Major music festival planned for Cayman

KAABOO, the three-year-old festival that drew 100,000 people to San Diego in September last year to see three days of music, including acts such as Tom Petty, Pink and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, is coming to the Cayman Islands.

Virgin Produced – the entertainment arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin group of companies – announced Thursday night that it is planning a similar high-profile, but smaller-scale event for Cayman on Feb. 15-16, 2019. Acts will be announced May 15.

Jason Felts unveils the details of KAABOO Cayman on Thursday. The multifaceted music festival is planned for early next year. – PHOTO STEPHEN CLARKE

Jason Felts, KAABOO’s chief brand officer, is heading up the effort and said he is excited to bring a major festival event to Cayman, where he and Mr. Branson both have strong ties. Plans for the event have been in the works for the past two years.

“Cayman is the culinary capital of the Caribbean,” Mr. Felts said. “My goal is to make it the live music capital of the Caribbean. This will definitely be the biggest live entertainment event ever on Cayman.”

A venue is currently under construction on Dart-owned land north of the Kimpton Seafire Resort. Plans include two live music stages and an enclosed comedy club venue. There will be an additional DJ stage that will morph into a nightclub after sundown.

But KAABOO is not just about music.

“KAABOO was created to fill a space and void for adults who love live entertainment but wanted an elevated experience that was really under-served by the other festivals,” Mr. Felts said.

Construction on the KAABOO Cayman festival site is already under way on Dart-owned property north of the Kimpton Seafire Resort. – PHOTO: STEPHEN CLARKE

The brand promotes the “five senses” of KAABOO: music, art, comedy, food and indulgences. It is the last of these that sets the festival apart, Mr. Felts said. Other festivals offer VIP tickets that include such things as massage services and fine dining, but KAABOO tries to kick it up a notch.

Premium tickets at the San Diego event included a private pool with Vegas-style amenities overlooking the main stage, a hair salon, beauty treatments, a spa and, of course, massages.

“The KAABOO vibe is in the five senses, with elevated hospitality and customer service,” Mr. Felts said. He envisions that same degree of quality at the Cayman festival, but it will be scaled down.

While the San Diego event featured 70 musical acts on five stages, Mr. Felts said he anticipates bringing “just under 20 to 25” to the two stages at KAABOO Cayman. Like the San Diego event, those acts will represent a wide spectrum.

“The music is a combination of hit makers and bucket-list artists,” he said. ”It’s made to appeal to a wide adult demographic.”

In addition to the music, there will be a lineup of comedians, an art exhibit/sale area and a gourmet food section set up, much like food festivals where chefs fix small sampler plates.

All of this, Mr. Felts said, will have a distinct Cayman flavor.

“We are very focused on the local community and embracing local artists, so we will be incorporating local artists into the mix,” he said.

He said he is already familiar with the territory.

“I’ve been coming to the island since I was a kid,” said Mr. Felts, who is based in Los Angeles. “I’ve been a proponent for the arts [here].”

The artistic presence of KAABOO is already being felt in Camana Bay where this week artists began painting a floral mural on the building where Mailboxes Etc. is located. Other murals are planned, Mr. Felts said.

In 2009, he said, he helped set up the Cayman Islands Film Commission.

KAABOO was created by Bryan E. Gordon, and Virgin Produced became involved in its first year. It became a producing partner in the second year of the festival, about the same time Cayman began being considered as a second venue.

Mr. Felts said there are plans to market the festival in the United States and the United Kingdom and on direct flights to Cayman.

The lineup for the festival will not be announced until May 15, but discounted tickets are currently on sale on Two-day general admission tickets are $150 and VIP tickets are available for $625 and $2,000. The “blind” tickets will be on sale through March 31.

Mr. Felts said he is expecting the audience to be a 50/50 split between Cayman residents and tourists. He said the festival will have a significant impact on the local economy. Dart’s construction arm, DECCO, is building the festival grounds. While the stages and comedy club will be temporary structures, permanent infrastructure, including water, sewer and utility lines, is being put in place.

He is hoping people in Cayman will be as excited as he is.

“This isn’t my festival,” he said. “This is Cayman’s festival. It’s an opportunity to further enhance a place that is already amazing.”