With No Doubt’s 30th anniversary looming next year, the Orange County-bred quartet is surpassed only by X, Los Lobos and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band as the longest-lived group performing at this weekend’s KAABOO Del Mar festival.
We spoke recently with No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal. Now 45, he was a teenager when he joined the fledgling ska-rock group in 1986. Here are excerpts from our conversation.
Q: What was the first festival you attended and who performed?
A: Oh boy! I think it was Lollapalooza, when it was a traveling festival, at Irvine Meadows in 1992. I think Pearl Jam was on the bill, and I remember sitting way at the top, in the lawn section.
Q: What do you remember about playing the San Diego Street Scene festival in 1991?
A: That was a great show. It was a really hot day and we were starting a two-months van tour. Street Scene was the first gig. The second was in Detroit, two nights later. We played Street Scene, got into the van - drenched in sweat - and did a 42-hour, nonstop drive to Detroit. It’s one of those really strong memories we all have, because it was such a formative time; it was “us against the world.”
Q: What are the key components that make for a really good festival?
A: What it boils down to is the vibe of the audience. If they’re having a good time, we’re having a good time. We feed off them.
Q: How is it different to connect with a big festival audience than a club crowd?
A: There’s a different beauty to big and small audiences, and I don’t think one is better. You can do a small club show and the energy is so contained. Then you play these big festivals, and have 50,000 people waving their hands in the air with you.
Q: KAABOO is being held at the Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds. Ever been there?
A: No, I never have. But we’re so excited to play it. It’s our first Southern California show since 2012, and our first San Diego show since 2009.
Q: If anyone had told you, in 1986, that No Doubt would still be around in five years, let alone 29 years, how would you have reacted?
A: (Laughs) Starting out, you’re just doing it because you love it so much; that’s what I remember about us. Looking back now, some of the things that seemed like big obstacles seem so small now - “Wow, how will we get through this?” But we always did.