CRSSD Fest sizzles on opening day

Talk about a hot debut! On paper, CRSSD Fest promised to be a smaller, bay-side San Diego version of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in the Indio desert, but with an all-electronic-music focus and a decidedly mellow vibe. In reality, Saturday's debut of the two-day CRSSD Fest at downtown's Waterfront Park had the feel of Coachella, minus the cooler part. With downtown San Diego hitting 90 degrees, an all-time record in the area for the first 15 days of March, CRSSD Fest felt like Coachella (at least, temperature wise). Even higher temperatures were forecast for Sunday, when CRRSD Fest concluded, the "cool" part of this ambitious fete was clearly figurative, not literal. But no matter. For the 15,000 fans who filled Waterfront Park Saturday, CRSSD Fest was a giant open-air party that felt like a really hot-time-summer-in-the-city celebration. The urban setting was enhanced by the San Diego County Administration Center and the downtown skyline serving as twin backdrops, with North Island and Coronado easily visible across the bay. The fact that Saturday drew a sold-out crowd came as a happy shock to some fans, who thought the event's emphasis on mostly underground, beneath-the-mainstream-radar music acts - such as Thomas Jack, Klangkarussell and DJ Harvey - might limit its appeal. "I am so happy San Diego has brought this festival here, and I am very surprised to see so many people here," said Mohni Pande, 25, who rushed over directly from her job at a downtown pizzeria. "Apart from the main headliners, Empire of the Sun and Chromeo, I assumed fewer people knew about this type of music." Unlike Pande, fellow San Diegan Devin Ebert, 30, has attended Coachella in the past. He has stopped going to large festivals, but said he was happy to make an exception for CRSSD Fest. "The heat Saturday was ridiculous," said Ebert, who - like Pande - attended both days of the event. "Overall, I had a great time. My first impression is it has a unique, more adult vibe than other festivals." The large turnout must surely please the co-producers of CRSSD Fest. It is a collaboration between FNGRS CRSSD, which is based in San Diego, and Goldenvoice, the Los Angeles company that has produced the Coachella festival since its inception in 1999 and owns a controlling interest in Valley View Casino Center (formerly the San Diego Sports Arena). Coachella lost close to $1 million when it debuted, and took several years just to break even, before becoming the top-earning music festival in the world. CRSSD Fest immediately benefited from Goldenvoice's overall experience and expertise at mounting festivals. The production was generally smooth, although doubling or tripling the size of the on-site box office would help speed things up. So, perhaps, would adding a second entrance location. "The lines backed up later, but I arrived at 2 p.m. and got in in a few minutes," Ebert said. "CRSSD fest seemed to be having growing pains, but all festivals figure things out, eventually. The bathrooms should be spread out more over the festival grounds. By the end of the end of the night Saturday, the lines were really long and people were going in the bushes. Also, the way the stages were set up, there was sound bleed, which is kind of distracting. But me and my friends saw some of our favorite artists, and we danced our butts off." The enormous main stage at CRSSD Fest, the Ocean View Live Stage, looked as if it had been shipped in from the Coachella Festival. So did the dozens of food, drink and ATM tents, right down to the signage. But the Indio festival is not across the street from a harbor, and only someone hallucinating from the heat (or too many mushrooms) at Coachella could see the historic Star of India docked within Frisbee-throwing distance of one of its stages. There are other key differences. Coachella typically draws close to 100,000 people per day, nearly seven times as many as the 15,000 capacity for CRSSD Fest. Coachella covers hundreds of acres, while Waterfront Park is 12 acres in size. As a result, fans Saturday could quickly stroll between CRSSD Fest's three stages. They could also dance, splash or cool their feet in the long pools of water, an attraction Coachella can only dream of emulating. Equally important, while Coachella is an all-ages event, CRSSD Fest is 21-and-up. That means there are no fenced off beer gardens and attendees can freely roam across the festival site. By avoiding high-octane EDM acts, and the hyped-up crowds they tend to attract, CRSSD Fest almost instantly created a more mellow and relaxed vibe. Given the heat, women in bikinis and bare-chested men represented the norm for a good percentage of people at the festival Saturday. A few women made a fashion statement, of sorts, by wearing black stockings and garter belts as outer-wear. The yacht-rock vibe of headliner Chromeo (which has collaborated with Daryl Hall of yacht-rock icons Hall & Oates) was visible Saturday. A number of men and women alike wore Captain's hats, the perfect accessory for young shipsters, while several sported Hall & Oates t-shirts. At least one young man sported a t-shirt with a two-word message, which began with "Ahoy" and ended with a word that rhymes with "puckers." But it was the Anglo-American group Hot Natured, which co-headlined Saturday night, that may have captured the feel of the festival best with its gently propulsive song, "Forward Motion." For CRSSD Fest, after such an auspicious debut on its opening day, moving forward would seem to be the most natural course of action in the years to come. Read the full CRSSD Fest story at utsandiego.com. Source: DiscoverSD
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