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Wonderfront: Ernie Hahn’s homage to Street Scene

“I think we have a chance to really fundamentally change the festival experience.”

Slightly Stoopid will play the Wonderfont festival in November.
Slightly Stoopid will play the Wonderfont festival in November.

Kaaboo filled a void when it landed in Del Mar in 2015. San Diego once again had a major music festival. This November, the Wonderfront Festival will give San Diego a second music festival — one that pays direct homage to the glory days of Street Scene.

Past Event

Wonderfront Music & Arts Festival

  • Friday, November 22, 2019, noon
  • Waterfront venues including Seaport Village, Broadway Pier, Bayfront Park, Embarcadero Marina Park
  • $199 - $1200

“Everybody talks about Coachella and all these other [festivals] but, to me, my respect and honor goes back to Street Scene. That was THE festival,” Wonderfront co-founder Ernie Hahn said. “All of Los Angeles came down and it was 100,000 people over two days. It was downtown. It was special. It was different. It was 12 blocks. My hats off to Rob [Hagey, Street Scene’s founder], especially in the early years.”

Co-founder Ernie Hahn wants Wonderfont to cure, never cause, “festival fatigue.”

Besides the music, food, and drinks, the signature element that Wonderfront is importing from Street Scene is the freedom. Festival goers will have the ability to come and go as they please, which means you can sandwich dinner at a local restaurant, beers at a bar, or perhaps a nap in a nearby hotel in-between performances. Hahn is hoping that the freedom to come and go will result in attendees spending more time at the festival, as opposed to a pre-planned, condensed visit. “[Festival goers] have got four or five hours in them, where you can contain them. Otherwise they get this festival fatigue, and they feel like they’re kind of trapped.”

He continued, “I think we have a chance to really fundamentally change the festival experience. And I say festival experience and not concert experience, because if you are just showing up for the three or four acts, or two or three acts at the end of the night, you’re going to a concert. That is not a festival.”

For ticket-buyers, there is a certain allure to a festival that doesn’t entrap its patrons like caged animals, but that freedom comes at a risk for the organizers. “It’s unique. It costs more money for us. It’s less per-caps on our food and beverage. But, if we do it right with all the other experiences, it will come in the right way,” Hahn said.

Besides the freedom, Wonderfront almost nicked Street Scene’s original location as well. While it won’t set sail in the Gaslamp, it is nearby on the waterfront. Hahn and his partner Paul Thornton spent about six years looking for a location for this festival. Spots that were considered but rejected included Camp Pendleton, Fiesta Island, and (pre-Kaaboo Festival) the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

“As we looked deeper into it, I just don’t think there’s better venues in the world than North and South Embarcadero, Seaport Village and the Broadway Pier. You’re on the water with the ability to walk in and out of your hotel room. Go in and out of stages as you want. We started working on this dream,” Hahn said.

Wonderfront will take place November 22-24 on the downtown waterfront. At the moment, 80 artists are booked to play seven stages throughout the weekend. According to Hahn, another five acts will be announced in mid-August.

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Slightly Stoopid will play the Wonderfont festival in November.
Slightly Stoopid will play the Wonderfont festival in November.

Kaaboo filled a void when it landed in Del Mar in 2015. San Diego once again had a major music festival. This November, the Wonderfront Festival will give San Diego a second music festival — one that pays direct homage to the glory days of Street Scene.

Past Event

Wonderfront Music & Arts Festival

  • Friday, November 22, 2019, noon
  • Waterfront venues including Seaport Village, Broadway Pier, Bayfront Park, Embarcadero Marina Park
  • $199 - $1200

“Everybody talks about Coachella and all these other [festivals] but, to me, my respect and honor goes back to Street Scene. That was THE festival,” Wonderfront co-founder Ernie Hahn said. “All of Los Angeles came down and it was 100,000 people over two days. It was downtown. It was special. It was different. It was 12 blocks. My hats off to Rob [Hagey, Street Scene’s founder], especially in the early years.”

Co-founder Ernie Hahn wants Wonderfont to cure, never cause, “festival fatigue.”

Besides the music, food, and drinks, the signature element that Wonderfront is importing from Street Scene is the freedom. Festival goers will have the ability to come and go as they please, which means you can sandwich dinner at a local restaurant, beers at a bar, or perhaps a nap in a nearby hotel in-between performances. Hahn is hoping that the freedom to come and go will result in attendees spending more time at the festival, as opposed to a pre-planned, condensed visit. “[Festival goers] have got four or five hours in them, where you can contain them. Otherwise they get this festival fatigue, and they feel like they’re kind of trapped.”

He continued, “I think we have a chance to really fundamentally change the festival experience. And I say festival experience and not concert experience, because if you are just showing up for the three or four acts, or two or three acts at the end of the night, you’re going to a concert. That is not a festival.”

For ticket-buyers, there is a certain allure to a festival that doesn’t entrap its patrons like caged animals, but that freedom comes at a risk for the organizers. “It’s unique. It costs more money for us. It’s less per-caps on our food and beverage. But, if we do it right with all the other experiences, it will come in the right way,” Hahn said.

Besides the freedom, Wonderfront almost nicked Street Scene’s original location as well. While it won’t set sail in the Gaslamp, it is nearby on the waterfront. Hahn and his partner Paul Thornton spent about six years looking for a location for this festival. Spots that were considered but rejected included Camp Pendleton, Fiesta Island, and (pre-Kaaboo Festival) the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

“As we looked deeper into it, I just don’t think there’s better venues in the world than North and South Embarcadero, Seaport Village and the Broadway Pier. You’re on the water with the ability to walk in and out of your hotel room. Go in and out of stages as you want. We started working on this dream,” Hahn said.

Wonderfront will take place November 22-24 on the downtown waterfront. At the moment, 80 artists are booked to play seven stages throughout the weekend. According to Hahn, another five acts will be announced in mid-August.

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