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Five Takeaways from the Wonderfront Lineup

Big-picture conclusions from the announcement of the inaugural fest
Vince Staples is among the highlights of the inaugural Wonderfront festival | Photo: Christian Bertrand/

By Jeff Terich

The inaugural Wonderfront festival will take place in November along the Embarcadero, marking the emergence of San Diego’s third large-scale music festival, after Kaaboo and Crssd. The biggest question that news raised was how the festival would fit, musically, alongside those two events. With the announcement of the lineup on Monday, we now have an answer to that question. Featuring seven stages, Wonderfront looks to be dedicating each one to a different genre or style: rock, hip-hop, reggae, electronic, punk, and Latin sounds are all represented on the lineup. In a lot of ways, it appears to be following similar trends from other recent festivals, but in others, it feels a little more like the block-party free-for-all of Street Scene from back in the 2000s. Here are some of the major takeaways from the Wonderfront lineup announcement.

Legacies aren’t the biggest draw

The age of high-profile reunions, comebacks, and encore tour laps seems to be mostly behind us. Coachella, Bonnaroo (save for Phish) and Bumbershoot each appeared to bypass the nostalgia acts, and Wonderfront seems to emphasize artists who have been active in the past decade or so. There are exceptions, like New Orleans legends Preservation Hall Jazz Band and new wave/ska pioneers The English Beat, though the old-schoolers are mostly lined up for Tony Hawk’s stage, which is stacked with punk OGs like X, The Vandals and Suicidal Tendencies.

Guitars haven’t gone extinct

The overall makeup of the Wonderfront lineup is pretty far-reaching, but rock, it seems, isn’t dead. At least not here. Longtime local favorite Ben Harper sits at the top of the lineup, while contemporary indie rock acts Manchester Orchestra, Japanese Breakfast and Parquet Courts are also featured. It’s not quite like the mid-’00s when bands like Radiohead, The Pixies and The Cure were headlining Coachella (where actual rock has since become incredibly scarce), but it’s still reassurance that not everyone has traded their guitars for turntables, as LCD Soundsystem once sardonically suggested.

Mas Artistas en Español

Latin music is more popular in America than it’s ever been, outpacing even country and EDM in terms of overall music consumed. And festival organizers are paying attention—after Coachella prominently featured acts such as Bad Bunny and Rosalía, Wonderfront is following suit with a list of artists that includes reggaeton star Nicky Jam, cumbia outfit Los Angeles Azules, and Norteño group Los Tucanes de Tijuana. It’s an effort toward better representation that feels long overdue, especially given that this is a border region.

Return of the Boom Bap

Few of the festivals that have taken place in San Diego over the years have had an explicit hip-hop focus, and Wonderfront is no exception. But it does seem to put a heavier emphasis on rap acts, and some notable ones at that: Vince Staples, Aminé, Busta Rhymes, and Flatbush Zombies are all featured prominently on the poster. There’s also a name that’s obscured by a blue swoosh, near where the hip-hop acts are listed, so there might well be more where that came from.

Plenty of BPMs to go around

With two Crssd festivals happening each year, it would seem that demand runs high for festivals with an electronic-heavy lineup. Wonderfront suggests that there’s room for more where that came from. With acts like Thievery Corporation (who performed at Street Scene back in the day), Tokimonsta, Bob Moses and 3lau announced, the party doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.

Five Takeaways from the Wonderfront Lineup

Vince Staples is among the highlights of the inaugural Wonderfront festival | Photo: Christian Bertrand/

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