KAABOO Festivals Inaugural Year Gets off to a Slow Start

 Was KAABOO Too Much All at Once?

Photo by Alive Coverage

Excessive Ambition in a Market with an Overabundance of Everything Killed the Inaugural KAABOO Texas
 North Texas and multi-day music festivals just don’t seem to mix.

I’ll leave out names since they’re of no relevance here, but remember that one a few years back that was poised to make Plano, TX home of THE next IT festival? Put on by one of the largest events promoters in existence, that particular festival was an instant flop and saw them pulling out of the multi-year agreement they had reached with the city, not even considering a second attempt. Other festivals that established themselves regionally have wound up going on hiatus in the last year or two; and sure, at the end of every year that’s a major EDM festival, but that’s a different beast entirely.

There are probably some other examples that aren’t currently coming to mind; but short of a single day event, be it a touring festival or something exclusive to North Texas, there’s really no demand for anything like that in D-FW.

We have everything at our fingertips, which is nice for residents. You like music? Well, most acts are certain to include Dallas-Fort Worth as a stop on their tour. Foodies have a trove of restaurants to choose from, rather they’re looking for gourmet dishes or a hole-in-the-wall spot with the most delicious food available, you can easily find at least a few such places in every city in the sprawling metroplex. The same can be said of art, with plenty of incredible museums that are constantly hosting exhibits featuring the works of some of the most renowned creators that have lived; smaller galleries making sure they showcase the talents of the local creatives.

D-FW lacks nothing, which, great as it may be for residents, also makes it incredibly easy for them (or us, I’m not going to claim to be any better) to take everything for granted. The opportunity is always there, and if you miss something, you’ll probably get another shot at it or something at least similar in the near future, so it’s easy to shrug off.

I believe that is part of the reason KAABOO Texas played out as it did.

KAABOO has been an established brand for a few years now, the company putting together what have been acclaimed music festivals (most recently in the Cayman Islands, with one planned this fall in Del Mar, CA) by aspiring to deliver a festival experience that differs from the usual by making the events highly amenities-based. Of course, there are general admission tickets, but if you want more perks, they offer a variety of them all at different levels of pricing.

Upon first being announced it sounded as if KAABOO Texas was going to be one of the most epic weekends that any festival could wish for. The music lineup was massive with practically every act being a headliner in their own right; while numerous comedians also graced the lineup as part of the Humor Me stage. Chefs were included to give some culinary demonstrations while artists were going to be present, working on new original pieces, KAABOO Texas promising to deliver something that appealed to almost all of the senses.

Let’s not forget that it was taking place smack dab in the middle of the metroplex, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX having been chosen to host the three-day inaugural event. Home to the Dallas Cowboys, it’s about as a grand a venue as could be, and for a festival that appeared to be the embodiment of that Texas mindset that “everything’s bigger in Texas”, it sounded like the ideal place.

Arlington was poised to become the epicenter of the newest and biggest thing in music, KAABOO Texas almost certain to follow in the footsteps of the KAABOO festivals that preceded it as it readied itself to claim the title of the greatest event that had ever transpired in North Texas. A title it would have earned effortlessly if only reality had panned out as successfully as the planning efforts had…

Day 1: High Hopes Aren’t Dashed by Dreary Weather and a Dismal Turnout

Photo by Alive Coverage

Friday’s can be a weird day to start an event like this. The work week is just reaching its conclusion, while those in school still have class to worry about. In most cases it results in a slow build; the unseasonably cold weather and heavy rainstorms that had moved in overnight further complicating the first day. The showers at least had moved out by the early afternoon, and while a light drizzle fell in the early evening hours, it never even qualified as a nuisance.

This marked my first time ever setting foot on the grounds of AT&T Stadium, the stadium itself being even more massive than it appears from afar, while the grounds around it were sprawling. It was that outside area immediately around it that played host to all of the vendors, one of the exclusive VIP areas known as BASK (which was complete with a pool and a fourth stage featuring DJ’s), as well as a couple of the stages, the Ford Pegasus Stage and the Choctaw Maverick Stage being placed on extreme opposite ends of the grounds. On top of that several artists were on hand, many in the process of creating new pieces, attendees being able to watch them work their magic.

The other stage, the Metroplex Stage, was housed inside on the floor of the stadium; a variety of booths spread out along the concourse level, various forms of art being displayed and on sale.

Arriving in the mid-day, the Metroplex stage wound up being the first stop, as Texas’ own Blue October was preparing to kick things off on that stage. In a sense, they were the ideal band to usher in the full swing of things. Justin Furstenfeld has become one of the most optimistic individuals imaginable, something that is reflected not only in the more recent material that Blue October has created but also the frontman’s persona. He was quick to stress what a privilege it was to be there performing at KAABOO Texas; while “Fear” was prefaced with him expressing how he was able to wake up each day with gratitude due to all the people that believed in him even when he saw his road ahead being bleak, encouraging anyone who may be battling any demons that they could overcome them.

That kind of optimism was contagious; “Into the Ocean” coming early on in their set and being a sing-along with the few hundred or so spectators that were gathered around the stage. It was one of those quintessential concert moments; Blue October continuing to knock it out of the park as they carried on.

Diversity was definitely something that KAABOO Texas wasn’t lacking. On paper, appealing though it was, it did look pretty scattered. The various genres that were represented actually worked better than probably anyone could have expected, though; and within thirty minutes of that alt-rock band starting indoors, Ludacris was taking the Pegasus Stage to perform for some eager fans. And he was all about appeasing them.

His extensive catalog of music was a key focal point of his as he pumped up the audience by inquiring how many were true Ludacris fans, saying he took that to mean that they would know every word of anything he might decide to pull out this day. He took them back, too, allowing the patrons to reminisce a bit as he delivered the type of thrilling performance that they had all hoped for from him.

In making the trek to the Maverick Stage, I slowed my pace a little to better take in the sights, which, honestly, were underwhelming. The vendors were quite generic, consisting of the usual suspects that one expects to see at similar events. (i.e. The State Fair of Texas, Taste of Dallas, Deep Ellum Arts Festival, etc.) Those few that weren’t still didn’t seem to offer much, and the food selection was limited at best. Torchy’s Taco was on hand, ice cream was for sale as was pizza and a few other things, but it was nothing special. I certainly have no qualms with any of those things, nor was I expecting a smorgasbord of treats, but for an event of this caliber, the scope just wasn’t there when it came to the offerings.

Photo by Alive Coverage

Also, set up along the way was the Maker’s Mark Palate, a few chef’s providing culinary demonstrations throughout the day, though few patrons seemed to show much interest in that. The Geico Humor Me tent also took up a decent bit of space out there, which was where the comedians were slated to perform; and while it was impossible to see inside, roaring laughter did occasionally seep out from it, the lines at times snaking their way through well out in front of the tent. There was a party to be had in there.

Upon reaching the other stage, it was disheartening to see how dead things were on that end. Too far removed from what could be considered the “real action” it was as if no one wanted to bother with walking that distance, so it was better to just forgo those acts completely.

Photo by Alive Coverage

Old 97’s didn’t let that stop them, though. This was special for the quartet that helped in pioneering the alt-country genre. Cutting their teeth around Dallas and Fort Worth, this was practically a hometown show, and they were quite enthused by the fact that it was outside the famed AT&T Stadium. There was a point were guitarist Ken Bethea even questioned the helicopter that was seen circling the grounds, wondering aloud of Jerry Jones himself might be in it.

 On top of that, they were essentially providing main support for Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, and they noted on various occasions how influential Jett’s music had been on them as musicians. They stuck to nothing but the hits – classics and more recent ones – during the near hour they had the stage, “Timebomb” being a dynamic closer that left the onlooker feeling exhilarated and ready for whatever was next as day one moved into the headliner portion of the event.

Not quite the official headliners, Bush showed everyone what rock ‘n’ roll is all about; Gavin Rossdale even leaving the stage and then the security of the pit, getting right out amongst the fans as he strode up into the stands, continuing to sing the song they were doing as he shook the hands of and even gave out some hugs to as many fans as he could. It was amazing to see and earned him a great deal more respect in the eyes of everyone there than he already had. It’s moments like that, that stick with people for a lifetime, and no one who witnessed this Bush gig will ever forget it.

The same could be said of Ms. Lauryn Hill who is still out supporting the 20th anniversary of her critically acclaimed record The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. A life-changing album for many, they relished getting to hear it performed nearly in its entirety, some fun covers thrown in to break things up.

Alanis Morissette served as the penultimate act on the Metroplex Stage, the songstress revealing her baby bump as she strode out on stage. Being several months pregnant made her performance even more impressive than it would have been. I can only imagine, but I doubt performing is an easy thing in the first place, and that carrying a child has to be taxing on the body. Doing both at once, that sounds exceptionally strenuous. If it was, she sure never showed it, often pacing about the stage, while her voice sounded more remarkable than ever and there were a few moments she had everyone in absolute awe of her abilities by belting out some lines.

The drizzle might not have felt like much to spectators, but it apparently accumulated on the outdoor stages. As Lionel Richie was in the process of closing down the Pegasus Stage, the iconic singer wound up falling flat on his behind. An embarrassing moment for anyone, it was no doubt magnified for him given that he was the center of attention. He laughed it off, though. “I have a new name for KAABOO,” he commented, quipping it should be “KAABOOM” after his little mishap. He was right in saying the rain wasn’t going to stop him, though, referencing a conversation he said he and his bandmates had backstage, dishing out all of the hits that everyone was expecting. Richie was arguably the most impressive artist of the day. He still sounds immaculate, his voice remaining in pristine shape, something a lot of his contemporaries can’t say. Furthermore, his charisma was off the charts and it was enthralling.

Photo by Alive Coverage

The duty of closing out night one of KAABOO Texas fell to The Killers, who actually had performed in Dallas the night before. They made people wait, perhaps hoping more patrons would make their way indoors to see them. (There were less than a thousand people on the floor to watch them.) More than half an hour after their scheduled set time Dave Keuning, Mark Stoermer and Ronnie Vannucci Jr. finally made their way out to the stage, with Brandon Flowers bringing up the rear, and as soon as he was in view they ripped right into “Mr. Brightside”. It was shocking, but also a pleasant way for things to commence as they proceeded to tear through all of the hits, nearly all of which found the audience participating on.

With day one finished, it was difficult to figure out what to make of KAABOO Texas. One can’t rush to judgment after one day, but at the same time, the attendance numbers were severally lacking for day one. It was a Friday and weather quite possibly played a part. On the other hand, there wasn’t much to do other than listen to bands. Instead of a festival, day one just felt like one long (and epic) concert; and after hearing people complain about the acoustics of the stadium itself for the last decade, I finally experienced firsthand what they were speaking of. AT&T Stadium is not a venue designed for live music. The acoustics truly are horrendous, and frankly, I found myself feeling grateful I never had spent money on a ticket for a show there. I had to struggle to even understand the words being sung by the acts I did see indoors, even songs I was familiar with sounded like garbled noise only vaguely reminiscent of the song it was. That’s not a festival problem, more of a venue issue, but it still affected the experience.

There was a strong belief that day two would be better, but KAABOO Texas would live or die by how its second day went.

Day II: If You Build it, Will They Come?

Photo by Alive Coverage

Saturday, the prime day of the weekend. A day where most commitments that people have are their own, exclusively dictating how they will spend their time.

It was also a day where the weather still wasn’t fully cooperative. Rain again moved through North Texas in the AM hours, though it promised to be all moved out by the afternoon. I’d say the clouds were even beneficial because no one had to worry about burning up outside. It was actually a beautiful day, even when the sun did decide to briefly pierce its way through the cloud cover. Neither cold nor hot, it was just as ideal as any event could hope for as the second day of KAABOO Texas got underway a little earlier than the previous one.

The Maverick Stage was my first stop for the day, ecstatic to see American Aquarium, the North Carolina-based outfit closing out their spring tour right here. The allotted 45-minutes that they had to work with meant they had to focus on just the best of the best (these guys can easily cover twice that amount of time without resorting to any “filler” material. Hell, nothing in their arsenal could be considered filler), opening with a couple of numbers from their current album, Things Change, before diving into some highlights from the rest of their catalog. They were playing to but a few dozen onlookers, though BJ Barham led his bandmates through a riveting performance; the engaging stories he has crafted further immersing those that were present into the performance.

On the trek to the Pegasus Stage, it was evident that there were more people wondering about, the paths being more crowded, though far from congested. There was an uptick in visitors to the vendors and booths as well, though the numbers weren’t significant enough for there to be any lines. That could be remedied. After all, it was still relatively early.

Los Lonely Boys were in the midst of their hour-long set, the Garza brothers playing their brand of rock that fuses together various genres, the end result being something intoxicatingly smooth that was impossible to resist. A triple threat as far as the vocals were concerned, it was nice to see yet another band with Texas roots represented at the inaugural KAABOO Texas, and they did the Lone Star State proud.

My thoughts on the inside of AT&T Stadium weren’t finalized at that point, hoping some things had maybe been off the day before. Alas, the acoustics really are that terrible. No one’s questioning its ability as a stadium, especially one that serves as the home to America’s team, but a concert venue it is not.

Things sounded no better as

Photo by Alive Coverage

The Band Camino took the stage, the instruments not just resonating but echoing throughout the grand space, overwhelming the vocals. Even the dialogue patrons were sharing with one another seemed to echo, and even if the conversations were still kept relatively private, the chatter still came from all directions and further drowned things out. It made nearly all of the acts on the Metroplex Stage unenjoyable to listen to, and after a few songs, I found myself heading up the stairs and back outside to see what else might be going on. Again, those behind KAABOO Texas as well as the bands had no control over that aspect of it. They could only do the best they could with what they had to work with, but it hindered things nonetheless.

More people were coming in, and one actually had to be alert as to where they were going so as to not run into anyone else. Still, back outside, I found myself at a loss as to what else there was to do. There was barely a speck of green in sight, a sea of concrete surrounding you, the pinnacle of it is a monument to ego. The scenery was just drastically different from that of other festivals where you can take a step back and take a break by enjoying nature for a moment. It lacked that feeling of escape that a festival is supposed to provide; and so, it was back over to the Pegasus Stage to see what was next.

 I should probably be more ashamed than I am to admit that I have never listened to Garbage. I’ve probably heard a song or two during my time but was unaware of who did it. Shirley Manson, Duke Erikson, Steve Marker and Butch Vig were arguably the greatest thing of the entire day, though.

From the moment that they stepped on stage, they were in charge, a brilliant aura radiating from them as they silently demanded all who were in earshot give them their attention. Atmospheric in an eerie and seductive way, the music was just utterly compelling, Manson emboldening it all the more with her stunning demeanor and the absolute conviction that she demonstrated. She was well aware of how the crowd was perceiving them too, and while most were enjoying it, at least enough to keep watching, she caught some glances of people taken aback or uncertain what to make about what they were hearing. Outright admitting it may sound conceited, she rattled off some of the accomplishments they’ve achieved during their lengthy career, but grounded it in the fact that they as Garbage always felt like they had something to prove when they stepped onto a stage, and that was true of this circumstance more than most, as they wanted to convert these skeptics into fans. I don’t see how they could have failed, because as incredible as every act was, Garbage was a cut above the rest.

Speaking of incredible, Rick Springfield!

With all due respect, it’s easy to perceive Springfield as a star — and even teen heartthrob — of yesteryear. Somebody who definitely made his mark on the music industry, but a star you don’t really hear much about anymore, even though he still tours regularly. He was pretty awesome, though.

Of course, the biggest hits came at the end, and they included some fun moments for the die-hard supporters, such as when he tossed a microphone out into the crowd during “Don’t Talk to Strangers”, giving everyone who got it the opportunity to sing the refrain before urging them to pass it along to someone else. It was cool; and apart from just coming across as a stand-up guy, he still has some serious chops, the pose he struck after getting his guitar handed back to him being iconic. He and his band made it fun for everybody, even those who were on vaguely familiar with “Jessie’s Girl”, which just highlighted what an awesome performer he is.

 (Side note: My thoughts of the stadium were affirmed during Springfield’s set. As he chatted with the crowd, saying… something, I overheard someone in a group standing next to me say, “I think he just said, ‘I like hot sauce’.” I just can’t accurately describe how terrible the sound was in there.)

Rap fans had a little less to work with on day two of KAABOO Texas, though Flo Rida at least made sure the quality was topnotch; the rapper being another in the series of performers that interacted with the fans, going so far as to invite plenty up on stage with him for an experience that they will not soon forget.

Collective Soul was every bit as great in their own right, the staple of ‘90s rock running through the hits (“Shine” came surprisingly early on, yet it worked), though they were plagued by the same issues that befell every act inside on the Metroplex stage.

Photo by Live Coverage

Even the mighty Lynyrd Skynyrd wasn’t exempt from those sound difficulties. As they’re preparing to lay this thing to rest, Johnny Van Zant mentioned that they jumped at the chance to come back to Texas, saying they had such a fun time last year when they toured through that they might as well play the Dallas area once more.

In watching Skynyrd, it was sad to think that they really are on the final leg of this illustrious career. Granted, it’s not the original Skynyrd, but it’s as good as it could ever get, and they were on fire this night. That’s was made it sad because you were watching these guys and they were killing it. Rickey Medlocke was ferocious as he shredded away on his axe and did everything that he could to escalate the excitement and get patrons even more involved. On the other hand, it’s better to go out in your prime, or at least before time ravages you to the point that you’re a shell of what you were, so in that light, maybe it is a good thing that they’re going to hang it up at this point. End it on a high note; and if this was the final, final D-FW area show, at least fans got one last extraordinary show from the icons.

While the foot traffic was definitely improved over the first day, it was still lackluster. Lynyrd Skynyrd appeared to be performing for practically no one, which was rather baffling. That was likely the last chance people in this area will ever get to see them, yet no one showed up.

Photo by Alive Coverage

Things weren’t much better when Kid Rock took the stage to wrap it all up, but just like everyone else, that didn’t affect the dynamic performer that he is, still going all in to deliver a spectacle to those who were there.

More bodies definitely passed through the gates on this Saturday, but not nearly enough to be truly significant. As a spectator who was doing his best to enjoy the experience and get lost in the moment, I just found that impossible to do. Musical performances aside, this second day was actually duller than the first had been, and I don’t even know how that was possible. It was a relief when it was finally over; but with clear skies and warm weather in the forecast for Sunday, there was still a glimmer of hope that things could turn around.

Day 3: Going Out with a Bust

Photo by Alive Coverage

Compared to what it can accommodate, the grounds of AT&T Stadium looked like a ghost town. That was even after arriving several hours after gates had opened and the final day of KAABOO Texas had commenced.

“Maybe there were more people here yesterday?” I overheard one person say to the small group of friends they were with, which highlighted part of the problem in the first place. They were oblivious to how this thing had been going, apparently only coming out Sunday instead of committing to making a weekend out of KAABOO Texas. How many other people were like that? Content with just going to one day in order to see what it was like and then skip out on the rest.

Seizing the opportunity the wonderful weather of the day had provided, the roof of the stadium was opened. It allowed for a nice cross breeze for those on the field watching acts on the Metroplex Stage, though was surely only detrimental to the sound. (If it was possible for it to be even worse.)

Photo by Alive Coverage

St. Paul & The Broken Bones were one of only two acts I even watched in there on this day. Straining to understand a few words out of an entire song is no fun and I was over it. There can’t be a bad thing said about the band, though. Paul Janeway proved himself to be one of the most impassioned performers out of the entire lineup for the weekend, pouring his heart and soul into the performance. During one of the early songs, he even looked as if he was tearing up, the piece clearly being something he connected with on the deepest level possible. You don’t see that from performers too often and it’s refreshing when they can get that invested in their work.

The Avett Brothers followed in the footsteps of every other act that had performed this weekend, leaving it all on the stage during their set that spanned a little more than an hour. From the upbeat to more sincere emotive numbers and even some bare-bones ones, they boasted a nice variety as they ran through old and new favorites. The group aspired to get some fan participation going at times, but the people just weren’t there for singing along to really work. They handled it gracefully, attempting to hand the reins off only to step back in rather quickly to pick up the slack. Plenty did, but there weren’t enough present for their collective voices to be audible, and while it didn’t kill the vibe, it kept it from transcending into something more stupendous.

I never saw the Maverick Stage more crowded than it was for The B-52s, who were closing it out for the day. 2019 marks forty years since their debut release, and several hundred fans made sure they were present to see the fun and the often eccentric group as they celebrated.

If any act got a legitimate party going this weekend it was the B-52s, everyone just cutting loose as they listened to cuts like “Lava” or “Summer of Love”, which preceded their more notable hits. Despite their age, Kate Pierson, Fred Schneider, Keith Strickland, and Cindy Wilson all still sounded excellent and even still had some decent dance moves to show off, leading one to believe that they still have a lot left to put into their musical career.

Photo by Alive Coverage

The end approaching, Little Big Town was the final act that would grace the Pegasus stage, and there was a special visitor on hand to take in their performance: Jerry Jones. The Dallas Cowboys owner came out to see his friends and even got a song dedicated to him. And while the core quartet and their accompanying band were excited to be playing the stadium (or at least outside it), they made sure to focus their attention on the audience, making certain that everyone felt like they were a part of something.

Photo by Alive Coverage

It’s difficult to consider Little Big Town an actual country band, as they’re instead a pop-influenced variation of the genre, but that aside, I was surprised how much I really enjoyed them. The harmonies were astounding, and they fully utilize all four of the voices that they have at their disposal. On top of that, the instrumentalists were fine-tuned machines who never attempted to steal the show yet were crucial in giving it more vim.

Capping off this promising weekend was Sting, and I don’t know what tweaks were made, but he actually sounded good on the Metroplex Stage.

Coming out swinging with a cover of The Police’s “Message in a Bottle”, you could actually understand what he was singing. It wasn’t enough to redeem the venue in my eyes, though it was nice to be able to fully appreciate the magic that Sting so effortlessly wields as he trekked through an impressive set list that featured a good variety of his originals and plenty of other favorites from his past works. Sting himself appeared in pretty good spirits, too, clearly in the zone and ready to give those that had shown up a night to remember. 

And with that KAABOO Texas was done. Patrons had enjoyed themselves, but by no means was this successful in terms of what anyone – organizers and fans alike – had envisioned?

Photo by Alive Coverage

So, what exactly went wrong?

 There are various things to factor into that answer. For starters, it was too much all at once. Festivals need to be nurtured so that they can grow into their full potential. Start out as a music event and over the course of years expand into the art realm or experiment with adding comedians or whatever else you may want to add. I understand that KAABOO in any of its variations wants to appeal to and stimulate all of the senses. That’s awesome and I have no doubt it has worked well in other markets. You can’t make a uniform approach out of something this massive, though. Start off with music first and expand upon the idea from there, especially when working to break into a market that’s untested for you. On top of that, start off with an event that’s just Saturday and Sunday, or even Saturday only to see what the reception to it is.

On the other hand, as was stated way back at the beginning of this whole thing, D-FW is an oversaturated market. I’ve been fortunate enough to cover some awesome festivals around the country in years past, and it’s amazing to be there and by one in the afternoon there are already eight thousand or so people present, with ten thousand plus more arriving by late afternoon.

Photo by Alive Coverage

People in North Texas don’t have that mentality. They’ll show up for the headliner only, or catch whatever other act they want to see earlier in the event and then just leave. Be it local shows in the clubs or national touring artists that come to town, that’s just how it is here, people want to see what they like and that’s it, they’re not going to invest more time into it than they have to. Obviously, not everyone has that mentality, though it is the prevailing one. So, no, people aren’t going to spend all day at a festival with the possibility of discovering their new favorite act or just seeing what’s going on.

And I still don’t know what was going on. Nothing about this felt like a festival to me. Each day was a daylong concert. Okay, artists were working on canvases – and they were all talented – but that was about the only other thing that general admission patrons could appreciate. And with ticket prices that originally started out at three hundred dollars, that’s just too pricey. There’s no way I would have considered paying that much to get into KAABOO Texas, and if I had and discovered how little there was to offer to patrons, I would have been incredibly frustrated, because they couldn’t get their monies worth out of it.

Photo by Alive Coverage

I’m inclined to think those prices played a part in the turnout being so low. (I’m terrible at estimating crowd sizes, but if the weekend collectively pulled ten thousand people, I’d be shocked.) Advertising was also a major player in that, or the lack thereof. One night a couple of weeks back I happened to have the ten o’clock local news on and, walking back into the room, caught the tail end of a commercial for KAABOO Texas. Other than that, I never saw anything promoting it. Just how many people watch local news in this age? How many people subscribe to the paper? Listen to the radio? That’s a big nope from me on all of those fronts. I never saw any targeted ads online, be it social media or other websites, and other than seeing people share the initial poster announcing the event when it was first made public that was it. Honestly, after seeing that back in January, I believe it was, I forgot this thing was even happening, and I surely wasn’t alone in that.

 Getting personal, the best festival experiences I’ve had are the ones that take place out away from everything, in nature. It can be a sizable preserve in an otherwise bustling city, but just someplace where you’re more isolated. You can sit down on a hill that overlooks one of the stages and just soak in the majesty of it all. If you feel like you need a break you can even wander away to the extreme edges for a bit. But what has really made my other experiences at festivals so memorable is the rabid excitement that a massive throng of fans generates. You realize how special and impactful music is when you’re watching a band, even one you don’t care much about, and you’re hearing ten, fifteen, twenty thousand people singing along to every last word of a particular song. For those moments that’s all that matters. Every soul is in that specific location because of their absolute adoration for that band and you feel it and respect it for what it is. It’s pure, everyone so thoroughly enjoying themselves, and it’s the most wondrous kind of magic that exists. That’s what truly defines a festival in my opinion, but that never existed at KAABOO Texas because the people weren’t there to conjure it up.

Photo by Alive Coverage

The overall realization may have failed to live up to expectations, but at the same time, it’s unfair for that to reflect back on the organizers of it, even if some flak is deserved.

 I have no criticisms on that front. The production value was incredible, a caliber of which only experienced individuals could plan for and orchestrate. KAABOO in any of its forms is obviously run by seasoned veterans who know what they’re doing. The placement of the stages was great, in my opinion, plenty of natural light hitting each of the outdoor ones in the day time. That may not seem like that big of a deal unless you’ve witnessed events where the stages are dark as can be while the sun beats down in the eyes of the audience and you’re struggling to even make out what the band members look like. Everything on that end did appear seamless.

They got the talent, too. Several arena-sized bands all gracing the same stages within in a matter of days?! This was a dream festival lineup; and in a weird, roundabout way, KAABOO Texas and its focus on amenities and even exclusivities kind of wound up succeeding, because no more spectators than there were, it was almost like everyone got a private performance from each act.

Leading up to this, some of the conversations seen on social media were baffling as people gleefully wished for KAABOO Texas to become the latest disaster in festivals. It’s sickening that anyone would wish failure on anyone or anything. If you don’t care about a person or thing, that’s fine, but that should also mean that you’re indifferent to how things turn out for it. Others (in the media and beyond) were already writing it off during its first few hours, which is a little premature.

I’d be all for giving KAABOO Texas another chance, and since a ten-year deal was inked between them and Jerry Jones, it’s almost certain that there will be more installments. The potential is certainly there, but I still question if D-FW is a worthwhile market for something like this.

In the future, they need to refine the festival. Two days max, maybe even take it down to one to better gauge the demand for it and grow it accordingly in the following years. Lose the indoor stage, and if necessary, place it somewhere else outside. But better yet, condense the grounds. It was too far to walk from one end to the other. Other settings can pull off long distances, but not here. Music and maybe comedy should be the only focus, anything else can be added in over time. Ticket prices need to be much more reasonable as well. The VIP level and beyond can stay whatever they were, if people want those perks and have the money to afford it, they’ll gladly pay it. But for the average person, general admission could be more affordable. Artist signings are a regular at some festivals as well, which would be a nice way to further excite fans. Aside from the primary headliners, schedule something like that with some of the bands where everyone can stand in a line and wait to briefly meet the musicians and get a poster or something signed by them. That’s something unique that you can’t get at a standard show, and I bet it would thrill people.

KAABOO Texas doesn’t require a massive overhaul, just some slight modifications so it’s better suited for its environment here and it could still become the destination festival it aspires to be.

James Villa