“The Sound” at Del Mar Fairgrounds

While the Del Mar Fair attracts thousands during its two-week run every summer, The Sound will provide year-round entertainment at the Fairgrounds, while attracting talent that has not historically included Del Mar in their touring schedule. “Tonight is just the tip-off to just how well received this is going to be,” said Fairgrounds CEO Carlene Moore at a VIP opening event January 12th.


On display, in addition to performances by the B-Side Players and DJs Mazee + Oli, was the kind of streetwear usually saved for North Park or Encinitas: fitted caps, Stan Smith sneakers and even a Virgil Normal tee, speaking to the promise of a hipper, more urban draw. The Sound is a project five years in the making: awarded by the 22nd District Agricultural Association as a strategic play to replace off-track betting with a more lucrative endeavor. It took three years to construct through the pandemic.

Photo by Jessica Smiley

The 1,900-person state-of-the-art venue, retrofitted inside a historic building, boasts a lofty feel with a large upper balcony, open lobby, impressive lighting, and ample catering and merchandise spaces throughout. It will be operated by Belly Up, the Solana Beach-based venue that has a strong track record of identifying and supporting iconic acts through their indie phases. While smaller acts will be booked throughout the year, The Sound will be coming out of the gate with heavier hitters: Ziggy Marley, will be the inaugural performance, has already sold out both nights in February (only days before his late father’s 78th birthday); Jason Mraz in March is also sold out.


“For the first night out, I’m really happy,” says Rick Stanley of Sound Image, who installed the sound system and has a long-standing relationship with the Belly Up. The uniformity and openness of the space will make it easier to achieve a high-quality sound. “The Belly Up is an institution in our industry, and now [Del Mar’s] got something that can hopefully carry over a similar vibe.”


Speaking to the eclectic nature of what can happen in this space, although the venue will host activities like beverage festivals, concerts won’t be offered during the Fair until 2024. Other upcoming performances include The Flaming Lips, Big Gigantic, Colin Hay, Sylvan Esso, and Steve Aoki. Moore sees The Sound as “a game-changer for us as the Fairgrounds, the City of Del Mar, and the larger community.” More information can be found at TheSoundSD.com.