The first ever Wonderfront Music + Arts Festival took place all along the San Diego, California waterfront on November 22-24, 2019. The unique festival had stages spread across multiple venues including Embarcadero Marina Park, Seaport Village, Ruocco Park, Hilton Bayfront Park and Broadway Pier. Festival goers were allowed unlimited in and out privileges, which was necessary as each location was fenced off from the regular public access tourist areas, such as the USS Midway, Seaport Village and Little Italy. In addition to the 130 artist performances on 12 stages, the party continued with yacht parties on the California Spirit, DJ sets at the Broadway Pier cruise terminal, and offical after parties at The Music Box, Casbah, Hard Rock Hotel and The Oxford Social clubs.
Day 1 started late Friday afternoon, and featured performances by Aminé, Bad Suns, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, CNCO, Cofresi, Don Omar, Duckwrth, EarthGang, Earthless, Gioli & Assia, Lil Baby, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Miguel, Parquet Courts, Pepper, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Schizophonics, X Ambassadors, Ximena Sarinana, Banda Tierra Brava, Los Crecidos, and Seis en Linea.
Day 2 got things going before noon on Saturday, and included sets by Migos, Big Gigantic, J.I.D, Bob Moses, Bryce Vine, Common Kings, Flatbush Zombies, MGMT, Nicky Jam, Pennywise, Phantogram, Reykon, Slightly Stoopid, The Knocks, Thievery Corporation, TOkiMONSTA, Vince Staples, Zion y Lennox, Jhay Cortez, Alice Merton, Allie X, BoomBox, Z-Trip, Fakear, Goldfish, Grandson, The Vandals, Wild Belle, Andy Frasco and The U.N., Capyac, Chesca, Henry & the Invisibles, Jordan Hollywood, Marie Monti, Steve Fulton Music, The Routine, Wild Prxfits, Grandma, Jesse Baez, and Brewfish.
Day 3 was another all day affair capped off by Guitar Legends 3, a partnership with America Salutes You – an all star benefit concert to support Military, Veterans, First Responders and their families which was recorded for future broadcast. The show was led by Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), joined by George Thorogood, Nancy Wilson (Heart), Steve Lukather (Toto), Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers), Charlie Starr (Blackberry Smoke) and Kenny Aronoff and the LA All-Star Band. Other perfomers were Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Los Angeles Azules, 3LAU, Banda Los Sebastianes, Bas, Big Wild, Busta Rhymes, Grace Vanderwaal, Hippo Campus, Jonas Blue, Lil Dicky, Los Tucanes De Tijuana, Manchester Orchestra, Moon Taxi, Suicidal Tendencies, Tribal Seeds, Tyga, Walk The Moon, X, Khea, Broods, The English Beat, Japanese Breakfast, Z-Trip, Chrome Sparks, Diamante Electrico, Donna Missal, Exmag, Ghost Light, Victoria La Mala, Haddon Cord, SoDown, SunSquabi, Cydeways, Glades, Donavon Frankenreiter, Rob Machado & Friends.
This festival certainly delivered on the uniqueness factor, and the various locations were mostly picturesque with their bayside locations. The artists put on wonderful performances and got great receptions. However, the fact that each concert area was isolated from the others made it very confusing to concert-goers, who were often left wondering where each stage actually was located, and how to get there in time to see a show. We spent 3 full days at the festival and only managed to attend shows at 7 stages of the reported 12. The pier stage was a 30 minute walk from the main stage, and set times were overlapping at all times, which made for some difficult decision making. The disjointed nature of the layout also drastically reduced the crowd sizes at most of the outer stages. There were incredible performances that were sadly missed by many, due to timing or lack of awareness.
Wonderfront Music + Arts Festival certainly had a promising start, and clearly has potential to be something special. There were supposedly water taxis, shuttles and electric scooters available to transport fans between locations, but if there were, they were hard to find and there was not much signage anywhere to direct people. One of the coolest areas was at Ruocco Park, which allowed local skating legend Tony Hawk to set up his HuckJam giant vert ramp for bikes and boards, as well as curating a stage full of Southern California punk legends such as X, The Vandals and Suicidal Tendencies. Unfortunately, this was one of the hard-to-find locations and not as many people were able to enjoy this as should have.
The most exciting concerts took place at the side by side stages near Seaport Village. The younger crowds packed in to witness the hottest hip-hop stars of the day, who put on dazzling shows in front of large video screens, with dramatic stage lighting. Migos, Miguel, Tyga, J.I.D., Flatbush Zombies and Lil Baby all had the kids going wild in anticipation and celebration. Hopefully the festival will figure out a layout that allows more people to see more shows next year.