[EVENT RECAP] CRSSD Festival
For many years, the San Diego festival scene has been the underdog. With Los Angeles a mere two hours away, native San Diegans have always gotten a secondary experience. Unless you’re attending an LED event, there aren’t a lot of options except making the longer drive to attend events in or around LA. However, this past weekend Fingers CRSSD hosted the inaugural CRSSD Festival and made it clear the San Diego scene is making a comeback.
Fingers CRSSD is a budding event production company that was first launched in February 2013. Taking its lead from My Life Everyday (LED), another local San Diego promoter which has now partnered with Goldenvoice, Fingers CRSSD has been setting up impressive club events all around SD and LA since its inception. Taking advantage of the recent maturation of electronic music, Fingers CRSSD almost single-handedly introduced a whole new sound into downtown San Diego. By booking artists like Nicole Moudaber, Eats Everything, and Kastle and avoiding huge Vegas-friendly names like Diplo and Avicii, Fingers CRSSD set themselves apart from most SoCal promotion companies.
Even though the club scene has improved, the festival scene was still pretty narrow. LED has consistently hosted multi-day arena raves at the Valley View Casino Center (formerly the San Diego Sports Arena) since 2012. Coming about just around the time large scale electronic events were nearly banned in LA, LED took after promoters like Insomniac and booked some of the most mainstream acts available including Tiësto and the “world’s #1 DJ,” Hardwell. While this was a valid attempt that had many LA festival goers driving to San Diego for New Year’s eve, LED’s static approach didn’t quite revitalize the festival scene down there. The people of San Diego needed something new, and fresh, and according to Tyson Zeibarth, curator of CRSSD Fest, that’s exactly what they got.
“We’re doing our best to set a new tone — and to set a tone here that isn’t rave-based. We’re trying to make it known that there are two types of events out there and that electronic music events don’t have to be raves. CRSSD Fest is for grown-up-minded people to enjoy themselves. Electronic music events don’t just mean bangers (intense partyers), people waving glow sticks and women wearing pasties and furry boots. There’s a deeper side to this music that has been lost in this EDM boom of the last three years.” Zeibarth told UT San Diego.
For CRSSD, Zeibarth tackled each three basic components of a music festival, (music, space, and people) with a brand new venue, live bands as well as DJs, and stern effort to separate this event from just another rave. That was something the people at Fingers CRSSD were adamant about. On the festival's website, things that were listed under the ‘Strongly Discouraged’ section included rave attire, kandi, and any manner of LED devices like gloves and hoops. CRSSD was already strictly a 21-and-up festival and with this commitment to stopping hardcore ravers in their fuzzy tracks mixed with the other elements, made me excited to see the fresh new festival that would give the San Diego scene some gas.
Arriving on Saturday in order to catch a coveted performance by Damian Lazarus and his new band, followed by the Ancient Moons, the standard logistical issues of a first time festival began to appear. Lack of organisation or forward-thinking meant the lines for entry were stretched all the way down the block, but I didn't expect to have to wait almost 4 hours considering I was in the guest list and media line. By the time I was granted entry it was almost seven o’ clock, and being in a new venue with such a forward-thinking lineup didn’t do much to improve Saturday of CRSSD. The rectangular shape of Waterfront park only left enough space for two walkways against the barriers to circumvent the stages, and these weren’t at all easy to get through. On one side the walkway was full of people standing still and on the other, food and beer lines were unintentionally added to the mess of people navigating in near darkness. The music was pretty good, but there was a lot laziness in delivery. Live acts like Classix and Hot Natured (a.k.a. the only thing that really separated CRSSD from a rave) were muddled by missed entrances, lacking musicianship, and technical difficulties. Pete Tong was ill, and with two stages being literally back-to-back, the word “sound bleed” took on a new definition. Only an eclectic mix of funk, soul, and hip hop by Kaytranada gave me any juice to come back the next day, hoping things would run more smoothly on day two...
Maybe it’s because I didn’t have to wait in a miserable line before I got in on Sunday, maybe it was because when I did, the venue wasn’t at its fullest point, but day 2 of CRSSD was like a completely new festival. After exploring the venue during the day, it was clear what kind of vibe they were going for: beach party. Whether or not you were there for the world class musicians, you won’t have to leave the city for a weekend of fun in the sun at CRSSD. With a fountain you can soak in, palm trees scattered throughout the grounds, and numerous different interpretations of the term “refreshing beverage,” Waterfront park was the right balance of arid and urban to curate an excellent outdoor festival vibe. The lack of rave attire scared away all the plurbabies, and the age limit paired with the heat was enough to almost completely prevent the over consumption of alcohol or anything else. Everyone was there to have a good time, but they also respected the fact that everyone around them was there for the same reason. Other than spilt drinks and the other expected annoyances that come with crowded environments, issues among attendees were pretty much nil, but who could blame them? With the lineup scheduled for Sunday of CRSSD there was no reason to be in any sort of bad mood.
After grooving to the sounds from the far reaches of house all day, the live acts that truly redefined CRSSD’s lineup followed the setting sun. Hugo Gruzman and James Lyell, the Australian duo otherwise known as Flight Facilities defied genres as the last bit of light leaked over the horizon, bringing out numerous guest vocalists and rappers who would respond to Lyell and Gruzman’s liver alteration of their tracks. Among them was Owl Eyes, who performed several songs with them including their collaboration, “Heart Attack,” the hit single “Crave You,” as well as some covers like Major Lazer’s “Get Free.” ODESZA was next up, and wash of multicolored lights quickly followed. In addition to their mixers, both Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight had an assortment of drums at their disposal. Whether they were both pulling sounds out of their console or hitting the drums or both, there was never a moment when the two of them were out of sync. Five minute tracks were almost doubled in length as the crowd let ODESZA guide them on a journey. However when Chromeo took the stage, it was the first time there were two guitars on stage all day, and Funk Lordz took that responsibility seriously. Dave 1 and P-Thugg’s original brand of funk spread through the crowd like a white hot flame, while light bounced off of their disco ball of a stage and illuminated the moonless Waterfront Park one last time for the weekend. It will certainly be lit again next year as CRSSD will undoubtedly return.
Click on any of the thumbnails below to enlarge. All photos and words by Harry Levin.