When FNGRS CRSSD and Goldenvoice partnered for the first CRSSD installation last March, their aim was to create an iconoclastic electronic music festival. Intending to become the quintessential “anti-EDM” event, CRSSD has quickly ascended to a state of great repute by breaking the standard dance event mold through two unique means: its biannual scheduling, and more importantly, its fundamental decision to feature respected “underground” talents over commodified hit-makers.
Following two critically successful executions of this stratagem in 2015, CRSSD has retained its modus operandi of rostering acts with musical ingenuity over trite popularity for its tertiary edition. However, more so than any preceding year, the festival seems to be heading toward a techno-exclusive direction, á la Detroit’s Movement Festival. While Ocean View (the event’s main stage) hosted a variety of calmative live acts like Odesza, Chet Faker, and Tycho, it also played host to the likes of Gesaffelstein and REZZ — techno talents who have hitherto not been equitably positioned at any of CRSSD’s more mainstream-inclined counterparts.
FNGRS CRSSD further evinced their motive to focus their philosophy toward achieving techno purism rather than ticket sales by booking major acts like Eric Prydz and Oliver Heldens under their warehouse-welcomed alter egos, Cirez D and HI-LO. Throughout the secondary stages, City Steps and The Palms, techno heavyweights like Loco Dice, Jamie Jones, Maceo Plex, and Tiga received two-hour headlining and penultimate slots, with support from a staggering array of underground bellwethers. It is difficult to pick diamonds from the rough when the rough themselves are diamonds, but amidst the stellar selection hosted by CRSSD, we have elected to highlight some of the acts and organizational facets of the festival which shone most brightly.
Gesaffelstein resurrects the spirit of Aleph
Gesaffelstein fans were all but inconsolable when the artist announced in 2015 that Coachella would be his “last live set,” meaning that he would be retiring his Aleph show, wherein he crafted a musical experience based upon an arrangement of exclusively original music melded in perfect synchronicity with his simplistically complex lighting design. Following his discontinuation of Aleph, Gesaffelstein’s live endeavors have consisted of a series of aggressive DJ sets, wherein he has returned to his pre-Aleph roots. Though Mike Lévy’s skill to invoke terror and primal energy from behind the decks is perhaps unparalleled, his role as a DJ has, hitherto, not come close to matching the magnitude of his live set.
CRSSD may mark a new era in the story of the iconic artist. Filling Saturday’s penultimate slot at the Ocean View stage allowed American audiences a new opportunity – to witness what Gesaffelstein is capable of achieving in a mainstage performance.
As Gesaffelstein claimed his captaincy of the main stage, the night’s first rain begun to fall, offering prescience to how significantly his performance was going to alter the tone of the day. Channeling the macabre spirit of his heralded Aleph performance, Gesaffelstein resurrected the stark white lights that characterized his live show as the visual component to his harrowing set list.
Photo by Skyler Greene
Maceo Plex far transcends his substitute duties
CRSSD ticketholders were deeply saddened when Tale Of US had to cancel their Sunday headlining set at City Steps due to Matteo Milleri’s ongoing health issues. However, while fans’ sympathy remains strong for Matteo, their sadness for the duo’s significant absence was largely alleviated after CRSSD managed to swiftly fill their slot with perhaps the most qualified applicant: Maceo Plex.
Photo by Skyler Greene
Barcelona-based techno visionary Eric Estornel was evidently quite at home closing out the City Steps stage for the weekend, reprising his acclaimed performance in the same setting at March 2015’s inaugural CRSSD. The festival veteran spun a tale with his music compelling enough to rival Tale Of Us themselves. Just as Carmine and Matteo are by no means replaceable, Maceo Plex is by no means a mere substitute. Throughout his grandiose, two-hour performance, the DJ wove ambient aural spheres and imposed surreptitiously formidable reverberations, punctuated with elephantine synth shrieks, all ubiquitously flecked with melodically percussive arpeggios. Most importantly, Estornel never skipped a beat for the duration of his lengthy set – an unsurprising development, given his proclivity for exhaustively lengthy filibuster performances. Perhaps as mesmerizing as his musical odyssey was Maceo Plex’s animated stage persona. Constantly swaying with enraptured vigor, the producer seemed to be as spellbound with his performance as the crowd itself. Though Tale Of Us were sorely missed at this installment of CRSSD, Maceo Plex transcended the role of a stand-in to assume that of a star player.
Gorgon City Electrify the main stage with live instrumentation
After a collaborative DJ set with Kidnap Kid at The Palms, Gorgon City’s core members Matt and Kye hustled over to Ocean View to join their band – including vocalist Lulu James – for a stunning live performance. Throughout the show, the group traversed an enrapturing soundscape of deep house, tech house, soul, funk, jazz and a number of variations in between, all heightened noticeably by the irreplaceable backbone of live drumming. As Gorgon City’s musical current progressed, it was backed by an illuminating visual production, bolstered by hyperactive spotlights and germane iconography, including Greco-Roman statues and architecture, and of course, the continually occurring presence of Medusa.
Green Velvet joins Claude Von Stroke for a ‘surprise’ set as Get Real
Green Velvet joined Skream and Gorgon City’s elite society of acts with multiple festival appearances when, midway through Claude VonStroke’s closing set at The Palms stage, he joined the Dirtybird don for a buoyantly bizarre B2B. While Green Velvet’s matriculation into Claude’s set was unannounced, his presence elsewhere on the lineup suggested that fans of the jaunty techno super-duo Get Real would likely be treated to such a convergence. Against the rainforest-themed backdrop of The Palms Stage, Get Real drew upon the darkness and daftness that are critical to the musical philosophy of both acts, creating an impishly intentional incongruity that was delightful to witness.
Damian Lazarus and Loco Dice excavate the Underground
Housing the most industrial acts of the CRSSD roster, the City Steps stage became the de facto warehouse of San Diego’s waterfront park. Though they faced stiff competition, techno legends Damian Lazarus and Loco Dice managed to rationalize the discrepancy between their mechanical stylistic signatures and the venue’s breezy, balmy essence. In broad daylight, Damian Lazarus purveyed his dark, metallic music from atop City Steps’ woody aesthetic. By lightly raising the tempo of his standard performance without compromising its fundamental traits, Damian reconciled the oppositional relationship between his music and his setting with effective aplomb.
Conversely, Loco Dice invited his audience into the nighttime on the second day by remaining steadfast to his roots. Though travel delays incurred a late start to his performance, once Loco Dice recused Skream of his stand-in duties, he transported the crowd deeply into his underground vision for the full duration of his set. Once darkness fell, Loco Dice bolstered grittily pained noises with a perennially pounding percussion to create an experience of harrowing danceability, which neither faded nor faltered as long as he stood behind the decks. Where Damian Lazarus brought the warehouse to the water, Loco Dice brought the beach to the basement.
It may be tempting to view CRSSD’s supposed mission statement of being “anti-EDM”as fundamentally negative, or to dismiss it as pretentious. However, to spend a weekend experiencing its end result is to realize that the festival’s stance isn’t rooted in hatred or pompousness. Rather, their mission is to change the axis around which electronic music event production revolves. Without favoring big ticket names over thematically appropriate, but lesser-known talents, CRSSD managed to sell out with demand to spare. By booking artists based on the quality of their work instead of the revenue potential of their brand, the festival was able to achieve a number of feats not realized by “mainstream” festivals.
Ultimately, CRSSD afforded underground savants the opportunity to showcase their fullest potential in main stage sets and fostered a community environment, wherein like-minded talents were willing and able to join in or fill in for their compositional compatriots when appropriate or necessary. As FNGRS CRSSD continue to develop their model over the coming years, it will be interesting to see if larger festivals follow suit.
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