The sun falls into the Pacific as a small commuter train whisks by, momentarily interrupting the rocking sounds of Garbage.
And that was just the second stage at KAABOO Del Mar.
At this third annual music and comedy festival held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, just off the northern outskirts of San Diego, you could find evergreen California bands such as Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction alongside 1990s stalwarts such as Weezer, Garbage and Alanis Morissette, rap titans like Ice Cube and T-Pain, classics like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and newer acts such as Pink, Muse, David Guetta, Kesha and Jason Derulo over three separate nights. That’s in addition to an electronic music club, a fairgrounds property devoted to artwork and food, and one large fairgrounds building, air-conditioned with bleachers and a VIP table section for comedy called HUMOR ME.
Booking for HUMOR ME differed a bit from other mixed music/comedy fests, choosing to schedule only a few headlining shows each day and night, clearing the building between shows.
And the HUMOR ME lineups were stacked. Friday’s headliners were Nick Swardson, Patton Oswalt, Arsenio Hall and Bryan Callen. Sunday’s were David Spade, Demetri Martin and Bridget Everett.
I attended Saturday, where the featured comedians were Sebastian Maniscalco (late at 11 p.m., starting an hour after all the music ended), Norm Macdonald, Maria Bamford, Al Madrigal and Taylor Williamson. Arriving just after Williamson’s set ended, he told me it went all despite the early daytime slot.
It’s no slight to say the crowd didn’t know what to make of Dynasty Handbag, a performance artist from Los Angeles who opened for Maria Bamford. “You guys feel the horse ghosts in here?” she asked, between singing, dancing and lip syncing across the stage. One thing’s for certain, that opening made Bamford’s opening War Horse analogy that much more apt!
Bamford essentially performed her “Old Baby” hour, which felt both newer and stranger delivered in this singular setting — to several hundred fans in a room that stretched more than a hundred feet wide to either side of her — than watching her perform in varied circumstances for her Netflix special.
In between comedy shows, Shirley Manson of Garbage held court at the secondary stage, located nearest the Pacific Ocean. Manson bantered both gratitude and resentments alike. To the former, thanking KAABOO for taking a chance on a band that hadn’t been on the radio in a while; to the latter, chastising radio for not playing female voices unless they’re pop “and show a little bit of tit, or a bit of ass.”
Back inside the HUMOR ME building, Norm Macdonald made fun of himself for writing “furry dog” on a sheet of paper he’d placed on the stool in front of him. “I have 22 minutes and 37 seconds…I wonder if I’ll remember what that means,” Macdonald joked at one point. In the meantime, he mocked our political process, marriage, questioned his own sexuality and more, all via one shaggy dog story after another. “The show may have ended hours ago,” he joked at another point. And yet, Macdonald wasn’t about to go anywhere until he recounted both his dad’s favorite joke and his son’s favorite joke.
Afterward, Macdonald told me and his opener Kirk Fox with a shrug that he mostly told new jokes, for better or worse.
What better place than a fairgrounds building that’s near both the beach and the boonies to try, though, right?
Outside, Pink performed several covers, presided over a marriage proposal for one of her crew, broke down some of her hits acoustically, and sang everyone’s faves, too. “It feels right for a festival,” Pink explained to the crowd.
The Del Mar Fairgrounds proved just large enough so the music from one of the main stages would fade just as you began to approach the other.
So Pink fans could get their money’s worth without any disruption to the massive sound and light show Muse was dropping down on the main stage near the festival entrance.
The fairgrounds had a 10 p.m curfew for outdoor music, but the electronic music inside and the HUMOR ME tent offered delights much later. All in all, a lot more KAAYAY than KAABOO.