KAABOO is gone but not forgotten

Musician Derrick McKay was typical of those reacting to Sunday’s announcement that KAABOO Cayman 2020 had been cancelled.

“I’m kind of bummed,” said McKay, bass player and vocalist for Suckerbox, which played the KAABOO festival in February. “[I’m] disappointed and don’t understand why it’s not going forward. I thought they might pull through with it.”

Dart, KAABOO’s major on-island partner, said it had made a business decision not to continue backing the festival. The two-day event featured more than two dozen music and comedy performers, and also had presentations by top chefs and visual artists. Although all 10,000 tickets for the 2019 event were sold, it was apparently not enough to keep things going.

But while KAABOO has left the island, it is not likely to be forgotten soon. McKay and others said the festival’s influence might continue to be felt, particularly in how entertainment is presented in Cayman.

“I think some people think about things a little differently,” including himself, he said.

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The band recently hosted a multi-performer event at Royal Palms Beach Club, where it decided, in the style of KAABOO, to have two stages for non-stop music.

Aaron Solomon, general manager of Loud Productions and the producer for the upcoming SumSplash concert event, said he thinks KAABOO helped move Cayman’s standards higher for live entertainment.

“KAABOO kind of broke the ceiling,” Solomon said. “It was good to see them in action and how they do that. You learn a few things, from backstage to the flow of the event.”

He said KAABOO also may change the focus in promoting large events such as SumSplash. Where, in the past, the focus might have been on playing up the artists involved, now he expects more emphasis will be placed on the overall experience of the event.

“KAABOO was a festival,” he said, “but it was an experience. That’s the way we need to go. People are going to expect that now.”

He said he realises an event on the same level may not be practical.

“What we’re trying to do is say, ‘Let’s bring that down, but not way down,’” he said.

Dart officials said they are hoping for just such events on the 37-acre festival site north of the Kimpton Seafire resort that was constructed for KAABOO.

“KAABOO has set a precedent for producing a high-calibre entertainment event that showcases Cayman to the world,” the company said in a statement. “Dart would welcome the opportunity to host more events of this type on the festival site in the future.”

The influence of the festival has probably been felt all the way down the line, said Lynne Byles, founder of Tower Marketing, which helps organise Taste of Cayman.

“It was good that some of our local vendors have that experience,” she said, referring to those that worked KAABOO. “They can bring that expertise to other events.”

She hopes people will be inspired to think big in the future as a result.

“It shows that it can be done,” Byles said. “Whether it’s quite as big as that, I don’t know. Maybe it should be something they build up to [over several years].”

She said she was surprised to hear news of the cancellation.

“I thought there would be challenges,” she said, “but I thought they would underwrite it.”

People in general are saddened, she said.

“There seems to be a lot of chatter in terms of people being disappointed,” Byles said.

Chris Kirkconnell, president of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, shared that sentiment.

“It is sad news,” Kirkconnell said. This year’s festival “demonstrated Cayman’s ability to attract international guests to this type of event, and to have it run very smoothly and professionally”.

He said he was not sure holding the festival in February was the best choice.

“If another event of a similar nature is planned,” he said, it would “be best to consider scheduling it during a slower time of the year, and not during high season when accommodations are in short supply and the island is operating at full capacity”.

Suckerbox’s McKay said he’s just glad he and his band had the chance to play the event. Their performance in February led to an invite to play KAABOO’s California festival in San Diego, 13‑15 Sept.

“I think we’re the ones that got lucky and got to take advantage of it,” he said.

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