Like any big festival, fans are forced to deal with overlapping set times and choices must be made. On Saturday night at KAABOO Del Mar, two polar opposite headliners split the biggest crowd of the weekend in two.
With matching 90-minute set times of 8:25 to 9:55 p.m., New York’s DJ duo The Chainsmokers and legendary Boston-bred rock quintet Aerosmith squared off in what looked like, at least on paper, an unfair fight.
The 4-time Grammy-winning veteran Aerosmith has been around for nearly 50 years, is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and has released 15 studio albums.
When The Chainsmokers’ Andrew Taggart was born, Aerosmith had already released 10 of those albums, and the popular DJ pair does not yet have a full-length release to their names.
But if the sizes of each of their respective crowds were taken into consideration, these were two heavyweights engaged in a title bout.
Taggart and musical partner Alex Pall started right on time, but got off to what could have been a very rocky start.
After whipping the enormous crowd into a frenzy by teasing them with a sampling of “Roses (feat. Rozez),” their 14-time platinum 2015 smash single, Pall fell off of the sizable DJ station. For a moment, it seemed like the highly anticipated show was going to end before it even got started.
But Pall was okay, bounced right back up, and shook it off with a smile.
“Holy s***!” he told the crowd while laughing. “I just ate s*** off that stage!”
Fortunately for everyone involved, it was the only discernable hiccup in an otherwise electric performance.
Ripping through a set that was a mix of their own hit singles, high-energy trap breaks, and recognizable hip-hop/pop songs, The Chainsmokers brought a palpable, late-hour EDM festival feel to its headlining slot.
The gigantic video screens, on the “table” that housed the pair’s mixers and massive one directly behind them, both flashed a non-stop parade of images.
Serene scenes of nature, geometric shapes, and The Chainsmokers themselves all made appearances as pyrotechnics burst and flared to the beats.
People were packed into the areas surrounding the infield’s Grandview stage, but many of them still found a small bit of room to dance, shake and jump around.
And everyone sang.
Whether it was hits by Bone Crusher, The Eurythmics, Kanye West, or the recent single from Kungs, the entire crowd seemingly knew the words.
When The Chainsmokers played its own songs, it was deafening. The choruses when “Roses” was played, as well as the multi-platinum single “Don’t Let Me Down (feat. Daya),” might have been heard as far south as La Jolla.
While many fans went from one stage to the other to catch some of both performances, this was a symbolic tale of two headlining shows. It was the juxtaposition of one crowd, with short attention spans and a musical legacy of paying $1.29 for digital singles, versus another raised on albums and wanting to check a legacy act off of their must-see lists.
It would be a mistake for fans of either camp to write the other off. The history of Aerosmith and the energy of The Chainsmokers closed Saturday night in spectacular fashion.
And the best part of KAABOO is that there’s room for them both.
Live coverage from KAABOO Del Mar 2016 »
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to firstname.lastname@example.org.