Sold-out KAABOO Del Mar opens under sunny skies to enthusiastic, multi-generational audience


KAABOO Del Mar’s 2018 edition has arrived in a big way, four years after the ambitious annual music, comedy, food, drink and art festival made its debut at the Del Mar Racetrack and adjacent fairgrounds.

This year, the upscale three-day fete sold out in advance for the first time. That didn’t come as a surprise to Curtis and Mikki Stoklos of Oceanside, who have attended KAABOO since its inception.

“My husband doesn’t like crowds,” said Nikki, 48, a tax consultant, as the band Everclear performed its song “Wonderful” on the nearby MGM Resorts Grandview Stage early Friday afternoon. “But I brought him here the first year, in 2015, to see the Zac Brown Band, and he loved it. They have a lot of variety and you get to hear bands you’ve never heard before.”

Curtis, a 47-year-old Amazon employee smiled and nodded.

“For people who live in North County,” he said, “this is it. KAABOO is what everybody is doing this weekend.”

“Plus,” Mikki added, “we get to sleep in our own beds!”

Not so for Ventura County’s Helena Ulloa, 21; Day Duarte, 22; Lauren Boniface, 24; and Kaitlyn Hensley, 25. All work at the Center for Autism Related Disorders in Thousand Oaks and are KAABOO neophytes.

“We came here because we were looking up where Halsey was playing and we found KAABOO,” Hensley said. “And we all want to see Earth, Wind & Fire.”

“I think it’s great,” added Duarte, “although I didn’t like the lines. It took 40 to 45 minutes to get in.”

Southbound traffic on Interstate 5 from San Luis Obispo was backed up, as much because of the usual Friday afternoon gridlock through Los Angeles as the increased KAABOO traffic.

As a result, the members of the legendary English band The Zombies arrived barley 45 minutes before their 4:05 p.m. set was scheduled to begin.

“It looks like a fantastic operation here,” said keyboardist Rod Argent.

Singer Colin Blunstone agreed: “It looks like a magnificent operation. Plus,” he joked, “we believe in the power of prayer!”

Veteran KOGO radio host and KUSI economic analyst Robert “Sully” Sullivan was attending KAABOO for the fourth year. This time, however, he isn’t here in his media capacity.

“I’m performing Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at the Tourmaline Stage with my funk, soul and reggae band, Sully & The Souljahs.

The nine-piece group includes some of San Diego’s top musicians and a special guest star on drums — Steve Ferrone — who should be familiar to anyone who saw Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers perform at the 2017 edition of KAABOO, barely a month before Petty’s sudden death. Ferrone was the Heartbreakers’ longtime drummer.

“We’re releasing our first single, ‘Best Damn Fool,’ on Sunday and since Steve plays on that track, he said he wanted to come down and play with us,” said Sullivan, 58, who has never before performed at a festival.

“It’s significantly different to be here as a performer and see how the sausage is made, so to speak. Because I’ve always looked at this in terms of the economic impact it creates for San Diego. To suddenly be thrust into this as a performer is a whole other experience, because now I’m looking at it as an entertainer.

“And, arguably, it’s a lot more fun. I’m having fun! And the cool thing is when you you go into the artist’s lounge at KAABOO and see the lead singer of Everclear or someone who is iconic walk by.”

Friday’s scheduled headliners include Foo Fighters, Post Malone, Blondie and comedian and TV host Craig Ferguson.

The festival continues Saturday with a lineup topped by Imagine Dragons and Earth, Wind & Fire. Sunday’s headliners includes Katy Perry, former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, who is performing with Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators, and former San Diego troubadour Jewel, who has reportedly requested to meet Plant after their respective performances.

Twitter: @outdoorlivingsd