Music festivals have a unique way of uniting people from all walks of life under the banner of music, dancing, and good vibes. And if you’re a music enthusiast like me, you’ve probably heard of CRSSD Music Festival. Located on Waterfront Park in Downtown San Diego, CRSSD has become a mecca for electronic music lovers, drawing crowds from all over California and even the U.S.
The excitement was palpable as I entered Waterfront Park on Friday evening. We had a delayed start driving from Los Angeles, and I was super bummed I missed LP Giobbi, Ladytron and Jayda G. All three were on my list of must-see acts at CRSSD. Despite seeing Ladytron many times, it had been a while since I last saw them live.
The sun had set, and the sparkling views of the San Diego skyline were the perfect backdrop for the dance party weekend we were about to have.
It’s worth noting I have not attended an electronic music-focused festival in eons! While I attend many music festivals and concerts for both business and pleasure, I steer clear of raves and EDM festivals. I was a late 90s raver and club kid who attended the first Electric Daisy Carnival and would spend my high school Wednesday nights and Magic Wednesdays in Hollywood. I grew out of that scene in the early 2000s mainly due to disdain and guilt for the excessive drugs my friends and I would do, as well as just being over some of the annoyance that comes with an EDM crowd (random sweaty hugs, candy kids, blind to boundaries, etc.).
Almost 20 years later, albeit not a “rave” – I was pleasantly surprised with my return to a dance music festival. CRSSD had a fun and friendly vibe, and seeing iconic acts like Underworld and Fatboy Slim sparked that nostalgia.
At the Palms Stage, I got my first dose of Chris Lake at CRSSD. From the stage to the crowd, I felt like I was at a frat party bruh … I made my way to the Underworld very quickly.
We danced the night away to Underworld, who closed down the first night of CRSSD. It felt good to be amongst early adopters of trance and techno music instead of what felt like a Girls Gone Wild college party at the Palms Stage.
Hearing Underworld perform “Rez” live once again reminded me of that one time in ’98 as the sun rose and … never mind. I’ve left those days behind but have not forgotten how much I love to dance. And oooh, did those dance skills come back! Underworld was pure bliss. Getting lost in their rapturous sounds and visuals reminded me why I fell in love with the 90s rave scene in the first place.
Before being bathed in Underworld’s nostalgic bliss, we caught the badass mama-to-be Amelie Lens. The Belgium import was a techno-goddess serving endless bass in your face. My goodness, was the bass insane. I feel bad for anyone on the frontlines who foolishly did not have earplugs in their ears. Those frequency levels are legit rattling.
After leaving the earthquake-like vibrations of the photo pit, where I witnessed Amelie in all her beautiful energy, we moved toward the back to take it all in without feeling like my face was melting off. That’s the thing with electronic music; it’s a better experience from the back, where you’re free to move and groove without shattering your eardrums.
P.S. I can’t believe I used to put my head inside of speakers at raves in the 90s. It’s no wonder 24 years later, I already have impaired hearing in one ear.
The next day at the Palms stage, we caught TSHA. Tiny but mighty, this London-based producer and DJ has a knack for creating delirium-soaked house and dance-pop. Surrounded by towering palm trees in a more intimate setting, we danced to her entire set. Those Missy Elliott cuts were lit!
The dance party continued at the Palms Stage as Boys Noize melted our faces. I hadn’t seen the German producer Alexander Ridha in years, and he was as slick as ever, with the crowd crumbling at his speakers.
After Boys Noize, my feet needed a dance break, so we headed to the bar near the Palms Stage. One of the things I loved doing back in my club days (when I wasn’t ruling the dance floor) was people-watching. I loved taking a beat on the floor or grass and watching other dancers, and checking out different fashions and styles. I got a great dose of this while seated at the bar, making friends with bartenders and other festival-goers who wanted a moment of chill with a spicy cucumber margarita in hand.
Fatboy Slim delivered an unforgettable performance that had everyone dancing well into the night. It was the perfect sunset performance with his signature electronic sounds, striking visuals, and samples. Again, a set soaking in nostalgia, I felt at home at this stage (Ocean View Stage). And it’s probably why I also ran into our dear friends with similar musical tastes. While I appreciate (most of) the new school, there’s a unique camaraderie with the EDM old school. If you know, you know.
Praise and Room for Improvement at CRSSD
Whether you’re a dedicated electronic music lover or simply looking for a weekend of great music and good vibes, CRSSD is an event that should be on your bucket list. Needless to say, there is always room for improvement.
I loved that CRSSD was at a comfortable capacity. It didn’t seem oversold, and I could move quickly from stage to stage and find cozy spots to dance with others. Now, the Palms stage was a different story. That stage was always a madhouse, probably partly due to its proximity to the entrance. With trendy EDM acts like Fisher and Chris Lake filling up the area with annoying bros, I would stick these acts far from the entrance, especially if they’re a headline set.
CRSSD had plenty of free earplugs, along with hand sanitizer and sunblock. Those are all critical amenities often forgotten by festival-goers. When festivals provide these necessary comforts, it’s a thoughtful win.
I loved how close all the hotels were to the festival. We stayed at the Intercontinental San Diego, and it was like a 5-minute walk. I highly recommend this hotel when visiting downtown San Diego for any music travel.
Waterfront Park in San Diego is a beautiful setting, and the temps were pretty moderate considering CRSSD took place at the end of September. The weather was nice and breezy. Those random ocean breezes were a blessing from Mother Nature, trying to cool our dancing souls.
Leaving the festival on Saturday night was a shitshow. Amongst the sea of stanky people, we were heard out like cattle. Why there was only one small exit blows my mind. Hopefully, festival organizers are reading this and will make the exits more plentiful or bigger next year. Because of the hassle of getting out on Saturday night, we didn’t stay for the festival’s end on Sunday.
Other than that, CRSSD was pretty damn ace. I highly recommend attending for any live music lover who wants to dance in a beautiful setting. The memories I made and the friends I met will always bring a smile to my face. Good vibes, indeed.