Walking through the doors of KAABOO earlier this month, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Although the San Diego Music Festival just celebrated its fifth anniversary, 2019 was my first time on the pitch – and I had a lot of questions.
Should I arrive early or wait and stay late? Would my outfit match the weather? What shows should I see? And how the hell can I fit everything on offer at the music festival into one day?
During my eight hours at KAABOO with my festival mate (my mom), I took notes throughout the day and came away with six tips for getting the most out of the event.
By now you’ve probably heard the news that KAABOO is moving from Del Mar to Petco Park in 2020, so next year’s downtown experience will likely have a few differences. However, most of these ideas apply to the San Diego music festival scene as a whole. With CRSSD taking place this weekend and Wonderfront coming in November, here are some lessons I learned at KAABOO 2019.
1. Take the time to explore the place – right away
From food to art to hot air balloons, KAABOO is full of so many other elements besides the scenes. It wasn’t until sunset that I discovered that the Fashion + Indulgences room was an air-conditioned haven and the Artwork + Palate space was filled with craft beer stalls. Make your way to the gates in the early afternoon before the crowds knock on to quietly discover all the amenities before your first set of music.
2. Try your luck on a performance
I don’t really like electronic music (and neither did my mom), so the EDM Cheat Codes trio wasn’t on our radar. But out of curiosity, we strayed from our schedule and headed to a scene next to a show we didn’t like. Our low expectations were blown away by the energetic, interactive performance – which included Trevor Dahl throwing a wad of cash into the crowd – and ended up being one of the highlights of my day.
3. Focus on quality over quantity of music sets
I made the mistake of trying to see a bit of each performance, but by constantly jumping to different stages, we didn’t get the best views for most of the sets. While we could see the crowd enjoying themselves, not being able to see or hear well made us feel indifferent to some performances. If we were closer to the action – since we were on the Squeeze set – I think we might have been more satisfied with shows that disappointed us, like Sublime with Rome and Black Eyed Peas.
4. Don’t be afraid to arrive (or leave) a set earlier
If you’re feeling out of shape – or haven’t secured a spot in the crowd – don’t be afraid to dive in early. Going halfway through a half ass performance can get you a better place for a different show. We didn’t enjoy Blind Melon as much as we thought, so skipping the rest of the set for a top spot in Cheat Codes turned out to be worth the wait. Remember to be patient and polite when walking away from the public so as not to spoil the experience of your neighbors.
5. Eat and drink ahead, but save space
As with any major festival or event, the costs don’t end with the bracelet. Food and drink are expensive and can drain your wallet quite quickly. We had a quick bite on the way up to Del Mar, so we felt a lot less guilty for indulging in dinner: a delicious artichoke sandwich big enough to share. (We drove, but if you’re taking an Uber, Lyft, or public transport, that advice applies to alcohol as well.) Plus, one less food or drink line = over time that you can spend enjoying other aspects of the Festival.
6. Think carefully about your outfit
It is important to plan your outfit well and know that the formula is not universal. For me, it was denim overalls + tank top + Birkenstocks. This combo worked surprisingly well. The large pockets of my overalls allow me to leave my purse at home, and the long pants (paired with a sleeveless top and breezy sandals) protect me from sunburn and keep me warm enough for the evenings without lugging around a bag. jacket.
However, this outfit recipe may not work for everyone. Be realistic about what is most important to you: if you plan to spend a lot of time near the stage, closed-toe shoes may be better; if that’s the sun you’re after, lather up some sunscreen and put on some shorts.
After studying all of these notes, I think the biggest lesson I came away from is pretty clear: a music festival cannot be done in a day. For KAABOO, CRSSD and Wonderfront, take advantage of the 3-day pass to make the most of the festival. Of course, it can be more exhausting, but events like these are almost impossible to do in one go.
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