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CRSSD Fest brings its own looser vibe to SoCal dance music

CRSSD Festival in San Diego.

CRSSD Festival in San Diego.

(Fixation Photography / CRSSD)

L.A. fans who had planned to take the Amtrak down to San Diego’s CRSSD Festival on Saturday -- far and away the most pleasant, leisurely way to attend this growing, influential dance music event -- got a bit of a shock when they saw a note that Amtrak train service to San Diego was cut off for the weekend. Getting there would now require an hour-long bus transfer from Oceanside to downtown San Diego and back.

Yeesh. That ride was still better than the four-plus hours it took some L.A.-area fans to make the weekend drive in triple-digit heat, however. And CRSSD’s good spirits made even the most challenging commutes seem worth it.

The festival has instantly become a fixture in the SoCal electronic-music universe. This owes a lot to its very adept organizers, the Goldenvoice-affiliated FNGRS CRSSD (a sister company of the EDM events production firm LED), and to the inherent pleasures of having a manageably scaled fest -- last year had around 15,000 fans -- on the radiant San Diego waterfront.

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Some small issues from the March debut remained, namely that sound bleed between back-to-back stages. But after Saturday night’s opener, it’s clear that CRSSD is one of the brightest lights to come out of the post-mega-EDM era in SoCal.

Vibe is a tough thing to quantify at a festival, but CRSSD has already come into its own. More proletarian than Coachella, smarter than EDC but more welcoming than warehouse-land, it’s distinctly San Diegan and a friendly change of pace from L.A. club culture.

On one end of the field, L.A. future-soul vocalist Gallant played with a dynamism and confidence beyond his rising-act status. St. Lucia fielded a full live band to add some crunch and velocity to its sizzling synth-pop. The Parisian producer Tchami sauced up his house music with little R&B flourishes, and the lively Bonobo went unusually deep and moody for his set just as night settled in.

The ever-cryptic Zhu showed no sign of losing momentum behind his hit “Faded.” Obscured by veils of projections, he knew how to play the crowd around snippets of his marquee and bits from fellow late-night-lurker the Weeknd. But his sets have found a coherent and racy energy that should make him a favorite at fests like this for a long time.

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We would have loved to have seen more of Jamie XX and headliners the Flaming Lips (the latter was a left-field choice of headliner for a dance fest, suggesting CRSSD already has broader genre ambitions).

It would have been nice to stay for Sunday night to see the popular tropical-house maven Kygo, the great jazzy experimentalist Nicolas Jaar, the hard house of Bicep and cheeky disco of Todd Terje. But we had a bus to catch if we were going to get onto that last train back out of town.

Follow @AugustBrown for breaking music news.

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