By Josh Herwitt //
Music festivals rarely ever run smoothly in their inaugural year. Whether they are poorly timed, disorganized or just not well thought-out, first-time festivals often have their fair share of problems.
But Southern California-based event promoters Goldenvoice and FNGRS CRSSD are quickly changing the game after putting on a nearly flawless first edition of CRSSD Festival at San Diego’s Waterfront Park last weekend.
Bridging the gap between the EDM and alternative electronic worlds much like HARD Events founder and CEO Gary Richards has done with his own festival series, the two-day, 21-and-over event initially caught fans’ eyes with electro-rock bands like Empire of the Sun and Chromeo topping an impressive, dance-oriented bill that also included ODESZA, Flight Facilities, Hot Natured, Classixx, Maceo Plex, Justin Martin, Lee Burridge and Pete Tong.
Then, a month later, CRSSD organizers drew even more attention to the festival when they announced Phase II of the lineup, adding James Murphy, Damian Lazarus & The Ancient Moons and Trippy Turtle to an already stacked list of performers.
And with temperatures hitting the high 80’s on both Saturday and Sunday, CRSSD Festival couldn’t have served as a better warm-up (no pun intended) for Coachella, which, by the way, is only three weeks away.
Here are our awards from the first-ever CRSSD Festival.
Most Epic Set: Empire of the Sun
The Aussie glam-pop giant has been headlining festivals for a while now and continues to do so in epic fashion. Empire of the Sun’s live performance is as much of a spectacle as it is a psychedelic dance party, and when they intertwine the two so fluidly as they did to close out the first day of festivities at CRSSD, they’re able to leave lasting memories for both new and old fans.
Biggest Dance Party: Chromeo
These two childhood friends from Montreal have been igniting dance parties all over the world since dropping their 2004 debut She’s in Control, and while their synthpop sound hasn’t necessarily evolved leaps and bounds over the last decade, they still know how to get a crowd moving, whatever the occasion may be. With the weekend winding down, you could find plenty of festivalgoers all over the grounds grooving to Chromeo’s signature brand of disco funk. We even saw people dancing on their way to the porta potties!
Most Uplifting Set: Classixx
As we found out at Treasure Island Music Festival last fall, LA electronic duo Classixx have come a long way since their early days remixing artists like Phoenix, Mayer Hawthorne and Holy Ghost! Scheduled to play the always-important post-sunset set on the Ocean View Live stage, they stepped up to the challenge and delivered one of the most awe-inspiring shows of the weekend. With their wide range of influences, the sky — especially when it’s tinged orange, red and blue — appears to be the limit for these two beatmakers.
Biggest Surprise: Lido
Quite frankly, we didn’t know anything about Norwegian producer Lido (aka 22-year-old Peder Losnegård) prior to his 4:30 p.m. set on Sunday. Well, maybe we should have. After watching him drop remixes of Bill Withers, The Weeknd and alt-j all while maneuvering between keyboards, electronic drums and a variety of programming equipment, we were thoroughly impressed with this young stud’s skills. Oh, and his pipes aren’t shabby either.
Best Stage Visuals: ODESZA
The Seattle production duo has been on fire of late, and its Sunday night set was easily one of the most anticipated of the weekend thanks to the release of its second full-length album In Return this past September. While “Say My Name” has taken the airwaves by storm over the last few months, it was their stage visuals that really stood out. Artistic and abstract at the same time, you couldn’t help but stare at the huge LED screen directly behind Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight as they worked their magic on us.
Most Enthusiastic Performance: Robert DeLong
Is there a more entertaining live performer in dance music right now than Robert DeLong? Whether he’s singing or banging away ferociously on the drums (his stage setup includes both acoustic and electronic), the 29-year-old Washington state native is one of the most animated acts in electronic music. Fusing house, moombahton and a handful of other EDM sub-genres into his Sunday afternoon slot, he showed an enthusiasm unparalleled to any other artist on the CRSSD lineup.
Best Guest Performance: Flight Facilities
Since their inception in 2009, Australian production duo Flight Facilities have continued to soar by dropping new singles year after year. Exceeding all expectations at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco during Noise Pop 2015, they arrived at CRSSD on Sunday night and didn’t disappoint, employing guest vocalists like Brooke Addamo (aka Owl Eyes) to engage the crowd and supplement their disco-house grooves.
Most Under-Appreciated Set: STRFKR
Portland electronic quartet STRFKR have been going strong for more than eight years now. With four studio albums to their name, Joshua Hodges, Shawn Glassford, Keil Corcoran and Patrick Morris have continued to build on their synth-heavy sound. Unfortunately with DJ Harvey and Thomas Jack playing sets on the festival’s two other stages at the same time, STRFKR’s rather fun and upbeat performance on Saturday went relatively unnoticed.
Sexiest Stage Presence: Goldroom
We unexpectedly caught Goldroom at Lightning in a Bottle a couple years ago, so we were already familiar with Josh Legg’s breezy, chilled-out arrangements. But somehow we did forget how sexy Mereki Beach can be when she takes over the mic, as she strutted her stuff in her shiny kicks midway through Goldroom’s Saturday afternoon set. With Legg getting the live band back together, fans of the LA-based act should be seeing a lot more of Beach.
Most Mysterious Performance: Slow Magic
One of the biggest enigmas in electronic music these days is the man behind a Technicolor wolf mask. While his identity still remains unknown to most, his fans know him best by his stage name Slow Magic (read our review of his SF show from the fall). Though a small, yet passionate crowd assembled for his early-afternoon set on the main stage Sunday, you had to feel for a guy wearing a mask and playing drums in almost 90-degree heat.