Something special was in the air this past weekend and surprisingly it wasn’t rain! Maybe it was the accumulation of 15,000 people praying to the weather gods or maybe it was classic Sunny San Diego trying to prove its nickname, but the gloom predicted to be at CRSSD never came. Instead, a few perfectly timed patches of rain, a lot of sun, and comfortable temperatures all accompanied an incredibly fun weekend.
The only entrance on the South side of the festival separated attendees into upwards of 6 lines for ID check first, followed by upwards of 10 lines for security check. Bags were rummaged through and individuals were gently patted down. In comparison to the numerous EDM festivals I have attended, security was gentle but thorough and quite efficient. Having arrived around 1:30pm both days, it took me approximately 5 minutes to get through both checks on Saturday and 15 minutes on Sunday.
San Diego’s Waterfront Park is extraordinarily central to downtown. Since CRSSD ended at 11pm on Saturday and 10pm Sunday, I was able to walk just up the street and enjoy a few different bars and clubs afterwards. Something special about the Waterfront Park that you don’t see in most downtown areas is an ocean view. Although the fence surrounding the grounds blocked the shoreline, just over the fence was flowing blue water and rolling hills with quaint homes perched upon them. After sunset, the nearby boats lit up with fairy lights dangling from their sails. Unfortunately the cloudy sky didn’t allow for any dazzling sunsets this particular CRSSD, but I can only imagine what a sunset set would be like with good weather.
Always Accessible and Clean Water
The make or break it point in my opinion for music festivals is always the quality and accessibility of free water. Having been to music festivals in 103 degree heat plus a 2 hour security line with no water being handed out and even festivals where they have run completely out of water, you’d be surprised how often this part of planning gets messed up. Water can be the defining factor in someone’s health and safety and should not be taken lightly. When looking at the FAQs on CRSSD’s website prior to attending the festival, I found myself already cringing at the fact they would not allow empty CamelBaks or bladders inside. One empty 24oz water bottle might get you through a couple sets, but who wants to be running to the water station every few hours to fill up? Definitely not me. That being said, I managed to bring a 32oz empty water bottle in (shhh) and refilled it about three times each day with clean and decently tasting water (of course it tasted a bit like fluoride but that is to be expected). The station was located directly in the middle of the line of stages and each time I visited most of the spigots had no line so I managed to be in and out in a couple minutes.
Well Prepared for Medical Issues
Something I am not used to seeing at festivals and that I was quite impressed by was the preparedness of the medical staff on duty. Very close to each of the three stages sat a stretcher equipped with anything that might be needed in order to attend to an individual in addition to at least two on duty EMTs ready to move the second they were called. Thankfully I didn’t witness any stretcher being used, but it was nice to see CRSSD came well prepared.
Professional Stage Setups
For having sold a grand total of 15,000 tickets, I was pleasantly surprised at how professional the stage setups were. Sticking with an overall theme surrounding plants (especially palm trees) and nature, each stage brought its own subtleties in decoration. Ocean View had an impressive amount of individual screens mixed between empty squares and spaces filled plants, on top of a massive projection screen which all the artists performing after sunset took great advantage of. City Steps featured a wooden stage filled with plants and a mesh covering that draped over the audience. The Palms (my favorite) looked as if you had stepped into a tropical jungle. The performing DJ was barely just a head enveloped in ferns from every direction. A similar mesh covering draped over the audience with upside down umbrellas hanging down and swaying in the breeze.
Have you ever been to a festival where you have nobody in particular scheduled to see and you’re walking around looking for something to do? One of my favorite things about CRSSD was that if you found yourself in this situation there was never a shortage of things to pick from. Ocean View was the only stage that had breaks between sets, allowing time for the next artist to set up. If you found yourself walking around aimlessly during one of these breaks, you were bound to discover yourself bobbing your head to either a techno or house artist that you may have not known before but would be most likely looking up the next day. If none of the artists were striking your fancy, you could head over to the Roland Tech Booth and try your hand at DJing yourself or you could even play around with a synthesizer. Need a break from the music in general? Go have a seat at the Sake bar and order yourself some Sushi and Sake, play in the water fountain with fellow shufflers, or lay down on the soft, well groomed grass.
Being a local and a beer lover, I cannot write this article without commenting on the beer selection. Although overpriced (as is alcohol at any music festival), I was pleasantly surprised to see local breweries, including Barrel 10 and Mother Earth, had a presence at CRSSD. Being a sour beer lover it made me quite happy to see that the Cucumber and Raspberry Crush were being sold in cans, an acceptable representation of San Diego sour beer. The best part was that being a 21+ festival you didn’t have to fetch your ID out of your wallet to buy a drink and you could walk around anywhere with it in your hand!
Upon entrance to the festival, I encountered a few annoying mishaps with security agents. I watched the security lady make a girl in front of me throw away her empty plastic water bottle even though the FAQs state directly that it is allowed! When she tried to make me do the same I showed her the FAQs on my phone and her response was “Oh. I was thinking of a different festival.” Additionally, my friend was patted down on two different occasions, once by the person checking bags and once by a security agent after for no particular reason. Rather, they were so busy talking amongst themselves they seemed to be paying no attention to the attendees themselves. Although entrance was quick, it was generally unprofessionally carried out.
The biggest issue I had with CRSSD and which many have been discussing vocally since is the sound quality. On day one Ocean View was insanely quiet. There were two tiers of speakers (one on the stage and the other in the middle of the crowd) yet only the speakers adjacent to the stage were on for almost all of the day. This means you had to shove yourself into the thickest part of the crowd in order to be close enough to hear the performer rather than the people around you talking. Thankfully on day two it seemed as though these speakers were turned on and the sound quality at Ocean View was generally much better. In the opposite direction, City Steps definitely brought the volume. However, the sound was so loud and clear that the sound bleed was overwhelming at The Palms stage even though the two stages were facing the same way! (In other words, the speakers at City Steps were projecting in the opposite direction of The Palms.) People attend music festivals to hear the music they came to hear live…not the combined music from a different stage or surrounding strangers’ conversations. I think sound setup is the most crucial thing to get right for music festivals and I was sadly disappointed.
Given the location, I understand how the layout was designed to fit the space, but sadly travel between stages towards the end of the night became an excruciatingly long adventure due to bottlenecking. Particularly on the East side of the festival people were shoving against the centralized crowd at City Steps to get in either direction. Thankfully, walking along the West side was not nearly as bad so I stuck to passing through there but getting to the bathrooms became a struggle since they were all located on the East side.
Bathroom lines are to be expected at almost any music festival you attend, but I found that late at night they were much worse than I predicted. Since many of the rows of porta podies faced one another, it was nearly impossible to stand in line for them (you’d be standing back to back with other attendees). Toilet paper ran out quickly and for 15,000 people there generally were just not enough restrooms.
I usually avoid talking about other attendees when discussing a festival since I live by the saying “to each their own”. However, this is the first music festival I have attended at in my own home town and feel the need to say that I really don’t think the attendance of this music festival is an accurate representation of San Diegans. If you found yourself annoyed or disappointed by the crowd, I beg you to not judge San Diego as a whole. I witnessed some very disturbing situations this weekend of people just being brutally mean to each other, including a girl slamming another girl’s hand in a bathroom stall and people threatening fights. Overall I feel it necessary to say I was disappointed by the attitude of the crowd and I’d like to encourage others to please be nice to one another next time! We all go to music festivals to have fun so how about we just help one another get there?
CRSSD couldn’t have started off better than with Channel Tres. Classic Detroit house reimagined with the surly attitude of West Coast rap, Channel Tres is almost as if Blood Orange committed to being fully hip-hop. Having been the first time I saw him perform I was not only blown away by the clarity of his deep voice but also by his insane dance moves! He took the stage by storm with two back up dancers and performed an array of impressive choreography while singing and rapping. To say I was incredibly sad when his set ended 15 minutes early would be the understatement of the festival.
Petit Biscuit, a French DJ and music producer, has a very special place in my heart. Listening to his incredible combination of ambient, techno, and house has made so many difficult days tolerable for me and so many good days amazing. It is difficult to put into words how impressive his set was, from the deeply though out visuals to the surprising mashups. The highlight of his set was during his second song Problems ft. Lido when approximately 8 counts before the first drop it started pouring rain for the first time all day long. And by pouring I mean from zero to one-hundred in one second. By the time the song was over so was the rain. It was as if the weather was telling everyone to get excited for most likely the best set of the festival.
Armand Van Helden
Armand, one of the danciest house artists around, brought the movement we all needed at the very end of the night at The Palms. He was the perfect way to bring Saturday to a close as everyone around us was all smiles and disco dance moves. He was everything I could have imagined and much more.
Tourist, a London-based songwriter and electronic musician, was not only one of the biggest highlight of CRSSD for me but it was also one of the saddest moments. Performing at 1:30 in the afternoon on the stage farthest from the entrance, I sprinted through the festival only to catch his last two songs. Tourist makes sounds unlike any other and they sounded even better live then on record (if that’s even possible). I wish more than anything I could have seen his whole set, but next time I know I won’t let myself miss it.
It might have been the fact I know every word to every Jungle song and have been a fan since the singles for their debut album were trickling out back in 2012 or maybe it was the people and situation around me, but I had an insane amount of fun at Jungle’s set. They delivered a groove like none other and the entire audience was dancing their butts off. Strangers were belting lyrics out loud with me and there was just pure joy in the air.
Lane 8, a DJ and producer from Denver, makes soothing and melodic house music that you can do just about anything to. I read while listening to his music, work, shower, do yoga, and dance at music festivals. He has a magical way of combining a beat that makes you want to groove with an undertone that makes you want to take a deep breath. This was the second time I have been able to see Lane 8 live, the first being at Snow Globe, and my expectations were quite high. Not only did he deliver beyond my expectations, but I enjoyed it so much that I found myself on Monday searching for when I get to see him next.
I think it is always fun to share with your friends around you what surprise acts you caught and truly enjoyed (or not) because the best way to discover new music is to fall in love with an artist live. Some of my most treasured artists were discovered this way (including Lane 8) so I’d love to share some people I fell in love with this past weekend. Sonny Fodera will definitely go down in history as the greatest and most fun surprise of CRSSD. I found myself with 45 minutes to waste after Lane 8 had finished and before Odesza started. Being that there are no breaks between artists, the second Lane 8 finished on The Palms, Sonny Fodera started playing. Two songs in and I was hooked. He scratched every house itch that remained from the weekend and more. On Monday I spent my entire work day listening to his 2016 album Frequently Flying and I highly suggest checking it out. I am obsessed. I was also pleasantly surprised by Ladytron’s set. Although the crowd was small, those in attendance were clearly avid fans and the environment was lively. It was nice to hear music a bit different from most other artists at CRSSD and I was especially impressed by their visuals. In addition, David August and Monica Cruz were two more surprises I encountered that I have found myself listening to post festival.
CRSSD After Dark
On Sunday night I attended the Whethan after party at The Music Box in downtown San Diego and had an absolute blast. Half of Louis the Child surprised the audience and played almost the entire set alongside Whethan! It was the perfect way to make it feel like the amazing weekend I had was never going to end. I am impressed that CRSSD organized so many after parties and encouraged attendees to not let the early curfew end their fun just as early. Next year I will definitely buy tickets for the after parties on both nights right after they go on sale, because it was almost as great as the festival itself!
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FestPop Staff Writer, Julia Osteen