Waterfront Park, San Diego
28 - 29 September

Now in its fifth year, CRSSD Festival has carved out a formidable space of its own.

Located in downtown San Diego, the event takes over the Waterfront Park for two days where a sprawling line-up of superstar DJs, some of the most in-demand pop acts and rising artists are hosted across three stages. In the sun-soaked setting of California, the sky-brushing stems of palm trees line the site and the grass appears to have been freshly trimmed. The city’s pastel-coloured County Administration Building sits in the centre and dressing the edges of the festival’s location are spray fountains and stalls that neatly bear the same uniform of signs.

Everything is as the CRSSD team intended; there’s even a rule for festival-goers to refrain from dressing in rave wear to keep the event low-key (this, however, has never truly been enforced and flashes of neon can be spotted throughout the weekend). CRSSD is so well organised in fact that, impressively, the festival takes place twice each year – totalling 10 chapters altogether including this one – and it consistently sells out.

Its tenth edition kicks off with Brainfeeder affiliate Ross From Friends, who stirs up the crowd in an early afternoon slot on the first day with warm, gauzy lo-fi house and ambient atmospherics while over at the other end of the site, Krystal Klear – surrounded by an abundance of greenery on the Palms stage – gets the audience stomping along to disco grooves. As CRSSD experiences a rare cloudy afternoon, Friendly Fires brighten the mood, particularly with the colourful single Silhouettes. Frontman Ed McFarlane demonstrates his unique showmanship as he struts and launches himself across the stage.

Though their set is well-received, it’s worth noting that, unlike most festivals, the main stage at CRSSD doesn’t draw the largest crowds. Rather, it’s the two electronic stages that prove to be the focal points for dancers. Rising DJ Anastasia Kristensen begins the second day with a set including Nathan Micay’s The Party We Could Have, Luca Lozano’s remix of Patrick Conway’s Cobby & His Animals and KH’s (aka Four Tet’s) Only Human, before later launching into a sunny remix of Sergio Mendes’ Magalenha. The other dance stage sees duo Tiger & Woods take their audience on a trip of cosmic disco, Italo and synth-pop cuts – drawing for Digital Emotion’s Don’t Stop. For the remainder of the day, the CRSSD audience is locked into a rave of big-room techno – though Kaytranada’s entrancing visuals serve as a refresher for those who wish to take a break from the rave – come nightfall, festival-goers can be seen dancing by the light of the fountains.

Though driving warehouse techno seems to suit the palette of San Diego’s audience, the party spirit of the crowd demonstrates their openness. The first night fully settles in with Dr. Rubinstein before the decks change hands to Objekt. Love Inna Basement (Midnite XTC) by the fictional alias DJ Bogdan makes its usual appearance before TJ Hertz launches into more challenging sonics that the audience aren’t sure what to make of – and yet, the party atmosphere is kept high. As 999999999 take to the stage for their high-voltage analogue workouts, the atmosphere is electric, and it’s a truly blissful moment to soak up their live improvisations while surrounded by glittering skyscrapers to one side and the glistening harbour to the next. The euphoria is matched again next door when Yaeji’s silky live vocals glide over dancefloor banger Raingurl.

Moments like these are what CRSSD does best. A DJ-driven affair that marries left-field pop acts with blockbuster names and artists with an underground appeal; the festival flexes its range across the grounds. As more dance flavours enter the schedule year on year, it’s interesting to observe how the festival could be shaping San Diego’s scene – exposing its audience to a wider range of underground flavours while maintaining the fun, pop-leaning portion of its line-up. If this year is any indication of the festival’s direction moving forward, then CRSSD is one worth returning to. Judging by how often the festival sells out, the dancers of San Diego undoubtedly agree.