San Diego Music & Cultural Festival KAABOO Believed To Be Done For Good

May 28, 2021

Mired in debt and litigation, San Diego's KAABOO festival is believed to be done for good, absent the impacts of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Last June, we received information from a trusted tipster within the music industry that KAABOO San Diego would not be returning. We reached out to the company's Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Steven Levy for comment, and he ensured us the information was false. Nearly a year later, we see the KAABOO website is down, as is that of the festival's parent company Virgin Fest, the music festival arm of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group. Levy also confirmed he has not been part of the Virgin Fest/KAABOO team since late last year. 
Richard Branson & Jason Felts
As reported thoroughly by Billboard Magazine, the 2019 KAABOO festival came a hair away from cancellation before a last-minute purchase from former KAABOO partner and executive Jason Felts through his new company Virgin Fest LLC, which allegedly occurred just one day before the 5th annual event was scheduled to take place at San Diego's Del Mar Fairgrounds & Racetrack. Following the purchase, KAABOO founders Bryan Gordon and Seth Wolkov sued Virgin Fest LLC in the Superior Court for New Castly County in the state of Delaware, accusing Felts of "pursuing a Trojan Horse strategy" to "infiltrate KAABOO" "and take possession of its most valuable assets," according to court filings. The trial is currently scheduled to begin May 16, 2022.  

"Since launching in 2015, KAABOO had received more than $60 million in investment and loans, but didnt have 'enough cash to pay all of the artists, staff, and vendors,' for this years festival, according to a recently filed civil complaint in Delaware superior court," reported Billboard. "Jason Felts, a former KAABOO partner and executive, raised $10 million through his company Virgin Fest LLC to buy the fest on Sept. 12 from founders Bryan Gordon and Seth Wolkov. As part of the sale, Felts contracted to hire the founders and their festival’s staff to produce the 2020 festival as part of a seven-figure deal that would partially pay back $9.7 million still owed creditors and vendors."

On the final day of the 2019 event, KAABOO officials surprised San Diego by reporting that they had reached a multi-year agreement with the San Diego Padres to host the 3-day annual festival at its new home at Petco Park in downtown San Diego starting September 18-20, 2020. This resulted in the Del Mar Fairgrounds announcing it was considering legal action against KAABOO for violating terms of their contract. 

Since launching in 2014, the KAABOO festival expanded to Arlington, Texas, where it took place inside Dallas Cowboy's AT&T Stadium May 10-12, 2019. KAABOO also hosted a sold-out event in the Cayman Islands Feb 15-16, 2019. It has already been reported  that both the Texas and Cayman incarnations were cancelled in 2019 for the foreseeable future and now it appears that the festival will not be returning to San Diego. The 2020 event was ultimately cancelled, citing COVID-19 as the reason, but our information is it would not have taken place even absent the global pandemic. 

Representatives from the San Diego Padres have confirmed they have not been contacted by KAABOO to reschedule their festival for 2021, and fans who pre-purchased tickets to the 2020 incarnation are reporting they have not yet received refunds. Virgin Fest founder and CEO Jason Felts responded to our inquiries that he no longer works at KAABOO, but stated he believed an announcement would be coming in June. We were then directed by Felts to reach out for clarification to KAABOO's one-time Vice President of Business Development Chris Racan, but he also replied he is not the appropriate point person. Neither Racan, nor anyone else, could direct us to anyone from the organization managing the KAABOO Festival.  

Following our outreach to former KAABOO officials and with direct messages through their social media channels, the festival published the below graphic to their Facebook, Instagram & Twitter but prohibited the ability to comment on all channels. The website remains down at the time of publishing.