Leon Bridges meets fans at the Dickie’s trailer at the Fortress Festival
A three-day “luxury music festival” at AT&T Stadium in Arlington that seemed to cater to an older, less hip crowd, Kaaboo Texas was disappointing in almost every possible way. After making a name for itself in San Diego and the Cayman Islands over the past few years, Kaaboo’s inaugural event in Texas over the weekend was overpriced and disorganized.
Requests for daily attendance numbers have not yet been responded to, but Friday and Sunday seemed to have particularly small crowds. Noticeably more people showed up on Saturday, but attendance was never anywhere near capacity.
The bizarre lineup featured ’90s acts that are too embarrassing for anyone to admit to ever liking. And many are simply too young to remember derivative tunes from the likes of Alanis Morissette, Bush, Collective Soul, Counting Crows, and Garbage.
The lineup also featured acts that are even further away from their heydays, like Lionel Richie, X, Rick Springfield, Violent Femmes, Eric Burdon & The Animals, The B-52s, Sting, and even Lynyrd Skynyrd. Slightly more recent mediocre rock like The Killers and Kid Rock were also on the bill, headlining the first two nights of the festival.
It’s as if two or three random lineups one would expect to see a radio station put together at the fairgrounds somewhere in flyover country were transported to a massive world class venue.
With comedians like Demetri Martin, Garfunkel and Oates, Heather McDonald, Whitney Cummings, and Fortune Feimster, the comedy stage looked like a bright spot. But Kaaboo Texas managed to ruin this as well.
Approaching the entrance to the “Humor Me” tent to catch a few minutes of Dennis Miller’s set, a group of us were stopped by an employee who made a cross with her fingers, as if we were vampires, and said, “We’re closed.”
Baffled, one man wanted to know why he wasn’t allowed to see a show that was part of a festival he paid to attend. Angrily, the employee explained that anyone who wanted to catch a comedy set needed to show up early and stand in line because no one gets in after the show starts.
As a music writer who has attended countless music festivals over the years that often included comedy, this was a first. This is not how music festivals work. People tend to wander from stage to stage, catching a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I have never heard of such a music festival locking people out of a performance or making them stand in line.
And the staff was unprofessional, unorganized, and unhelpful at nearly every turn.
Here is a perfect example: Following instructions to pick up my tickets and parking tag at a particular lot outside of AT&T Stadium, I arrived and was told this was not the correct place and given more incorrect information. This happened two more times. Circling around the massive venue, I was on my way to wrong lot number four when I luckily spotted the tent I needed to check-in at.
After getting my tickets and parking badge, I inquired about the location of the parking lot because it wasn’t the one I had already visited. An employee explained that my lot was actually at the other stadium. After searching most of the lots at Globe Life Park to no avail, I found another employee who explained that my lot was actually next to a little league field a ways down the road. After parking, a school bus shuttled a group of us to AT&T Stadium, but somehow managed to drop us off nowhere near the entrance.
With so many different corporate sponsors crowding every bit of the scenery and countless different “experiences” and ridiculous upgrades that could cost thousands of dollars, Kaaboo Texas was almost as shamelessly over-commercialized as a concert on the current KISS tour. And that’s saying a lot considering that Paul Stanley is actually trying to sell his fans a guitar he plays during one song for a whopping $18,000, which doesn’t even include a ticket to the show.
One point of contention for many was the “Coors Lite Rowdy” stage located in the “Bask” area. With admission running at least $159 for one day or $299 for all three and with on-site parking starting at $60 a day, many were disappointed that an upgrade was required to see acts like Cash Cash and Paul Oakenfield. The “Bask” area did include access to a pool, but towels had to be rented.
The local art ended up being a bright spot. Murals from well-known artists like JM Rizzi and pop-up exhibits from great local galleries like Mary Tomas and Jen Mauldin did not disappoint. “Sacred Alchemy,” a massive mixed media installation near Metroplex, the main stage located inside the stadium, was easily the most visually stunning part of the festival.
Comedians like Demetri Martin and Whitney Cummings gave masterful one-hour sets, for those who were allowed to see them. Relevant bands that accidentally ended up on this bill — like Acid Dad, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and D and Chi — had great performances. Ms. Lauryn Hill may have started an hour late, but she probably played the best set of the festival.
And it’s worth noting that the stages, inside and outside, looked and sounded great.
Rain canceled Chromeo’s DJ set and comedian Jim Breuer on Friday night, which ended after The Killers’ headlined. But with stages inside or on concrete covered with synthetic grass, there was no mud on Saturday.
With better organization, AT&T Stadium could be a fabulous place for a music festival, if it can find one worth attending.