Tyson Ziebarth didn't quite have a vision at the 2002 edition of San Diego Street Scene, where he performed under the name Virgin Tears as a DJ for Chicago house music star Felix Da Housecat. But, 13 years later, Ziebarth can draw a direct line between Street Scene and his budding electronic music extravaganza, CRSSD Fest.
The 21-and-up event makes its debut here next Saturday and Sunday at downtown's Waterfront Park, next to the County Administration Center. It will feature more than 50 performers, including Chromeo, Empire of the Sun, LCD Sound System alum James Murphy and such San Diego-bred artists as Harvard Bass and Lee K.
"The tie to me between this and Street Scene is that both have a strong attachment to this city," said Ziebarth, 35, a graduate of University of San Diego and Cal Western School of Law. "People can say San Diego is behind the curve, but if you give them something new, they'll move forward, and what Street Scene was doing was forward-looking. So it's all been a progression for me."
With CRSSD Fest, Ziebarth and his partners at San Diego's FNGRS CRSSD - a nearly 2-year-old electronic music production company that stages shows at San Diego's Bang Bang and Los Angeles' Sound nightclub - are progressing in a major new way.
Their ambitious weekend event, which will include post-festival parties each night at several downtown venues, is being staged in conjunction with Goldenvoice. The Los Angeles company produces the Coachella Valley Arts & Music Festival in Indio, one of the nation's most successful annual music events. This year, Coachella is devoting nearly half its lineup - 70 of about 160 acts - to electronic music and Electronic Dance Music (EDM) performers.
Better than Coachella?
But some fans - including San Diego digital marketer Devin Ebert - are skipping Coachella this year in favor of CRSSD Fest. The latter is an EDM-free event, by design, and seeks to avoid the all-night rave vibe common at many EDM events.
"For the most part, this is the best lineup of artists I've ever seen at a festival that's showcasing such genres as deep house and new disco," said Ebert, 30, who cites Hot Natured, Gold Room and the Australian duo Flight Facilities as three CRSSD Fest acts he's very eager to hear.
"I'm really excited about this festival because it focuses more on artists who create warm melodies and a positive atmosphere, instead of an outrageous, over-the-top, party atmosphere and the loud, obnoxious forms of electronic music you get at bars, clubs and (EDM-oriented) events like the Electric Daisy Festival and Nocturnal Wonderland. CRSSD Fest won't make your ears explode."
With: Chromeo, Empire of the Sun, James Murphy (DJ set), Jamie Jones, Pete Tong and more than 45 other acts
When: Noon to 11 p.m., Saturday and next Sunday
Where: Waterfront Park (next to the County Administration Center), 1600 Pacific Highway, downtown
Tickets: $75 (single day), $145 (two-day pass); must be 21-or-older to attend
Such comments are welcomed by Ziebarth, who has also worked with LED, a San Diego production company. Last year, LED partnered with Goldenvoice to produce daily EDM pool party concerts at the Palm Springs Hard Rock Hotel during the festival weekend.
"That was what planted the seed for CRSSD Fest," said Zeibarth, who stresses the feel and approach of his budding festival will be very different.
"We're doing our best to set a new tone - and to set a tone here that isn't rave-based. We're trying to make it known that there are two types of events out there and that electronic music events don't have to be raves. CRSSD Fest is for grown-up minded people to enjoy themselves. Electronic music events don't just mean bangers (intense partyers), people waving glow sticks and women wearing pasties and furry boots. There's a deeper side to this music that has been lost in this EDM boom of the last three years."
VIP area not egalitarian
CRSSD Fest can accommodate up to 15,000 attendees a day, and advance ticket sales have been strong, according to Ziebarth, who predicts a sellout is probable.
In addition to performances on three stages, the event will offer craft beer, local food trucks and a mixology program, along with open-air bean bag lounges, blankets to lay on the lawn and a cellphone valet for attendees who need to get charged beyond the music. Early plans for a higher-priced VIP area within the festival never materialized once the event's organizers decided that such an area would be counter to the egalitarian feeling they want the event to have.
But the main emphasis will be on presenting a varied sonic menu for devotees, not casual fans.
"It's all about the music," agreed Encinitas native Lee K, a 24-year-old DJ who will perform at CRSSD Fest and is helping Ziebarth organize the event.
"It's not EDM-based," she stressed. "It's about the house and techno side of music, and people are going to be there for the right reasons - not for a party, but because this music is part of their lives."