KAABOO crowds too much to handle for security staff

Dray Wilson/The USD Vista

Dray Wilson/The USD Vista

Excitement quickly evolved into mass chaos at the second annual KAABOO music festival this weekend.

University of San Diego students and San Diegans alike flocked to Del Mar with high hopes for an upbeat weekend filled with their favorite music, scrumptious festival grub, and intricate visual art displays. While this may have been the case for some, others left the festival with a bad taste in their mouths after a riot broke out on Saturday evening.

After highly anticipated performances by old timer rock and roll band Aerosmith and the DJ duo The Chainsmokers, audiences of high capacity from both performances flocked to the Encore stage, a much smaller indoor stage, to catch Ludacris and eventually Steve Aoki.

Chainsmokers drew a large crowd, but was the festival ready for it? Dray Wilson/The USD Vista

Chainsmokers drew a large crowd, but was the festival ready for it? Dray Wilson/The USD Vista

While several USD students chose to leave immediately after the prior acts, some stuck around, only to be caught in the middle of what would become total disorder. Sophomore Caroline Gallagher attempted to catch the Ludacris concert when chaos suddenly broke out.

“After we left The Chainsmokers concert, I was standing outside with my friends trying to get into the indoor Encore arena to see Ludacris,” Gallagher said. “There was an insane amount of pushing and shoving going on—more than anything we had experienced so far. People were yelling at each other, and it was difficult to tell where everyone was even supposed to be heading. All of a sudden, we started to hear yelling, and the police were telling everyone to get out of the way.”

KAABOO set up its secondary stage, the Grandview stage, where the Chainsmokers had performed, in the infield of the Del Mar racetrack. The only way to exit the track was past the indoor stage. The indoor stage was needed to allow performers to play past the 10:00 p.m. noise curfew in the Del Mar area.

When Aerosmith and The Chainsmokers both finished their respective sets, this pathway was immediately filled with hundreds of festival goers. The congestion caused crowd frustration as claustrophobia set in. Several festival goers were attempting to cut the line of individuals who had been waiting to enter the Encore stage when a fight broke out between individuals.

Gallagher recalled the chaos that ensued when she was waiting in line to enter the Encore stage.

“Everyone who was in line trying to get in was pushed to the sides while cop cars drove up,” Gallagher said. “We saw at least two people getting pulled out of the arena in handcuffs, and at least one of them appeared to be getting tazed. It was chaos. No one knew what was going on, and everyone just started trying to run out of the way and figure out how to get out of there as fast as possible.”

Police reacted by using pepper spray on individuals involved. However, several bystanders were also hit by the pepper spray.

Following the police reaction, festival goers outside of the venue were told by police that the future sets for the night would be cancelled. Festival goers then proceeded to exit the festival, and, in the midst of the mass exodus, an individual was hit by a car just outside the grounds. Later that night, the festival attendees discovered this to be a false statement.

The festival, only in its second year, attempted to grow significantly in size this year. The growth was evident at the festival, however, adequate planning on how to handle such a large number of people in such a small amount of space seemed to be lacking. The lack of planning drove many to leave the event unsatisfied with their experience. Senior Rachel Lloyd was angry at how the crowds were handled and thought the incident really affected her experience.

The KAABOO festival map outlining key locations of festival goers Saturday night. The large crowds resulted in a riot and police action.

The KAABOO festival map outlining key locations of festival goers Saturday night. The large crowds resulted in a riot and police action.

“I was really disappointed in how the crowd was handled,” Lloyd said. “The police were shoving and pepper spraying people who were just standing in the crowd.”

Lloyd did stay after the cops asked most of the crowd to leave. Lloyd was able to stay and catch Steve Aoki’s show but said the crowd was noticeably lacking.

“I waited around and ended up getting to see Steve Aoki after the police left,” Lloyd said. “I felt bad for Steve because no one was left in the audience after the police made everyone leave.”

Another contribution to the tumultuous crowd was the popularity of both headliners on the same evening. The legendary band Aerosmith attracted an older generation, eager to see the renowned band after almost an entire year of no live performances. On the other hand, the modern DJ duo, The Chainsmokers, hit the stage with their recent hit ‘Closer,’ herding in a much younger crowd. With two large and diverse artists, it seems the audience doubled in size.

Gallagher shared her perspective on how the various nights of the festival weekend felt different from one another.

“Saturday night compared to Sunday—even Friday night—was insane,” Gallagher said. “The crowds were chaotic, and [we all] just wanted the same thing: to have the best experience possible seeing [our] favorite artists.”

Junior Kiersten Nordli, who only chose to attend the festival on Saturday, shared how the riot affected her overall experience.

“It was definitely scary because the situation occurred nearly five feet from where I was,” Nordli said. “And I think what made it so chaotic is the fact that no one knew exactly what was going on, and, in that moment, everyone just started to assume the worst. I had a great time to begin with, but this was definitely scary and something I feel could have been handled much better.”

While the chaos on Saturday night left some with a bitter taste in their mouths, the large number of festival goers indicated that the weekend-long ‘mixperience’ in Del Mar is taking off.

After only two years of existence, the festival has been able to bring in some big names in the industry for its headlining acts and draw in even bigger crowds. If KAABOO can figure out how to organize the audience and make a better system, the local festival could have a long-lasting future.

Written by Abby Gentry, Asst. News Editor and Kevin Nelson, News Editor