The final day of KAABOO 2018 began early on Sunday, September 16, under balmy southern California skies. In the same vein as the first two days, early-bird concertgoers were again greeted by light crowds and some great music.

By 1pm an energetic young crowd had gathered in the courtyard in front of the chilled Tourmaline stage where the Los Angeles-based Vista Kicks treated the gathering to a spirited set. Ever since the four young musicians in the band moved from their hometown of Sacramento to a tiny apartment in Hollywood in 2015, Vista Kicks have been making a name for themselves in the southern California music scene.

The young long-haired musicians have a very retro, almost Beatles-esque, sound. The band's youthful good looks and the sheer musicality of their endeavors have led to a loyal following of excited young fans. The set mainly came from their new album, "Twenty Something Nightmare", and their 2017 debut album "Booty Shakers Ball". They have more in common with the pop of the 1960s and '70s than most of their contemporaries, with a rich pop sound not unlike that of the Raspberries.

Nearby at the Encinitas Trestles stage a true blues-rock icon played a set for a much older audience. The 75-year-old Chicago blues guitar master Elvin Bishop led a trio through a crowd-pleasing set of classic blues rock. Bishop has played in many bands but it was his participation in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band that garnered him an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

Bishop played his beloved Gibson ES-345 "Red Dog" guitar and pulled most of the setlist from his newest album, "Elvin Bishop's Big Fun Trio". The set included a hilarious song from the album, "Something Smells Funky Round Here", a not so subtle swipe at the current president which featured bandmates Willy Jordan and Bob Welsh on lead vocals and lead guitar respectively.

On the main Sunset Cliffs stage Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors brought their folksy, feel-good sound from Memphis to a sweaty crowd sweltering in the early afternoon sun. Meanwhile on the far side of the venue Detroit rapper Quin XCII was playing a very different set of his own unique mix of hip-hop, reggae and EDM to a delighted young audience.

Back on the Sunset Cliffs yet another utterly different genre could be heard as the '90s supergroup TLC took the stage. After the untimely death of member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes in a car crash, the group took a hiatus but returned as a duo in 2015 and later released a new album, "TLC", in 2017. Backed by a rocking R&B band, they wowed a large crowd. The pair traded vocals and joined a troupe of dancers for numerous routines as they belted out old and new hit songs.

Over on the Encinitas Trestles stage, the first hard rock band of the day were belting out some great post-grunge material. The Seattle group Candlebox, featuring original lead singer Kevin Martin, was another 90's phenomenon, having formed at the beginning of what turned out to be a heady decade for hard rock. The band played material from their 2016 album "Disappearing in Airports" as well as classic hits such as "Far Behind" and "You".

That set opened the door to a train of multi-generational hard rock acts. On the Grandview stage, Oklahoma alt-rockers All American Rejects played a sweltering set. They came on the music scene a decade after Candlebox, but arrived with no less ferocity and have sold over 10 million records since their self-titled debut album in 2003. The band featured the animated bass player and lead vocalist Tyson Ritter who guided the band through a high-energy crowd-pleasing set.

Back across the vast venue on the Sunset Cliffs main stage, one of the most anticipated sets of the day offered up some of the best hard rock of the festival. Iconic Guns 'n' Roses guitarist Slash joined Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators for an ear-piercing guitar-drenched orgy of rock. The band, which initially formed for Slash's solo project, have stayed together touring while Slash was back with Guns 'n' Roses.

Already a powerhouse of live hard rock on their own, adding Slash to the mix creates another dimension resulting in a wall of pure rock that few bands can match. Kennedy once jammed with members of Led Zeppelin and was considered as a replacement for Robert Plant on tour once. The full-throated singer beamed a wild smile through most of the set at KAABOO, as did the other members of the band.

Even the usually stoic Slash cracked an occasional smile, seeming to enjoy the jam rock atmosphere to the fullest. The massive crowd of mostly young music fans waiting to hear rapper Wiz Khalifa and pop star Katy Perry seemed to be in awe of the explosive live performance by the band. The Conspirators bounced off each other and Slash as Kennedy stoked the crowd into a sweaty late-afternoon frenzy.

Over on the Grandview main stage, Seattle rockers Alice in Chains were playing a no-less-intense heavy metal set. The band, formed back in 1987, were at the forefront of grunge and were probably the heaviest proponents of that genre. Current singer, rhythm guitarist William DuVall, joined the veteran rockers over a decade ago after the untimely death of original lead singer Layne Staley in 2002. DuVall has come into his own in the group and brought the intensity of the band to a new level. The show featured a blaring backdrop of lights that looked like the headlights from a convoy of trucks. Guitarist Jerry Cantrell led the veteran rockers through a 15-song setlist ending with the band's biggest hit "Rooster".

An entirely different generation of music fans was crowding around the smaller Encinitas Trestles stage for a set full of well-known hit songs by the rock band War. Initially organized by former Animal Eric Burdon in 1969, War were one of the first rock bands to mix genres to combine elements of rock, funk, jazz, Latin, rhythm and blues, and reggae. The set at KAABOO was full of classic sing-along hits featuring the only official original member of the band, singer and keyboardist Leroy "Lonnie" Jordan.

But in a surprise appearance, original harmonica player Lee Oskar joined the band for this special set. The 70-year-old Danish harp player was an essential element of War and hadn't played with the group officially since 1994. With the harp master in the fold, the band wowed the crowd with eight of their biggest hit songs, leaving the packed audience screaming for more.

As the sun painted the Sunset Cliffs stage orange, contemporary hip-hop star Wiz Khalifa led a rock-infused funky band through an explosive set leaving tens of thousands of screaming young fans in a frenzy. The beaming rapper played his biggest hits, bouncing all about the stage. At one point he displayed his trademark move, lighting up what appeared to be a huge joint. The impish rapper took a few puffs then flicked it into the roaring crowd. A staple in dance clubs across the country, Khalifa's biggest hits were well-known to young dance music fans, and the young audience seemed enraptured by the charismatic rapper.

Speaking of charismatic, folk rock sensation Jewel was capturing the imagination of a large crowd back over on the Encinitas Trestles stage. The singer with the voice of an angel has sold over 30 million records since her recording debut back in 1995. She's known to pick her songs randomly, often asking the audience what they want to hear during a live performance. The 16-song KAABOO set featured several covers with the encore finale a stirring cover of the Led Zeppelin classic "Whole Lotta Love", in a tribute to one of the evening's headliners.

As the sun faded on KAABOO 2018, an interesting split occurred: thousands of mostly young fans gathered at the Sunset Cliffs stage for Katy Perry's final performance of her Witness world tour, which began over a year ago. And thousands of mostly older fans assembled in front of the Grandview stage to hear rock icon Robert Plant perform with his band the Sensational Space Shifters.

Perry delighted legions of glitter wearing tweens with her massive fairytale set, emerging from a spaceship dressed in a Catwoman-like outfit. With her crack band, a multitude of dancers, countless costume and set changes she awed the young crowd.

Meanwhile, on a stark stage on the other side of the venue, Plant replaced style with substance, performing music from his latest album and occasionally veering into Zeppelin material. Bemused parents could be seen across the venue sending their progeny off to watch Perry as they gravitated to Plant's enrapturing set. He came out firing Zeppelin hits, beginning with "Good Times Bad Times" and "The Lemon Song".

In fact, more than half of the 15-song set were Zeppelin classics, which pleased the crowd to no end. At the same time, Perry tore through 20 songs including all of her biggest hits, giving the parents enough time to walk back over and collect their kids after Plant's set ended. It was sheer genius planning by KAABOO's organizers and a triumphant end to an incredibly diverse three-day musical revelry.


Photos by L. Paul Mann
www.lpaulmann.com

















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