Overcast skies and cool tempered weather greeted attendees on Sunday morning for the third and final day of KAABOO. Those that made it to the earlier sets were few but relished in their fleeting moments of personal space. The few walking the grounds quickly hit up merch and swag booths to grab any items that had caught their eye over the course of the weekend before the lines became too long.
KAABOO is more than custom bandanas (though those are awesome) and Smirnoff fanny packs (also awesome) and as such, the day began with Fishbone at the Sunset Cliffs.The crowd surrounding the main stage was small but full of zest and exploded in adoration when Fishbone finally arrived. It takes a real fan to show up at 1:00 p.m. on the third day of a festival, which meant everyone present was into the tunes. Fishbone brought their A game and immediately electrified the crowd with “Sunless Saturday.”
Once Fishbone brought out the brass section though, things started to heat up. Just about everyone in attendance started getting down like it was the first show of the weekend, and it only got better from there. Keeping a focus on high energy and the horns, Fishbone fired right into “Ma & Pa.” The sun was just poking out from behind the cloud cover, but the heat couldn’t stop fans from jamming out. With sweat-stained shirts, a good majority of those in attendance started a moshing/skanking/dancing circle by the front and kept it going through the remainder of the set. With second-hand energy from a set like that, who needs coffee anyway?
After Fishbone, fans headed to the opposite side of the grounds to catch T-Pain at the Grandview stage. T-Pain started right on time with an opening jam from his DJ. The crowds were still pouring in when T-Pain finally ran out smiling and singing “Can’t Believe It.” The Nappy Boy Entertainment affiliate turned the Grandview stage into a club with little effort thanks to his larger than life personality. Hey, it isn’t easy being on stage alone, but you wouldn’t know it watching T-Pain. And once he went into “Cyclone,” it was game over. Instantly the crowd was transported to a nightclub, and every person in attendance was getting down. It’s amazing how many club bangers T-Pain has created over the years, all of which are a blast to witness at a live show. But fans did more than just witness; they partied with the best of them as T-Pain lead them in an all-out dance party. But don’t think for a second T-Pain was just the MC for the afternoon. No, no T-Pain himself was boogieing harder than any man, woman or child in attendance, busting out the moonwalk and some impressive pop lock skills.
After cruising through an all-star hits catalog that included, “Buy U A Drank,” “Black and Yellow,” and “Good Life” T-Pain paused for a bit to show off his impressive vocal chops by singing the chorus of “I’m Sprung” a capella. But after that, the hits and good times kept rolling for the remainder of this set. Without a doubt, this was one of the most fun and unexpectedly great sets of the weekend.
Still riding high from T-Pain, fans made their way to Pete Yorn at the nearby Trestles stage. With no more than a quick “hello, KAABOO,” Pete Yorn and Co. started into “Summer Was A Day.” The vibe was significantly more mellow than the show preceding it, but fans enjoyed the break, casually bobbing along to the tunes. The four-piece indie band was a refreshing change of pace for fans looking to soak in some good music before preparing for the final leg of the weekend.
After their first song, Yorn and crew picked up the tempo ever so slightly with “Screaming at the Setting Sun.” His brand of rock is the kind best enjoyed with a cold beer, which is probably why most of the audience was clutching an icy brew while drinking in the music. From there, Yorn played the first song off of his first ever record, “Life on a Chain.” Fans went wild for this one and began singing along with the New Jersey-born rocker.
As the sun began to set on the third and final day of KAABOO, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Jackson Browne made his way out to the Trestles stage. The moment he walked out, the crowd immediately got on their feet and erupted in applause for the Los Angeles artist. Without any introduction, Browne grooved into a fantastic live rendition of “You Love The Thunder.” The crowd was a bit on the older side, but that didn’t stop fans from singing along and cheering until their voices went hoarse for Browne and company. From there, they went into “The Long Way Around,” causing an equal amount of applause and head bobbing.
The VIP and GA areas were packed tight with Browne fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the legendary musician, but it wasn’t just the older side of the crowd for long. As Browne and his band continued to shred on their respective instruments, more attendees walking by were drawn in by the siren song. Before long, festival-goers filled any and all available space near the Trestles stage to groove along to Browne’s melodic and sunny tunes.
And just like that, the final act of the weekend had arrived. It’s always a bittersweet experience reaching the end of an epic festival weekend like KAABOO. On the one hand, swollen feet and dirty clothing make the mundane work week sound inviting. And on the other, it’s a rare event to witness such musical excellence surrounded by people equally enthused about the experience. But either way, the time had come for Tom Petty, and it seemed just about everyone at KAABOO had shown up to see the legendary rocker.
As could be expected with a headliner like Tom Petty, the Sunset Cliffs stage was jam-packed well before he and his Heartbreakers reached the stage. Fans were shoulder to shoulder as far as the eye could see, all waiting with bated breath for the final set of the weekend to begin.
When the spotlights hit the night sky signaling the start of Petty’s set, the Del Mar Racetrack erupted in hoots and hollers. Petty addressed the crowd and then went into one of the first songs off of his first record, “Rockin Around (With You).”From there, Petty and co ran through classics like, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “Roll Another Joint” and “Forgotten Man” before dedicating “I Won’t Back Down” to those affected by Harvey and Irma.
While it’s a fact that the majority of songs in Petty’s catalog are classics, nothing compares to thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people singing “Free Fallin” in unison. It’s times like these that make the lines and the heat of festivals bearable, when a group of individuals from all different backgrounds singing (mostly out of tune) at the top of their lungs.
Though his set closely mirrored that of Arroyo Seco a few months back, Petty and his crew did switch up things up here and there. For somebody who is surely making a boatload of cash on this tour, it’s nice to see Petty will still take the time to create personalized moments throughout his tour.
All in all, KAABOO offered a fantastic festival experience. Great beer and the stellar music was within arms reach at all times, and it would be hard to find a group of friendlier people. Closing the weekend with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers felt right, and after three days of sun, music, and memories, it was time to go home.
Until next time, you stay classy, San Diego.
Photo Credit: Boston Lynn Schulz