CRSSD Festival uses the best of sunny San Diego to show off a pleasantly dark dance music scene

William Laws, AOL.com

San Diego, California, is one of the most beautiful cities in America. It has a sunny, temperate climate the entire year, boasts breathtaking ocean views and isn’t plagued by the same sort of omnipresent gridlock traffic that its neighbors to the north in Los Angeles are. It’s also home to a burgeoning dance music scene, with popular night clubs interspersed throughout the city.

The people at FNGRS CRSSD use these traits to their full advantage twice a year to put on CRSSD Festival, which has acted as the de facto bookends of festival season in California since its inception in 2015. Its ideal location and tendency to highlight rising underground performers over recycling mainstream acts has quickly made it a staple for devotees in the West Coast’s thriving progressive electronic scene.

What sets apart CRSSD from its plentiful competing festivals on the West Coast is how effectively it utilizes its environment to showcase the breadth of delightful districts San Diego is broken down into.

The city’s scenic Waterfront Park, which is directly adjacent to downtown, functions as CRSSD’s home. Once the outdoor shows wrap up around 10 or 11 pm (depending on the night), attendees can then walk or take a quick Uber to one of several venues that hosts the festival’s after parties. They’re also a stone’s throw away from the flourishing bar scene in the Gaslamp District, a collection of delicious restaurants in Little Italy and the hotels that house many of the concert goers for the weekend.

CRSSD puts its spin on International Sake Day

Almost every large-scale festival these days has a wealth of selections of craft beers and wines to sample. But the Sunday of CRSSD had the unique distinctions of falling on International Sake Day and featuring a headlining musician in Richie Hawtin who owns his own sake brand.

With those fortunate coincidences in mind, CRSSD arranged for Hawtin to host a Sake Pouring Hour on Sunday evening before his set where he met with fans and mixed exotic Sake cocktails. Meet-and-greets happen at plenty of these events, but it’s rarely with such highly billed talent -- and even less often gives fans a chance to throw back a couple shots alongside them.

The sake-themed celebrations extended into the night at Hawtin’s after party performance at Bang Bang nightclub, where the venue’s customary Japanese fusion theme provided the perfect setting.

Artists who stood out

Aside from Hawtin, whose brand of booming progressive techno awed audiences at both the City Steps stage and Bang Bang, three artists emerged as standout performers of the weekend.

Australian alternative dance group RÜFÜS DU SOL earned headliner status on the event’s main stage, and they lived up to their top billing. Their set on Saturday night drew the biggest crowd of the weekend, as thousands flocked to the Ocean View stage to watch them perform hits such as summery synth-pop smash “Like an Animal” and emotional 10-minute epic “Innerbloom.” The next night, they surprised the devoted partiers who extended their weekends by attending the Sunday night after party at Spin nightclub, showing up for a DJ set to support scheduled performers Solardo, Latmun, Detlef and The Drifter.

Another Aussie, DJ/producer FISHER (half of the project Cut Snake), has just one official release attached to his solo project. But that one song, “Ya Kidding,” set the techno-house world on fire this summer, and you couldn’t escape it at CRSSD. I heard it played during three sets myself, and when FISHER himself unleashed its irresistible, Technicolor-flavored drop during his packed performance at the Palms Stage, it sparked the wildest dance party of the weekend.

Belgian producer The Magician, who closed the Palms Stage on Sunday night, was another one of the DJs who made use of “Ya Kidding.” It was just one of the infectious, dancefloor-filling hits he reeled through during his performance along with Tchami’s “Adieu” and Nic Fancuilli’s thumping remix of the Gorillaz’s “Ascension.” He also pleased fans by playing the most well-known tracks from his own discography (“SHY,” "Slow Motion," “Sunlight”), putting a feel-good ending on a city it always feels good to visit.