Oct 14, 2015
Here’s How CRSSD Festival Escaped The EDM Stigma

(Photo by: Skyler Greene)

Music fans like to talk about the “EDM Bubble,” and how this shiny, youth-perpetuated movement will soon collapse along with its fist-pumping stars, huge drops, and wide-eyed ravers. While people continue to contribute to these debates, festivals like CRSSD are speeding ahead of the criticism to instead evolve and build a new kind of rave-free electronic music event.

Taking place Oct. 10-11 in balmy San Diego, CRSSD experienced a successful, sold-out weekend. Tiny in comparison to three-day behemoths like Coachella and Bonnaroo, it is a small festival that somehow keeps an electronic focus without associating with raves. Although headliners Jamie xx, Nicolas Jaar, The Flaming Lips, and TV on The Radio are not household names to most, they comfortably toe the line between mainstream success and hipster appeal, making its lineup unlike any other on the scene. Here is why CRSSD is not your typical electronic dance music event.

Cutting-Edge Programming

It’s not that festivals haven’t experimented with a hybrid electronic-indie lineup before, it’s just that CRSSD has got the curious genre mix down to a science. At any given moment in the weekend lineup attendees could choose between electro-pop, techno, disco, tropical house, and even a bit of rock. None of the performers could be considered mainstream, though between their March lineup and this one, mainstream success has never been CRSSD’s primary goal.

The lineup is skewed heavily towards electronic music, but this is not EDM. We repeat, this is not EDM. You won’t find Calvin Harris, Tiesto, David Guetta, and the likes at this festival. This event is for audiophiles that scour SoundCloud daily hoping to find the next undiscovered star, and truly love a talented performance.

Heading into CRSSD weekend, you know you’re not in for a monotonous day of DJ set after DJ set. The Ocean View stage boasted live performances that not only offered a shift from countless DJ sets, but also showcased a wide array of musical styles that would be unexpected at a typical rave or electronic music event. At the same time, artists like Gallant, St. Lucia, Client Liaison, and Big Data hold an electronic and pop sensibility that make even a devout electronic music fan feel comfortable.


(Photo by: Felicia Garcia)

21+ Age limit

Though anyone under the legal drinking age reading this will disagree, there is something supremely advantageous about a 21+ age restriction. At a superficial level, there are no beer gardens inside the festival, instead the entire grounds are fair game for drinking, so no rapidly chugging the rest of your drink before heading to a stage.

Not all 21+ music fans can handle their alcohol, but the age restriction does cut back on insensitive festival newbies. No event is entirely devoid of those weekend warriors that imbibe a little too much alcohol (or more potent substances), but the level of obnoxious, too-drunk-to-stand attendees was decidedly less when compared to an all-ages or 18+ event.

Many electronic music events get flagged for under-aged ravers and drug use. CRSSD bypassed this negative association with the age requirement. Their predecessor HARD events, after facing two grievous deaths at this year’s HARD Summer, will also be implementing a 21+ age cap at their Day Of The Dead event. It’s impossible to say that an age restriction creates a safer festival environment since there are so many factors to consider, but CRSSD proved that the 21+ requirement was an advantage rather than a struggle to work around.

Prohibited Rave Gear

CRSSD is not the first event to prohibit items like kandi, light gloves, and plush toys, but they are leading the way when it comes to separating electronic music from raves. Of course, these items have never been the real issue for authorities when it comes to raves, but without their drug association it is a lot easier for city officials and other higher-ups to take CRSSD seriously as a festival.

Small Festival Size

Paired with the 21+ age limit, the event’s small size was another contributing factor to a successful weekend. Tallying in at about 30,000 people for the weekend–about half the size of HARD Summer, and dwarfed by Coachella’s 195k crowd–CRSSD kept things intimate and controlled. Even as the two-day event passes sold out, there were rare moments when the crowd felt like it was too large to navigate. All three stages were well-attended, but never over-crowded or claustrophobic.

All In All

EDM never had to become such a negative thing, but after facing so much scrutiny under the media’s magnifying glass, it’s become apparent that something has to give. As CRSSD and other electronic music promoters move beyond the “EDM bubble” they leave in their wake electronic music events that are fun despite the lack of obvious rave and drug associations. These things may still very well be at CRSSD, but if these changes mean that the festival escapes the criticism of authority figures and other outlets, then we’re on board. A safe event that keeps amazing music as the focus should always be the end goal.

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