A newcomer entered into the Southern California festival market this weekend with a couple of splashes (in the box office and the fountains at the venue), mixed results on logistics and plenty of heat (literally). CRSSD Festival came to San Diego with plenty of buzz surrounding a lineup packed with some of underground dance's biggest DJs and live acts, but also for the beautiful location. (Pictures courtesy of Asa Moore/GV Media)
The two-day affair took place at San Diego's Waterfront Park, a newer picturesque park in the city's downtown. While the venue was a beautiful setting along the harbor, it wasn't without its issues. The festival was a partnership between San Diego-based Fingers Crssd and Goldenvoice, the L.A. company responsible for producing Coachella. So, even with it being a first-year festival, there was a bit of expertise expected.
From the outset a few months ago, the lineup was attractive and unique. If not only for the presence of popular live acts Empire of the Sun, Chromeo, Flight Facilities, Odesza and top DJs Jamie Jones, Seth Troxler, Maceo Plex, Lee Burridge and Pete Tong, but also for the absence of EDM acts - which is a route the majority of American festivals go to attract big crowds. Considering that, it was impressive to see 15,000 people turn out, with Saturday selling out by 2 p.m.
But the big crowds also came with a cost, as apparently CRSSD may have been underprepared for such a response - which with record 93 degree heat definitely caused some frustration. Upon arrival Saturday, attendees had to wait in long lines (at some points over an hour) to get in. The temporary box office felt a bit inefficient as well, with two windows for 'customer support' that were often without lines, but one long line to handle all guest list/will call/media passes.
The shape of the venue created some issues with its lengthy rectangular setup. Both the DJ stages were at one end and the live stage was at the other, which proved most problematic as the bathrooms were all at the other end in the corner adjacent to the live stage. Having restrooms in only one area led to some people giving up and relieving themselves in the bushes as the night grew later. Free water stations were advertised as well, but on Saturday the effort to find any that had water in them proved futile - to CRSSD's credit, on Sunday they brought in a huge water truck to remedy that issue. Bar lines were extremely long at almost every bar on Saturday - at some points over 30 minutes to get served - and you couldn't find a drink after 10 p.m. because the liquor ran out.
Musically, Saturday proved to be the more choppy of the two days - although that could have felt that way because of longer disruptions to wait in lines. Damian Lazarus & The Ancient Moons performed an interesting tribal-infused set on the live stage, which may have been a bit early in the day for that sound. CRSSD kept it interesting on the live stage between acts, with L.A.'s Jason Bentley spinning a 'Wheel of Musical Destiny' that dictated what he played during that break. Future house, 'All 90's hip hop', drum and bass and reggae were all heard, but the crowd was spared the 'All David Guetta' stop on the wheel. Hot Natured played a sultry, yet subdued set that may have sparked more talk about Anabel Englund's revealing outfit than the actual tracks. Empire of the Sun finished the live stage out with an impressive production and lighting display, but didn't necessarily deliver the energy and excitement that you would expect from the top billing of the day.
The DJs on the first day lacked a consistent flow that serious house and techno enthusiasts might look for, likely cause of the arrangement. The City Steps stage featured a nice disco-heavy set from DJ Harvey, but then shifted gears to Pete Tong playing many current hits (Andhim's remix of 'How Many Times' by Elderbrook and 'Dawn Of' from Korenevskiy stood out). Tong had the crowd with hands up and into it, but James Murphy's indie and disco-laced offerings seemed to bring the energy back down a bit. Burridge closed it out with his techier side and people were grooving, but it felt like a 90-minute set didn't really give him the time to get into his optimal zone.
By the time Sunday rolled around, lines were shorter everywhere as people seemed much slower to arrive and some may have just chosen to attend the first day. The programming on the City Steps stage was much more cohesive the second time around. Tensnake played a set full of beachy vibes that fit the time and location well. Danny Daze followed that with some bassy jams that had the crowd really starting to groove, which was followed by the highlight set of the weekend from Roman Flugel and Simian Mobile Disco. Flugel specifically dropped a number of heaters - Daniel Bortz's 'Steady Note,' Frankie Rizardo's 'Clubnight/Avond,' and Marlose's 'Avantgardistich' - and showed why he is so respected by DJs worldwide.
The only downside to that was the timing which had Flight Facilities on the live stage concurrently - probably the highlight of the live acts for the weekend. Elsewhere on the Palms stage, Jamie Jones and Seth Troxler played back-to-back, but it was oddly a much deeper sound than normally heard from either of them. Justin Martin brought the party vibes he is known for and Maceo Plex (joined by Shall Ocin) played a slamming set to close out the weekend.
In its initial year, CRSSD has to be considered a victory for the organizers. To draw this many fans with a lineup that really was without "mainstream" stars is a huge indication of dance music's evolution in the States. After moving past some of the frustrations with logistics (and the heat) on Saturday, the event felt like it rounded into form on its second day. While the bathroom situation is a definite concern, surely a year is plenty of time to smooth out the rough edges. CRSSD is primed to return - and deservedly so - to try to cement itself as a highlight and a mainstay in the San Diego music scene.