Feb. 23 2015 07:14 PM

Festival has potential, but focus seems too narrow

TheKillers
The Killers headline the first Kaaboo festival.

Ever since Street Scene ended its long run in 2009 after declaring bankruptcy, San Diego's had a music festival void just waiting to be filled. Or so it would seem—there are numerous festivals happening each year on a smaller scale (Adams Avenue Street Fair, San Diego Music Thing, etc.), but nothing even close to approaching Coachella, Lollapalooza or Sasquatch.

In its first year, the Kaaboo festival, which will run Sept. 18 through 20 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, looks to be a strong contender for picking up where Street Scene left off, judging from its lineup announcement on Monday. The Killers, No Doubt and the Zac Brown Band will headline the festival, offering a cross section of alternative, pop and Americana artists, and it retains that mixture deeper down the lineup. There's hip-hop (The Roots, Snoop Dogg), indie rock (Spoon, Lucero) and electronic (Girl Talk, Griz). Much of the rest, however, is largely an amalgamation of folk, roots rock and jam bands.

From a festival organizer's perspective, this is probably the smart way to go. Almost everyone in the lineup—which skews toward a Bonnaroo-style, crunchy M.O.R. mix—has proven successful at selling out venues in San Diego. But that also means that the lineup is fairly conservative. It would be nice to see more bands that don't deal in blues riffs or banjos—and more young artists. I'm not necessarily saying Kaaboo needs to be Coachella, but a few more artists younger than 40—preferably with no jam-band affiliations—could go a long way.

Yet, while I admit to being disappointed with the lineup, I want to make clear that I want to see the festival succeed. San Diego's had trouble making festivals work in the past, and if this one ends up doing well, it could allow for more freedom to take risks and make something even bigger in the future. In 2002, Bonnaroo was nothing but jam bands; now it's one of the biggest and most diverse fests in the country, this year featuring artists as far ranging as Caribou, Against Me!, Shabazz Palaces and Slayer.

Kaaboo could get there eventually, but this year's lineup looks a little too narrow.

Email jefft@sdcitybeat.com or follow him at @1000TimesJeff

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