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CRSSD Festival has pros and cons. It is the most conveniently located electronic music festival in San Diego, which is hard to complain about. Not to mention the scenery is world class. However, the ease of accessibility can have a tendency to erode the music-savvy crowd with more of the see-and-be seen scene. However, the festival organizers fit in three stages within a small footprint, so it is relatively easy to find a vibe of your liking at any given time. This is nice too because you can catch several performances in a short period of time with minimal walking. On the other hand, three stages in a small footprint can be bad if you desire a respite from the music. The best you can do is find a middle ground between the two far stages, but what you gain in the reduction of volume you pay for with competing cacophonous noise. Not to mention the food choices and minimal amenities are lackluster and overcrowded. Neither sound nor amenities complaints would be a legitimate concern except for the no reentry policy. CRSSD ultimately relies on impressive direction with their artist line up choices, which has been consistent since their inaugural event, and this year was no exception. 

I tried to cover as much ground as possible and managed to catch good portions of a number of sets. I realized after compiling my brief review sorted by stage that I much prefer conventional house and techno artists over live acts—in that it that it seems I did not make it to any. Much of the commentary here is based on sections of entire sets I heard. It is sometimes the case that one extended section may not reflect the whole musical arc of an entire set but when I did have the opportunity to check back on any given artist, I found something very similar from what I heard previously. 

Kyle Watson brought a fun daytime party and the crowd energy reflected it. I have listened to a fair amount of this artist’s recorded work. I found his live set to be tight, thoughtful, and an improvement by my tastes in comparison to his recorded material. 

Shiba San played back to back with Walker & Royce. Their styles were excellent complements. Solid deep house. Heavy great party vibe. Extremely well produced, catchy and strong. 

Fisher has exploded in the scene and his star is still shining. I think festival organizers were inspired to give him a more intimate set headlining on a smaller stage. It seems like they overestimated what kind of draw the other stages would provide at the headliner time slot because a mob overran the poor Palms stage. There was simply not enough volume for the attendance, not by a lot. Crowd noise and tight quarters made it nearly impossible to actually get into the music. Nevertheless, Fisher played what you would expect him to play, and was as animated as ever. Great track selection, good mixing, just too crowded. At one point he held a 5-year old kid up on top of the decks who danced awkwardly. It was a party for those within close proximity, otherwise it was kind of a mess. 

Julian Jeweil played heavy hitting techno, but the sound system tuning lacked the clarity for this type of music that relies on tremendous precision throughout the whole range. Although I did like the direct unforgiving intent, it felt a bit like fitting a square peg into a round hole against the backdrop of sunshine and palm trees. It’s hard to make this genre work all the time and the crowd’s receptivity reflected this. 

Tuning improved for ARTBAT, or he had better control of his mixes. Strong more melodic techno, which was somewhat easier listening for this genre. It was still hard for the crowd to match the energy level as people were still filtering in before peak hours or those present appeared to be pacing for the rest of the event. About halfway through his set he brought in tasteful soulful vocal samples, which just worked better for the vibe pre sunset, even with the continued backdrop of relentless percussion. 

I will admit my grievances of artists on this stage are partially related to time-slot casting. There is only so much a given artist can or wants to stray from their home base style. This is one thing I have often found somewhat peculiar about CRSSD time-slot scheduling, particularly when heavier hitting more niche artists are confronted with an eclectic crowd during mellower daytime slots. 

Amelie Lens brought much of the same vibe as artists that played previously on this stage. However, it worked better for her. One, the sun had set, and lights were on. Two, she played more progressive tracks, which were still strong but also more accessible for the crowd. You can tell this artist has a raw passion for the genre she plays and does not really care if you do not share it, although the crowd did to a large degree. 

Richie Hawtin, the electronic music legend headlined the City Steps stage. He brought outstanding bass heavy custom-built techno and a subtle and well-crafted set. You really have to be listening to find the artistry here, but it is quite apparent when you do. He fired heavy unrelenting artillery with masterful precision. It worked beautifully. 

Kaskade is the first DJ I ever saw. Before I developed any opinions of electronic music of any kind, or had any exposure to the genre, I still had a distinct appreciation, a moment of true naive awe, when I heard Kaskade get on the decks at Marquee during his residency there nearly ten years ago.

I fell in love with his infectious pop house but over the years I lost interest. I was excited to hear he was doing a Redux set, but I expected it to be on one of the smaller stages. Even so, it was cool to hear some of his deeper selections on a larger sound system, a system although not tuned well for the entire space advertised—was impressive as you worked your way within some proximity. 

Even though he played with a deeper sound, he worked some of his more well-known hit melodies in front of remixed synth and bass backdrops, including Atmosphere and No One Knows Who We Are. 

He closed with In My Mind, which is a pretty good representation of the set style as a whole. 

Overall Sunday produced a solid day of artists. My only regret was getting a bit suctioned to the two smaller stages, but I did leave with a greater appreciation for a few acts I expected to like as well as an addition of a couple new artists on my radar for upcoming events. 

-Carl Isrealson