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The 5 Best Things at Wonderfront Fest

Wonderfront Festival
The crowd taking in the sights and sounds at Wonderfront Festival (Credit: Sean Burch)

It’s hard to find a music event that oozes SoCal more than San Diego’s Wonderfront Festival. Actually, it may be impossible. 

Between the 70-degree weather, locally crafted beers, and the smell of churros and bacon-wrapped hot dogs wafting through the air – among other aromas – you get a festival that is quintessentially San Diego. And the Marina venue – nestled between downtown and San Diego Bay, with Coronado Bridge and military battleships acting as a backdrop – doesn’t hurt, either. The only thing missing was a Tom DeLonge sighting. 

As for the music, it was top-notch. SPIN was on hand for the third annual event this past weekend (May 10-12), which featured headliners Weezer, Beck, and Kaytranada, among many other killer artists. 

If you missed out on the fun – or just want to revisit the best moments one more time – here are the five big takeaways from the weekend: 

1. Weezer, Beck Bring Gen X and Gen Z Together

Let’s get right to the point: The two headliners who first hit the scene during the Clinton administration showed they still have plenty of gas in the tank. 

Weezer blitzed through a laundry list of classics on Saturday night, from “Beverly Hills” to “Island in the Sun” to “Hash Pipe,” leaving little room for fans to sneak off to the bathroom. And why would they? The Wonderfront crowd was clearly digging it – even earning a hearty thumbs up from frontman Rivers Cuomo for its help on the “Say It Ain’t So” chorus. 

But the highlight of Weezer’s set was when Cuomo – decked out in a flannel shirt and his trademark black-rim glasses – hit the opening chords to Hole’s “Celebrity Skin”; a palpable buzz swept through the crowd and made it clear the ‘90s vibe was in full effect. 

Don’t be shocked if Weezer – fresh off celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Blue Album – is doing this three decades later like The Stones. 

(Credit: Ed Batres / Press Pass LA) 

And the same goes for Beck. 

The L.A. native, to steal a line from David Lee Roth, has more hits than Beethoven – and he closed out the festival on Sunday night with plenty of them. “E-Pro,” “Loser,” “Girl,” you name it, he played it. 

Beck even put a little San Diego twist on “Where It’s At,” telling fans he’ll be “hangin’ out near the water… you bring the beach balls.” By the looks of his hair – half shaggy surfer, half ‘80s Bob Dylan – he meant it.

Still, the standout moments from his set came in between the anthems. “Debra” showed Beck can croon with the best of ‘em, and his cover of “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime” was a welcome inclusion. 

In short: both headliners had 20-something fans in Nirvana shirts singing side-by-side with 40-something fans who were old enough to see Nirvana. That was cool.

2. Dance ‘Til You Drop With Kaytranada

(Credit: Wonderfront Festival Media Team)

If you came to dance, you got your money’s worth at Wonderfront. 

Kaytranada led the charge. Fans were bouncing along from the moment he hit the stage on Friday night. His eclectic mix of hip-hop, funk, electronic and house music would’ve made a dead man two-step, and his own on-stage shimmying proved to be contagious. 

“I was captivated by his moves – he had his moves synchronized to his songs!” 24-year-old Dennis Andreas said. “Incredible performance. He f—-n’ killed it.” 

Surf Mesa, who performed earlier on Friday, and Carly Rae Jepsen, who hit the stage on Saturday evening, both deserve credit for getting Padres and Dodgers fans to dance in harmony as well; it’s clear music is our universal language when you see attendees in Shohei Ohtani and Fernando Tatis jerseys grooving together. 

(Credit: Ed Batres / Press Pass LA)

And on Sunday night, Polo & Pan showed everyone why France is the world’s leading exporter of electronic music. The duo’s final 20 minutes, in particular, had fans bobbing their heads and shaking their bodies.

3. Joey Badass Is For Lovers (Literally) 

Joey Badass was clearly the people’s champion. 

The Brooklyn native’s set was mentioned more often than not by attendees as one of the best performances of the weekend. 

And it’s easy to understand why: the crowd was rapping along verse-for-verse to staples like “Devastated” and “Temptation” when he hit the stage on Friday.

But the high point of his set came when he took a mini-break to host an impromptu Kiss Cam for two newlyweds at the front of the crowd. The couple’s (not-so-brief) makeout session was immediately plastered on the video screen behind Joey and framed by a giant red heart. 

If that couple has a son born 9 months from now, it’s only right that they name him Joseph. 

(Credit: Wonderfront Festival Media Team)

4. Everyone Love Dominic Fike 

Fellas, if you’re looking to score points with your girlfriend, we highly recommend getting tickets to see Dominic Fike. Then again, you may not want to bring your significant other within a two-mile radius of this guy. 

Why? Because approximately 95% of the female attendees this weekend told us how much they loved Fike’s Saturday night set. (His recently shorn hair and bleached eyebrows gave him a rock n’ roll Pete Davidson look, too, which probably didn’t hurt matters.) 

(Credit: Ed Batres / Press Pass LA) 

“I was crying uncontrollably. He has such a strong presence,” 21-year-old Reyna Pine said. “It feels like he’s singing to each and every person in the audience.” 

That wasn’t an uncommon review. 

Fike’s distinct blend of indie rock and hip-hop had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand on Saturday night. Standouts included his cover of Paul McCartney’s “The Kiss of Venus” and his closer, “Why.” 

5. Marcus King Shreds With Mt. Joy 

Wonderfront 2024’s tag team title easily goes to Mt. Joy and Marcus King. 

Less than an hour after completing his set on Sunday evening, the SPIN cover star jumped back on stage to help Mt. Joy rip through “Astrovan.” 

“Damn, I don’t know how we’re going to top that,” frontman Matt Quinn told the crowd once the song wrapped. 

You probably couldn’t. King’s bluesy guitar solo had fans running from the VIP section, angling to catch a glimpse of what may have been the best two-minute stretch of the entire weekend. Here’s a taste if you weren’t there. 

Bonus: Don’t Sleep on the Smaller Stages

You didn’t need to wait for the headliners to hear good music at Wonderfront. Some of the best performances came from artists performing earlier in the day on the smaller stages. 

Indie pop rockers IDKHow put on an especially high-octane performance that left fans clamoring for more on Saturday afternoon.

“I’ve been a fan for nearly a decade, but this was my first time seeing them – and they did not disappoint,” 24-year-old Shay Gillespie said. “I was utterly thrilled. It was everything I expected and more.” 

A few other noteworthy acts included country singer Abby Anderson, alt rockers Guantanamo Bay Surf Club and Band of Gringos, and Sudan Archives, who made the violin look cool for the first time in a century during her Friday set.