Kaaboo Del Mar aims to enfold broader demographic into a ‘mix-perience’


Bonnaroo. Coachella. Lollapalooza.

The producers of Kaaboo Del Mar hope to go beyond those famous music gatherings and transform the festival scene when their inaugural three-day event comes to town next week.

The festival will feature more than 100 performances on seven stages from Sept. 18-20 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, including headliners No Doubt, The Killers and Zac Brown Band. From longtime artists such as Sheryl Crow and Snoop Dogg, to emerging bands such as Fairground Saints and Open Air Stereo, the lineup includes a variety of genres with acts from across the country — and even hometown favorites, San Diego-based Switchfoot.

“Every act has been very carefully curated,” said Kaaboo founder and CEO Bryan Gordon. “We’re super-excited about the breadth and depth of the lineup. There’s something there for everyone.”

Billed as a “mix-perience,” the festival will also offer comedy acts, including Joel McHale, Lewis Black and others. Kaaboo will also showcase an array of artwork through a gallery, art fair and a variety of pop-up exhibitions.

In addition, Kaaboo will feature a full-scale food and drink experience called Palate and Crafty, with tastings from more than 50 different restaurants, more than 50 types of beer and more than 30 wineries selling 75 different wines and more than 30 craft spirits.

“I’ve been a lover of live music virtually my entire life,” said Gordon, adding that his passion extends to food, wine, art and travel. “I thought it was high time to create what I call a ‘mix-perience’ that combines all of these elements into one live experience.”

A longtime lover of live music, Gordon, 53, has frequented other festivals, including Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza.

“While I have enjoyed all of them, they’re not really built for me and my peers,” he said. “I found some of the best times that I’ve had with my 22-year-old daughter have been when we’ve gone to see live music together, so I wanted to create something that worked for both of us.”

Unlike other festivals, Kaaboo is targeted for people ages 25 to 55, with the average ticket buyer being 38 years old.

“It will be a more robust environment that targets all of your senses and is really built for whether you’re 20 years old, 60 years old or anyone in between,” Gordon said.

Gordon is founder and chairman of the Denver-based The Madison Companies, LLC, a private investment holding company he founded in 1996. According to its website, the company has invested more than $1 billion in a diverse portfolio of market-leading, middle-market companies and properties worth over $3 billion.

Although this is the first music festival he has ever founded, Gordon has been working on Kaaboo for two years. From lining up entertainment to addressing community concerns over noise and traffic, he and a team of some 40 consultants and experts have planned Kaaboo down to the most granular details.

“This is my first time ever producing a large-scale event like this,” Gordon said. “But I’ve surrounded myself with a team of event production professionals who have been in this business for decades.”

The team looked at potential festival sites throughout California before deciding on the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

“It’s an amazing facility, almost 350 acres located right across from the ocean and right off the I-5 in a beautiful part of North County,” Gordon said.

The festival also fills the void of long-gone events from the past, such as Street Scene. The music festival was held each summer in San Diego, from 1984 to 2009.

“You’ve got more than 20 million people within a three-hour drive of this place and really no major festival other than Coachella,” Gordon said.

Although Kaaboo is a made-up word “that doesn’t literally mean anything,” Gordon hopes “Kaaboo” becomes synonymous with quality.

“The quality of the hospitality and the guest experience will, hopefully, be a step beyond what anybody experiences at other large-scale events like this,” Gordon said.

“We’re really trying to have an event that is far broader and deeper in terms of experiences,” he added. “We’re also really trying to conquer most of the un-pleasantries that are typical of the live event experience.”

With 40,000 people expected per day in its inaugural year, producers are already looking ahead to next year.

Producers have a long-term lease arrangement with the fairgrounds, Gordon said. They are already beginning to book bands for next year.

“The planning for next year has already begun,” Gordon said. “We’ll be here for the long haul.”

Prices for three-day passes range from $199 to $2,499, but many of the lower-priced options have already sold out. One-day tickets start at $125.

For more about Kaaboo or to purchase tickets, visit kaaboodelmar.com.