“It’s a beautiful night, KAABOO. KAABOO! KAABOO!” said Daryl Hall, and so it was as the KAABOO Del Mar festival kicked into high gear early Friday evening at the Del Mar Racetrack and adjacent fairgrounds.
It was seven hours into the opening day of the music, comedy, food, drink and lifestyle festival’s second year when Hall and longtime musical partner John Oates took to KAABOO’s largest stage. The recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees ripped into “Maneater” with spunky poise and panache.
As they started their next song, “Out of Touch,” the sun was setting over the ocean behind them and a hot air balloon rose slowly in the air to the right of the massive (and aptly named) Sunset Cliffs stage. It made for a stunning vista that few festivals can equal - a quintessential San Diego moment that also qualified as a quintessential KAABOO moment.
An hour earlier, on the same stage, St. Paul and The Broken Bones’ singer Paul Janeway told the audience: “I gotta be honest. We’re pretty honored to play before Hall & Oates.”
It was a respectful tip of the hat from an up-and-coming, young, blue-eyed-soul band to a duo that all but defined blue-eyed-soul back in the 1970s, and has run with the ball ever since. Hearing the two bands back to back was a treat.
Hall and Oates concluded their set with “Private Eyes.” Alas, Hall’s vocal microphone cut out when he sang while playing guitar, a problem that thankfully did not occur when he sang while playing keyboards on such favorites as the ebullient “I Can’t Go For That.” The sizable audience happily sang along to the choruses of more than a few songs, achieving a particular degree of gusto on Hall & Oates’ version of the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That loving Feeling.”
St. Paul and The Broken Bones did not perform with the same degree of vigor as they did at the 2014 Coachella festival, where Janeway began crowd-surfing during his band’s opening number. But he and his band delivered their slow-burning KAABOO set with a greater degree of polish and confidence.
They may have been inspired by the propulsive funk of Dumpstaphunk and the hard-rocking pyrotechnics of the Jimi Hendrix-quoting guitar virtuoso Orianthi, who each performed earlier Friday on the Sunset Cliffs stage.
But there were also musical pleasures to be had on the intimate Trestles stage, where veteran San Diego troubadour Steve Poltz charmed an enthusiastic audience with his folksy charm and engaging songs. For the Jewel hit “You Were Meant For Me,” which he co-wrote with Jewel, his onetime protégé and former girlfriend, Poltz was joined by 7th Day Buskers leader Shawn Rohlf for a guitar two duet that featured the two of them sharing the same instrument, with Poltz strumming and Rohlf fingering the guitar neck.
“Every guitar tech I’ve ever worked with knows this guitar part,” Poltz told the audience. Then turning to face Rohlf, he added: “But none of them ever had such pretty steel blue eyes as he’s got.”
Over on the Grandview Stage, Sugar Ray drew a sizable crowd for a spirited set of so-so songs. Gavin DeGraw grew the Trestles Stage’s largest audience of the day and delivered a carefully paced set of well-crafted songs. He led the audience in a spirited sing-along on the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” that accounted for one of Friday’s most memorable moments.
Across the festival grounds, the mood was generally mellow, the weather pleasant and mild.
“I think it’s great,” said 26-year-old Golden Hill resident Jessica Cortez, who was attending KAABOO for the first time with her boyfriend, Aaron Hana, 24.
“What I like the most is the diversity of people here. They’re so kind and friendly.”
Hana nodded, adding: “I’m here for the experience of a lifetime.”
Now, up for its second time at bat, KAABOO appears well on its way to realizing the considerable potential it demonstrated last year. It’s a festival designed to provide lots of amenities, many of them geared to an older, well-heeled audience that doesn’t mind paying for VIP amenities.
The festival continues Saturday, when Aerosmith headlines, and concludes Sunday, when Jack Johnson headlines. The size of the audience early Friday evening seemed significantly larger than the audience at KAABOO’s opening night last year, when the fledgling festival debuted amidst considerable expectations.