Wonderfront’s final day characterized by underappreciated indie music, unpredictable rap performances

Broods at Wonderfront
Georgia Josiena Nott (right) and Caleb Allan Joseph Nott of Broods kick off Day 3 of the debut Wonderfront Festival at Embarcadero Marina Park North.
(Sara Butler/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

In the end, EDM may have been the big winner with Big Wild’s well-received set


To say indie music is underappreciated sounds a bit cliché, but the sparse crowds for two of the best performances on the third day of Wonderfront sure lived up to that stereotype.

At 1:15 p.m., New Zealand-based, indie-pop duo Broods kicked off the day at Embarcadero Marina Park North with a solid opening set on Uncle Ed’s D*mn Good Vodka Stage. In particular, frontwoman Georgia Josiena Nott’s powerhouse vocals and cheeky dance moves were equal part impressive and entertaining. Yet the crowd was sparse, with few people engaging with the set or singing along, even to the major hits.

After Broods, the audience moseyed on over to the neighboring C3bank stage to see Japanese Breakfast, aka lo-fi indie artist Michelle Zauner. Unfortunately, like Nott, Zauner’s strong guitar/vocal talent and audience engagement — including jumping on speakers, despite having recently sprained her ankle — didn’t seem to match the lackluster audience.

Japanese Breakfast at Wonderfront
Japanese Breakfast, aka Michelle Zauner, performs an impressive set to an unimpressive crowd size on the final day of Wonderfront.
(Sara Butler)

Aside from a small group dancing during both Broods and Japanese Breakfast — as though they were listening to electronic music acts — the vibe was mostly characterized by head bobs and slight swaying. Though the small crowds were mostly comprised of 20- and 30-year-olds, I was surprised by the number of 50- and 60-year-olds scattered throughout the area. By my suspicion, many of the audience members, especially the older folks, had just stumbled upon the afternoon acts as they entered the Wonderfront gates.

Luckily, the genre seemed to get a bit more love later on. Five-piece indie rock group Hippo Campus followed Japanese Breakfast at 3:50 p.m. They played to a packed audience of millennials singing along to many of the tracks and recording the hit songs on their iPhones. With top-notch sound, admirable energy from each band member, and an outstanding guest saxophone player — all paired with the sun setting over the water — this golden hour felt like a deserved redemption for the indie genre.

Hippo Campus at Wonderfront
Indie rock band Hippo Campus draws a large crowd at the C3bank stage at Wonderfront Festival on Sunday night.
(Sara Butler)

Once the festival grounds got dark, back-to-back rap artists stacked the lineup. Tyga took over Seaport Village’s Stella Artois Stage at 7 p.m. with a huge crowd that quickly bled into the nearby KUSI Stage, and his support easily could have been mistaken for a headlining act. Not a Tyga (or rap) fan myself, I was surprised by the quality and accessibility of his performance, with good sound, easy-to-learn lyrics and friendly fans dancing with strangers.

But the second half of his show took a turn. “Can we turn this into a house party real quick? I want to see all you (expletive) get ratchet. Find someone to grind with,” Tyga said to the crowd. Half-dressed dancers then came onto the stage out of nowhere, along with a set of stripper poles.

Tyga also performed his new release — “Ayy Macarena” (based on the 1993 Los Del Rio hit, “Macarena” — like a broken record. The devoted crowd seemed to respond well the first time, but by the third round of the song, many listeners had made their way to the neighboring stage to get a good spot for rapper Lil Dicky.

Unfortunately for rap fans, Busta Rhymes had the same 7:45 p.m. time slot as Lil Dicky. Overall, I thought Wonderfront did a decent job setting up a lineup without overlapping shows of the same genre — so having to choose between the nostalgia of Busta Rhymes and the novelty of Lil Dicky didn’t seem like the best move.

I (unfortunately) picked Rhymes, who delivered an odd show of mostly crowd work. It seemed more talk than song, as he rambled on about the good old days and how much he loved his on-stage “brothers.”

As Guitar Legends 3 set up on the neighboring stage and patiently waited to start its scheduled 8:30 p.m. show, Busta Rhymes seemed unaware of his surroundings. Instead of wrapping up his set, he grabbed bottles of Champagne and sprayed them into the audience, then proceeded to chug the bottles.

“As a matter of fact I don’t feel like stopping, give me another classic,” Busta Rhymes yelled. But with his last song ending abruptly, it seemed that the festival organizers had played him off the stage to make way for the night’s videotaped Guitar Legends performance.

While my Day 3 experience was filled with indie and rap music, perhaps the best show of the day was the one I missed: Big Wild, or EDM artist and producer Jackson Stell. I hadn’t heard much about Big Wild, so I opted to take a break during his afternoon set.

But at the end of the night, when I asked other festival attendees who their favorite performer was, many dropped his name as both the reason they came out on Sunday and the performance that best lived up to their expectations. By their account, Big Wild (and EDM) may have been the most appreciated and pleasantly predictable act of Wonderfront’s final day.