In the mist of a fountain by the San Diego waterfront park, a guy dropped to one knee at CRSSD Fest and asked his love to marry him. The crowd of be-tank-topped San Diego EDM dudes cheered as he embraced his beloved and she said yes, yes, yes.
That was the mood at the opening day of CRSSD, a new dance music festival produced under the auspices of Goldenvoice but geared toward the mass of dance music fans looking for what happens after festival rave. CRSSD – an underground-focused revamp from the San Diego dance music promotion firm LED - is almost entirely devoted to left-of-center sounds – Damian Lazarus, Hot Natured, DJ Harvey and a deep bill of relatively challenging acts. But it's presented in a format familiar to fans of HARD and EDC, and might herald the next phase of where mainstream dance festivals are going.
Is it overtly geared toward the EDM audience's move away from glow-sticky sounds toward more difficult material? For sure. Was it largely populated by muscular, tanned San Diegans trying to discover a more fecund strain of house music? Absolutely. But midway through Day 1 of CRSSD, the fest seemed to find a sweet spot between the demands of a mainstream dance music party crowd and the more difficult veins of techno that might rewire their minds with regard to serious clubbing.
"We had to evolve in different directions, and this is one," said Johnny Shockey, co-founder of LED, the firm that birthed CRSSD, and Goldenvoice's new dance music promotion partner. The firm cut its teeth on flinty club shows and mainstream EDM arena shows in San Diego, but this festival is its most overt effort yet to establish a space where underground acts can perform for a mainstream audience of about 15,000 people. "From a city and park perspective, we had to juggle a lot of things, but we're so thrilled with the outcome."
L.A. has a generally skittish environment for on-the-grid dance music festivals, but for the inaugural CRSSD, the San Diego waterfront has been relatively accommodating. "San Diego benefits from the tourism, about 30% of the audience came from outside the city," said Tyson Ziebarth, one of LED and CRSSD's four partners.
Acts like Klangkarussell and Thomas Jack delivered heady, serious sets of minimal techno and sexed-up house even as the waterfront teemed with a generalist body-painted audience. The challenge of CRSSD will be to prove that the recent quiet move away from area dance to progressive and testy textures can translate across a wide crowd. So far, as the sun sets on the San Diego waterfront, it's working.
There’s a bevy of late-night promise – from