San Diego's wonders never cease: On Nov. 22-24, the inaugural Wonderfront Music & Arts Festival makes landfall along the waterfront of America's Finest City.
On Tuesday, festival organizers announced the new three-day event set to take place at seven-plus stages spanning the Port of San Diego with 70-plus bands, gourmet food, craft beer, games, activities, and immersive art experiences.
Presented by current Pechanga Arena general manager and partner, Ernie Hahn, and Tag Presents' Paul Thornton (who combined have more than 50 years experience producing large-scale live-entertainment events in San Diego), the fest has drawn big-name locals Tony Hawk, Trevor Hoffman and Rob Machado into the fold as official brand ambassadors.
Various bayfront venues involved include Broadway Pier, Bayfront Park, Embarcadero Marina Park North and South, Ruocco Park, and Seaport Village -- complete with ferries to take attendees between the two ends of the event. According to organizers, capacity for the festival will be 30,000, with single-day and weekend passes, VIP access, yacht parties, hotel packages, meet-and-greets, and other ticketing options available in early May. Three-day passes will be $225. Go here for more information and to sign up for first access to tickets.
Mum's the word on which acts will populate the festival's lineup, but, according to a news release, it will feature "major mainstream talent, including rock, indie rock, EDM, reggae, hip-hop, alternative, country and Americana, popular Latin programming, and emerging breakout artists from all genres." Sounds like it should appeal to pretty much everyone; a full lineup is expected to be announced in late April.
Tim Mays, the Casbah's owner/talent buyer and long-time San Diego music scene figurehead, is contributing in programming at least some of the to-be-announced artists (along with bookers from the Belly Up and Music Box). During a Wednesday morning phone call, he enthused about the prospect of contributing to a San Diego-centric festival -- spearheaded largely by locals, for locals.
"I've been wanting to be involved in a local festival for a long, long time," Mays said. "So this gives [the Casbah] a good opportunity to be in on something and hopefully help shape it into what we would do if it were our own. I've known Ernie Hahn for quite a while; he's definitely a local booster and a local guy who wants [Wonderfront] to be all-inclusive. I think it's going to be a good thing."
In contrast to Del Mar's annual Kaaboo music festival, Wonderfront seems to be more closely aligning itself with the spirit of the long-defunct Street Scene fests that took place in San Diego between 1984 and 2009.
"[It] is definitely a progression [from Street Scene] because of the fact that it's taking place close to where most of [those festivals] were downtown," Mays explained. "Wonderfront, taking advantage of the Embarcadero parks and the waterfront area, I think it's pretty cool.... There's going be a lot of different areas with different focuses for people to explore and walk around, and go back and forth and try different things."
Wonderfront will also distinguish itself from Kaaboo due to the new festival's lack of radius clauses -- which prevent performers, headliners and undercards alike from playing other shows in the area in the months before and after the fest. A likely 10 p.m. curfew will allow Wonderfront to book artists at surrounding clubs after the festival winds to a close each night.
"They're going to include [smaller shows] at Casbah, Music Box, maybe the Belly Up, at night after the festival's over," Mays said. "So they'll book bands into clubs to provide extra experiences for people who maybe can't afford or don't want to spend the money on the big tickets for the fest but can go see bands in a smaller setting. That's something that's great. When you go to Lollapalooza in Chicago or Austin City Limits, there's always opportunities to see the bands -- at least the smaller bands -- in more natural habitats. That's a great thing."
While a lot of concrete details about Wonderfront are still forthcoming, Mays concluded our conversation by reaffirming his faith in the new festival and highlighting its San Diego-centric ideology, pointing to the involvement of Hawk, Hoffman and Machado.
"I think that's a unique angle there," Mays said. "I guess somebody's gotta finance it, and if you're gonna get people involved -- again, from San Diego or with longtime ties to San Diego -- why not? Tony Hawk's a big local music supporter, Rob Machado is, too. So that makes sense. Trevor Hoffman's an iconic sports figure, who I'm a huge fan of. So I think it's good to have local people backing it, that'll go out in the community and support it, rather than investor types from out of town. We're happy to be a part of it because it's paying respect to the roots of the San Diego music scene."
For more information on the 2019 Wonderfront Music and Arts Festival, visit its official website.
Dustin Lothspeich is a San Diego Music Award-winning musician, an associate editor at NBC SoundDiego since 2013, talent buyer at The Merrow, and founder of the music equipment-worshipping blog Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.