rock atmosphere to the fullest. The massive crowd of mostly young music fans waiting to hear rapper Wiz Khalifa and pop star Katy Perry seemed to be in awe of the explosive live performance by the band. The Conspirators bounced off each other and Slash as Kennedy stoked the crowd into a sweaty late afternoon frenzy.
Over on the Grandview main stage Seattle rockers, Alice N' Chains were playing a no less intense heavy metal set. The band that formed back in 1987 was at the forefront of Grunge rock and probably the heaviest version of that genre of rock. The band featured lead singer and rhythm guitarist William DuVall who joined the veteran rockers over a decade ago after the untimely death of original lead singer Layne Staley in 2002. DuVall has come into his own in the group and brought the intensity of the band to a new level. The show featured a blaring backdrop of lights that looked like the headlights from a convoy of trucks. Guitarist Jerry Cantrell lead the veteran rockers through a 15 song setlist ending with the band’s biggest hit “Rooster.”
An entirely different generation of music fans was crowding around the smaller Encinitas Trestles stage for a set full of well-known hit songs by the rock band War. The band initially organized by 60’s rock star Eric Burdon in 1969, was one of the first rock bands to mix genres including elements of rock, funk, jazz, Latin, rhythm and blues, and reggae. The set at KAABOO was full of classic sing-along hits featuring the only official original member of the band is singer and keyboardist Leroy "Lonnie" Jordan. But in a surprise appearance, original harmonica player Lee Oskar joined the band for this special set. The 70-year-old Danish harp player was an essential element of War and hadn’t played with the group officially since 1994. With the harp master in the fold, the band wowed the crowd with 8 of their biggest hit songs, leaving the packed audience screaming for more.
As the sun painted the Sunset Cliffs stage in an orange hue contemporary hip-hop star, Wiz Khalifa led a rock-infused funky band through an explosive set leaving tens of thousands of screaming young fans in a frenzy. The beaming rapper played his biggest hits bouncing all about the stage. At one point he displayed his trademark move lighting up what appeared to be a huge joint. The impish rapper took a few puffs then flicked it into a roaring crowd. A staple in dance clubs across the country Khalifa’s biggest hits were well known to young dance music fans, and the young audience seemed enraptured by the charismatic rapper.
Speaking of charismatic, folk rock sensation Jewel was capturing the imagination of a large crowd back over on the Encinitas Trestles stage. The singer with the voice of an angel has sold over 30 million records since her recording debut back in 1995. The 44-year-old singer-songwriter has produced a dozen full-length albums since them chock full of hit songs. The masterful performer is known to pick her songs randomly often asking the audience what they want to hear during a live performance. The KAABOO set included a 16 song setlist featuring several covers. The encore finale featured a stirring cover of the Led Zeppelin classic “Whole Lotta Love,” in a tribute to headliner Robert Plant who was yet to play.
As the sun faded on KAABOO 2018, an interesting dichotomy began to occur as the two final headliners prepared to play. On the one hand, thousands of mostly very young music fans gathered at the Sunset Cliffs stage for Katy Perry’s final performance of her Witness world tour, which began over a year ago. Meantime thousands of mostly older rock music fans assembled in front of the Grandview stage to hear rock icon Robert Plant perform with his band the Sensational Space Shifters. Perry delighted legions of glitter wearing tweens with her massive fairy tale set, emerging from a spaceship dressed in a Catwoman like outfit. With her crack band, a multitude of dancers, countless costume and set changes she awed the young crowd.
Meanwhile, on a stark stage across the venue, Plant replaced style with substance performing music from his latest album with his band of veteran rockers and occasionally veering into Led Zeppelin material capturing the nostalgic imagination of the massive crowd. Bemused parents could be seen all across the venue sending their prodigy off to watch Perry as they gravitated to Plants enrapturing set. Plant came out firing Zeppelin hits straight at the KAABOO crowd opening with “Good Times Bad Times” and “The Lemon Song.” In fact, more than half of the 15 song setlist featured Zeppelin classics pleasing the crowd to no end. At the same time, Perry tore through a 20-song set list including all of her biggest hits, giving parents enough time to walk back over and collect their kids after Plants set ended. It was sheer genius planning by KAABOO organizers and a triumphant end to an incredibly diverse three-day musical orgy.