The current state of music festivals is overwhelming to say the least. Each year, starting in March with the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Music, Film and Tech Conference in Austin, the floodgates open and what follows is eight consecutive months of musical extravagance in competition, each with its own specialization and demography. The Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas is essentially a giant rave (remember that?). Michigan’s Electric Forest is for ravers and hippies – the distinction is negligible, I know. Rocklahoma is, you guessed it, a rock festival in Oklahoma.
Yet Coachella, with an attendance of around 99,000 per day, according to a 2018 Goldenvoice report, continues to be one of America’s most popular music gatherings. In large part, that’s because of the headlining talent it attracts – what other festival, aside from maybe Jay-Z’s Made in America, could attract someone as tall as Beyoncé? However, Coachella is one of the few festivals that succeeds although it caters to a more specialized audience. Its lineup this year included everyone from K-pop group Blackpink to Australian indie rock band Tame Impala and legendary electronic music iconoclast Aphex Twin. Moreover, people are willing to spend the whole day in the middle of a dusty desert for this. It’s an epicenter of glamor – a site where influencers are born, Instagram feeds are inundated, and where the average person (with $ 400 to spare) can share the same desert landscape with celebrities.
Still, it raises the inevitable question: if you’re going to have a music festival, why not do it in a much more attractive location? Like, for example, San Diego. The easy answer is the space available. Woodstock did not take place in Max Yasgur’s dairy farm for the sake of locally sourced Münster. This turns out to be less of a concern, however; While previous San Diego festivals struggled to find the right location (like Street Scene, which ended in 2009), there are now three big festivals here: Kaaboo at Del Mar Fairgrounds, and two near the bay, Crssd (pronounced “Crossed”) and this year’s first Wonderfront. While festivals in other cities, like FYF Fest in LA and Sasquatch in George, Washington, have been canceled or suspended, festivals in San Diego appear to be holding up. Crssd and Kaaboo, who both debuted in 2015, are each sold out. The San Diego Union-Tribune estimated the daily attendance of the latter at 40,000. And Kaaboo has even grown; it now also hosts festivals in Texas and the Cayman Islands. (To our knowledge, Ja Rule has not been hired as a brand ambassador.)
As San Diego increasingly becomes a music festival destination, attendees have more options to choose from, more on that right.