Day 2 of the 2018 KAABOO Del Mar Festival began as another gorgeous San Diego beach day. Head high waves had surfers up and down the coast flocking to the area beaches. Meanwhile, the music started early at the Del Mar Fairgrounds with bands playing before noon. By early afternoon Minnesota rockers Soul Asylum were lighting up the Grandview main stage with their high energy music. The Grammy-winning band was one of the first bands to be labeled alternative rock back in 1981. The band has had many famous members over the years including fellow Minnesota resident and former drummer for Prince, Michael Bland. But the one constant in the group has been lead vocalist Dave Pirner. Many older music fans in the crowd grew up with the band's music embedded in their culture, primarily due to Pirner’s friendship with filmmaker Kevin Smith. Soul Asylum contributed music to three Kevin Smith films, Clerks, Clerks II, and the 1997 film Chasing Amy. Smith, a fan of the band even directed the music video for the song "Can't Even Tell," which was featured on the Clerks soundtrack. The group turned in a crowd-pleasing high energy performance.
Young electronic rockers Oblivion Her Majesty were playing at the same time on the smallest of the four stages, the Virgin Tourmaline stage. The small stage was one of the most relaxing places to hang out at KAABOO. A grassy courtyard surrounded by high buildings was a perfect place to lay in the sun while listening to the music. In the back, a full bar, with seating inside and out, offered a view of the stage sheltered from the sun. As the band played a trio of acrobats on stilts dressed as giant parrots wandered through the crowd. There were also similar stilt creatures like African animals roaming about, a pair of glistening silver mimes, roller skating acrobats and other street performers mingled all throughout the venue.
On the main Sunset Cliffs stage, the Oakland based surf punk band SWMRS played a high-spirited set well received by a young crowd huddled around the stage in the hot early afternoon sun. At the same time, the Encinitas Trestles stage featured a different generation of post-grunge music from New Orleans rockers, Better Than Ezra. The band played a high energy set which included their hit song “Good” which helped push their 1993 album Deluxe to platinum status. The uplifting set had an older generation of fans dancing and singing in the hot sunshine.
As the afternoon heated up, a large crowd gathered on the main stage for a set by New York singer Bebe Rexha. With her bushy blonde hair and good looks, the singer looks much younger than her 29 years, but the singer has already become a veteran music producer and songwriter as well as a pop sensation. Here music has been recorded by a variety of pop stars in an eclectic mix of musical genres. Country stars Florida Georgia Line, Rap master Eminem, pop sensation Selena Gomez and EDM star David Guetta are just a few of the perfumers who have had hit songs penned by Rexha. The performer launched her own singing career in 2015 and has garnered several hits. Backed by a band of young rockers, the singer danced, pranced and writhed her way through covers of her biggest hit songs of other performers as well as her solo material. A young audience responded enthusiastically to the popular set list.
Meanwhile, nearly a mile away on the other main stage, the Sunset Cliffs stage, EDM sensation Robert DeLong was playing his own unique brand of upbeat dance music. The young performer is the modern equivalent of a one-man band, singing and playing multiple instruments. Beginning his musical career as a drummer, electronic percussions are the center of his presentation, but they are augmented with keyboards, scratch pads, and even items scavenged from video games, like an oversized joystick and a Wii remote. Combined with a strong singing voice the talented performer truly put on a one-man pop performance catering to the crowd's imagination. Occasionally the singer would also pick up traditional instruments like an electric guitar and be joined by a bass and guitar player on several songs. DeLong appears much more youthful than his 32 years and is already a veteran performer.
But another young musician was giving him a run for his money over on the laid-back Tourmaline stage, the smallest and most comfortable of the four live music stages. Ray Goren was performing a set of original neo Blues material. The teenage singer, songwriter and yes, another multi-instrumentalist was playing a searing blues-drenched set to a small but enraptured crowd assembled in the green grassy courtyard. The young teenager, a child musical prodigy had already garnered an impressive library of recorded material going back nearly a decade. The young phenom has been invited to play with countless veteran blues artists as they make their way through the Los Angeles area on tour. Goren has a magnificent voice, a searing guitar style and an ability to incorporate modern electronic sounds into traditional Blues music. The result was one of the best sets of the day, another example of the unique musical juxtapositions found at KAABOO.
Back on the Grandview mainstage, the young crowd assembled for Bebe Rexha stuck around for the next hip-hop act. But they were also augmented by an older crowd, curious to see the veteran rapper, Big Boi. The singer, songwriter, actor and music producer is best known as one half of the hip-hop super-group Outkast. The rap master played solo material as well as Outkast classics like “Ms. Jackson.” A large crowd swarmed the massive stage singing along to the well-known hits.
A very different set was about to take place across the festival grounds at the main Sunset Cliffs stage. San Diego hometown heroes and veteran grunge rockers Stone Temple Pilots took the stage for a late afternoon explosion of intense live rock. The band featured the original powerhouse trio that worked as the heavy rock engine of the group, including guitarist Dean DeLeo, his brother bassist Robert DeLeo, and drummer Eric Kretz. All through the 90’s STP was one of the most popular Grunge bands in the world selling over 18 million records. Popular well into the 21st century the group had the misfortune of losing two famous lead singers, Scott Weiland, and Chester Bennington. The charismatic original singer Weiland was fired from the band and later died of an overdose on a tour bus with another band. He was replaced by the enigmatic lead singer of Linkin Park fame, Chester Bennington. After Bennington left the group, he was found dead of an apparent suicide. Jeff Gutt of X Factor fame became the bands new lead singer last year, and the spirited performer did his best to step into the shoes of his legendary predecessors. The band tore through their set of well-known hits with ear piercing precision. The veteran performers appeared animated and in good spirits, bouncing off one another and engaging with the crowd. Gutt jumped off the massive stage several times and dived into the enormous audience, delighting music fans while horrifying security guards. The band's thunderous beats sounded fresh and timeless exhibiting a true rock spirit.
While STP turned in the best Grunge rock set of the day, the nod for the best of 80’s rock went to the next act on the Grandview stage, Billy Idol. The iconic rocker lead his band of veteran classic rockers through a sing-along set of the groups biggest hits. While the well-known Idol is a larger than life true rock icon, his current band features some of the best musicians of their genre. Original Guitarist Steve Stevens is book-ended by veteran rock guitarist Billy Morrison. The two rockers regularly dueled throughout the set, while a sweaty Idol enraptured the crowd with his performance bathed in the orange glow of the setting sun. At one point the surly singer removed the shirt under his leather jacket, invoking squeals of delight from teenage girls packed tightly at the front of the stage.
A completely different but no less engaging set was taking place at the smaller Encinitas Trestles stage. Veteran singer Melissa Etheridge tore through a set of classic rock sets, displaying her trademark bluesy vocals and guitar prowess. Her band of veteran rockers created a perfect blend of classic rock enveloping the personable singer. A large crowd of older music fans packed the stage tightly as Etheridge displayed surprising dexterity, moving between songs from her newer albums and some of her most classic hit songs from her 30-year career. In addition to drums and lead guitar, the musical maven played a mean harmonica, an acoustic 12 string Ovation guitar, and an electric 12 string Jerry Jones guitar. The backing musicians and backup singers all displayed exceptional musical skills. But it was former Fugees bassist and producer Jerry "Wonda'' Duplessis, who stood out most in the band with his funky bass rhythms.
As the sunset faded, the Indy folk band, The National Parks delighted a crowd lounging in the courtyard in front of the Tourmaline stage. The young Utah band dressed in matching park ranger outfits played a very musical set of original material. A very different genre of music drew a massive crowd to the main Sunset Cliffs stage for a twilight set by rap-rockers N.E.R.D. The band formed back in 1999 featuring rappers Pharrell Williams, Shay Haley and Chad Hugo. The group disbanded for a while, and Pharrell went on to a hugely successful mainstream pop solo career. But the band is back together and true to their roots, their live performance at KAABOO had more in common with Rage Against The Machine, than the pop machinations of Pharrell hits like “Happy.” The group opened with an intense rock drenched info and progressed with Pharrell going on an extended rant berating the crowd. He endlessly urged the crowd to “Open Up” admonishing the packed audience for not allowing enough room to dance. He also scolded the masses for holding up their cell phones. Eventually, he dove deep into the audience creating a dance craze that delighted fans and creating a large mosh pit.
The Grandview main stage ended the evening with a huge dance party featuring musical pioneers, Earth, Wind & Fire. Beginning in 1969 the Chicago band merged R&B, soul, funk, jazz, disco, pop, rock, Latin, and Afro-pop into some of the biggest dance hits of the 70’s and even into the 80’s. The band featured three of the original members, percussionist, and singer Philip Bailey, bassist, and singer Verdine White and drummer and singer Ralph Johnson. The six-time Grammy-winning band played their biggest dance hits whiles thousands of mostly older festival goers danced like they were in a 70’s disco. The nearby bars were packed, and the dance video was truly delightful.
Meanwhile, the closing set by the mainstream Utah rockers, Imagine Dragons garnered a no less enthusiastic but much younger audience en masse. Best known for their big hit song “Radioactive,” the band also currently holds the No. 1. 2 and 3 hits on the Hot Rock songs chart. The band of Mormon rockers is well known for their uplifting music full of positive messaging. Their recent HBO documentary “Believer,” featured the band taking on the Mormon church and how they treat the LGBTQ community. The group opened their set with all members playing percussion, silhouetted by a massive multimedia presentation behind them. Then the band members exploded to life in an animated live performance loaded with beaming smiles and constant eye contact with the audience. But it was the shirtless lead singer, Dan Reynolds that towered literally and figuratively at the front of the stage. The charismatic singer danced about the stage bouncing off other band members and frequently ventured into the crowd. At one point he borrowed a pair of rainbow flags form the audience and draped himself in them exhibiting a roar from the audience. At another time he held up a banner that said: “Destigmatize mental health.” The set included all the bands biggest hits and a cover of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.” It was a bookend of feel-good music on the two main stages as the second night of KAABOO came to a dramatic close.