When it comes to local stages, few have brighter lights than the ones at Kaaboo Del Mar. The mega three-day music/arts festival, now in its second year, offers vast crowds and even bigger bands -- and it's a place where a select few San Diego acts have been handpicked to join in on the action. Some might call it the chance of a lifetime. Ocean Beach psych-pop band the Verigolds, who recently won a battle of the bands contest to perform at the fest, agree.
"Oh definitely," the band's singer/keyboardist Jenna Cotton told me over the phone. "We all get three-day artist passes, so we get to go behind the scenes the whole time and that's huge for us. There's so many people there, as well as industry people, and we're really excited about that. We're at that stage in our career where we're looking for that support, pushing things to the next level and trying to get outside of San Diego."
Kaaboo has made a habit of booking several local bands at each its two iterations thus far. Last year, Switchfoot, Tribal Seeds, Slightly Stoopid, the Burning of Rome, the Midnight Pine and more were tapped. For 2016, they've hit up Steve Poltz, Steeviewild, Barley, Almost Monday, and Nancarrow -- as well as seven other locals yet to be announced.
In addition to all that, the fest hosts the "Discovery Tour" each year, which are battle of the bands-esque shows hosted in conjunction with the music networking app GigTown [check out our profile on GigTown here] at various venues in town with local acts -- all of them vying for a spot on the massive three-day lineup. This year's winners include Aquile, Bang Pow, and of course, the Verigolds.
"GigTown gave us that awesome opportunity to be involved and really made that whole thing happen," Cotton told me. "Andy [Altman, co-founder] from GigTown, he's the one who really put it together for us and he's helped us get some really epic shows."
Not only will local bands get to rub elbows with their some huge marquee music names (and their management teams), being able to put "played Kaaboo Del Mar" on an electronic press kit, or in a band biography could do wonders for booking tours, getting blog/publication coverage, and spreading the good word about their music. In other words, it's an impressive tidbit to drop and a certain conversation starter. After all, how many local bands can say they've played San Diego's biggest music festival with Aerosmith, Fall Out Boy or Cold War Kids? As we talked about it, Cotton gushed about seeing her teenage idol Gwen Stefani and No Doubt perform at 2015's Kaaboo.
"Last year, the highlight for me was seeing No Doubt. [Stefani] was mind-blowing, just totally amazing. I grew up listening to her. Her songs seem way deeper to me now, and her energy is so inspiring ... She was an animal. She was crawling up into the rafters and the security guards were freaking out."
And this year? Who is she looking forward to seeing after her band (which also includes guitarist/vocalist Eliot Ross, drummer Craig Schreiber, and keyboardist Ben Smedley) is finished playing on Saturday, Sept. 17?
"Lenny Kravitz for sure," she said. "Oh, and the Shelters. They're one of our favorite LA bands. Me and Ben went to see them at the Hideout a while ago and met those guys. Tom Petty produced their album, and they're totally blowing up now! It's so exciting."
Unsurprisingly, Cotton and her bandmates don't seem like they'll be too phased by the festival's bright lights.
"We like the bigger stages," she said. "It all depends on the vibe of the show. We are striving to play festivals. That’s our goal."
As much as I could wax poetic about how eclectic and psychedelically infectious their music is, Cotton explained why they're the perfect fit for Kaaboo's grand expanse, outdoor revelry and sunny disposition.
"I think [people will appreciate] the fusion of our music. It’s kind of got a nice blend of different things. You know, the boys grew up on '70s rock so we have that vibe going on, and I bring my inner '80s child to it and that comes out and we bring it all together for that electronic, more synthy rock vibe. That fusion makes people want to dance and have fun."
Dustin Lothspeich books The Merrow; plays in Diamond Lakes and Boy King; and runs the music-equipment-worshipping blog Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.