Returning for the first time since its first edition in 2019, the Wonderfront Music & Arts Festival kicked off its three-day run in San Diego Harbor on Friday, November 18.
The multi-genre, multi-stage festival was headlined by the Zac Brown Band on Friday and also saw performances by artists including Cam, Lainey Wilson, Trevor Hall, Young the Giant, Quinn XCII and EarthGang. Saturday’s program will feature Kings of Leon, G-Eazy, Lauren Daigle, Swae Lee, Fitz & The Tantrums and Mod Sun and Sunday’s slate is capped off by Gwen Stefani and Schoolboy Q with support from Cage the Elephant, Thundercat , Big Boi and Noah Cyrus.
As Friday hours start a bit later, with doors opening at 2:30 p.m. (doors open at noon on Saturday and Sunday), there wasn’t too much daylight left by the time fans found parking in downtown San Diego parking lots and garages (competing with annual Marine Corps balls taking over nearby hotels). By the time they finally made it to the festival, a number of guests – including ourselves – weren’t sure which doors we could actually enter with our specific festival wristbands and were sent on a goose chase. wild by security and staff uninformed to find the correct entry point.
Once inside, there was absolutely no shortage of places to find a drink. A fully stocked bar or sponsored activation selling or offering samples of a myriad of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages seemed to be in every nook and cranny of the festival.
However, there was a severe lack of directional signage that resulted in patrons walking around and asking others where certain scenes were and how to get there and where to find basics like restrooms. Wonderfront has an app that includes a few maps with colored markings indicating restrooms and entrances, but once there with thousands of people and near water, the app took a while to load.
“You’d think with all these bars there would be more restrooms here,” one fan said, asking our team, who also didn’t know at the moment, where the restrooms were. There were actually numerous portable toilets in clusters throughout the site, but again there was no signage on site to guide guests to these areas, which became even more difficult to find once the night fell.
After realizing they had stretched a little too far in 2019, festival producers have reduced the footprint of this year’s event, which offers in-and-out privileges for guests to also explore the different shops and restaurants located throughout the port. of San Diego, as they attend performances inside gated areas located at Seaport Village, Embarcadero Marina and Ruocco Park.
While there’s a full schedule of programming in each of these areas, bouncing around trying to catch all the things you might want to see is nearly impossible. Much of the guests stayed at Embarcadero where the two main stages, most of the activations, and the rows of swap-meet-style stores were set up.
Crowds at Seaport Village and Ruocco Park were sparse on Friday, although Ruocco Park is open not only to ticket holders but the general public as well. In an effort to see all the venues, we traveled to Seaport Village to check out the ImmerXion stage where EDM band Arkit)(T performed, engulfed in immersive visuals and elaborate lighting.
We then walked to Ruocco Park. For its many logistical flaws, Wonderfront offers plenty of exploration and flexibility, you just have to walk in without any expectations and go with the flow. When we stumbled upon the Silent Disco, slipped on some headphones, and flipped through three channels, each playing different music from a trio of DJs on a small stage, some of those bad vibes started to fade. A small group of fans danced, laughed and ran through the area, even going to a lighted inflatable igloo for carefree dancing.
We also discovered The Brook & The Bluff from Birmingham, Alabama, an indie rock band with a lot of soul that was a real breath of fresh air. Despite being crammed into the darkest corner of the festival and only playing in front of a few dozen guests who happened to be in the area, they brought the heat and impressed those who decided to stay.
After picking up some delicious bites including falafel, fries and pizza – like the drink situation there were food options all around and good ones – we headed back to Embarcadero where the majority of the fans had posted to catch Young the Giant and Zac Brown Band on the main stages side by side.
Irvine’s Young the Giant delivered a fun and powerful set, with singer Sameer Gadhia even making it a family affair by inviting his sister, Sofia, to sing on “Tonight” from his latest album, “American Bollywood.” As the group wrapped up their tour with “Superposition” and the breakthrough single “My Body,” Gadhia repeatedly thanked the crowd and quickly added “It’s our last gig for a long time” before walking out. It was a little worrying, but the band have been on a long getaway to support the new record, so maybe they’re just taking a little break.
While the masses stuck around for the Zac Brown Band, we were drawn to the Coors Light Stage inside Seaport Village to see hip-hop duo EarthGang, who were playing in the same timeslot. Despite the competition, they still attracted a large audience and gave an energetic performance with songs like “Billi”, “Top Down” and “Proud of U” which included a lot of audience participation and brought lots of smiles and a sense of camaraderie. as people jumped up and down, sang, and left Wonderfront’s first day on a high.
Wonderfront Music and Arts Festival
When: Friday November 18
Where: Port of San Diego, Seaport Village, Embarcadero Marina and Ruocco Park, San Diego
Also: Noon Saturday November 19 and Sunday November 20. Tickets are $139 for one-day general admission at wonderfrontfestival.com.