Stellar supporting performances from The Crystal Method, Audrey Napoleon, Prince Club, JWLS, and Gina Turner.
I Love This City San Diego, held this past weekend at Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, acted as the unofficial kick-off for a 100-day long Sunday Funday, complete with bass-loaded and sun-drenched pool parties, top-tier EDM billed nightly all around town, sweaty club nights that end at sunrise, and amazing memories held together only with a single monotonous thread of hypnotic techno leads.
Following the successful San Diego debut of IDentity Festival last Summer, local nightlife production juggernaut, LED Presents in partnership with Live Nation, aimed to deliver a similar experience, through three separate stages, each that seemed to fit a particular sub-genre within the vast realm of electronic dance music. Similar to the response as with ID fest, the venue was already noticeably filled with excited party-goers, and a unique sense of antsy, yet respectful appreciation: collective love shared by San Diego’s EDM community, eager to experience the world-class talent loaded line-up for the day; and a marked gratitude for hosting an event of this size in close proximity, in the form of crowd reservation and good behavior, not often witnessed at other festivals.
Easily overlooked during ID fest, in contrast, the smaller, 3rd stage in the middle of the amphitheatre’s plaza, presented the most consistent line-up of well-received talent, thoughtful and unexpected track selection, and an all day, collectively cool crowd-wide vibe. The plaza line-up consisted of a well-curated collection of LA scene namesakes, Voyeur Nightclub residents, and touring DJs on the rise in the EDM world. Particularly noteworthy performances I was able to catch that day, came from the always on-point fan & artist favorite Gina Turner, hip-hop-minded moombahton deliveries from MIA’s rising talent & Diplo‘s recent co-collaborator, JWLS, and an exciting last minute appearance from Montreal’s Prince Club, who closed out the stage. Audrey Napoleon as per usual put on an exceptionally striking performance: transforming her typically dark inner-club centric arrangements to captivate her late afternoon crowd with equally enthralling energy and heavy-come-hither techno deliveries, that featured forthcoming originals off her new EP, ORNAMENTAL EGOS (expected to be released on SQE, July 24th, 2012.)
Although tough to leave the endlessly cool vibes via the plaza stage, it was hard to ignore the building mass of people that loomed over by main stage, late afternoon, during The Crystal Method‘s set. Although I have seen The Crystal Method perform at least a dozen times in my lifetime, their set at I LOVE THIS CITY showcased a new, revived breath of energy; that not only stood out in my mind in contrast to their past performances, but in contrast to all the performances I saw that day.
First off, unlike the rest of the main stage DJs, whose set-ups were placed far back from the audience and the pit on the back center of the stage, the Crystal Method had a unique stage set-up: built with what looked like electric guitar necks connected to their multiple CDJs and other homemade music-making devices, their set-up was thoughtfully placed at the center front edge of the main stage, almost drifting into the pit, making their performance feel incredibly intimate, despite the enormity of the concert venue. Combined with the intimate proximity, The Crystal Method seemed to absorb the masses; drawing an unexpectedly massive, highly-engaged crowd consisting of ravers and fans of all ages, that readily gathered and rapidly amassed for the duo’s anticipated set. With a commanding stage presence, the duo confidently demonstrated their untouched aptitude for creating their distinctive signature sounds, as they excitedly showed off their own exclusive sonic technologies, while successfully moving the crowd with unexpected sounds, captivating builds, and endlessly engaging performance throughout their almost entirely improvised set.
While I tried to keep my distance from the gratuitous growls and piercing oscillating highs that were inherent with the cast line-up on the 2nd stage, past the plaza stage, I did make my way over the other side of the festival out of interest to catch the set from SF’s young, sonic ground-breaking bass music pioneer, MiM0SA. Almost hyper contrary to the influx of ‘brostep’ that permeated the stage up until that point, MiM0SA delivered a significantly more chilled-out selection, featuring less confrontational, more moving, melodic grooves and thoughtful, bass-laden compositions. Layered with heavy influences of hip-hop and familiar 808′s, the crowd that jeered wildly for the intensity of the upfront 140 BPM bangers also seemed to approve of MiM0SA‘s own, mindful approach to bass music, often referred to as “Future Trill.”
Finally to close out the festival, a short live performance from SOFI, the ever-vivacious, sassy vocal lead most widely-recognized in Deadmau5‘s original productions, “One Trick Pony” and “Sofi Needs a Ladder.” Her energy was addictive, as she bounced and skipped non-stop around the stage, singing her little heart out and revving up the crowd for the main event: the eagerly-anticipated headline performance from none other than Skrillex – who is, quite simply, the most interesting man in the EDM world.
A venue-wide antsy-ness built-up in the 10 minutes it took for Skrillex’s crew to set-up his LED illuminated stage platform; followed by a collective release in the form of a teeth-grinding, brain-bleed at the first bass-laden drop, catalyzed by the giant walls of sub bass stacked nearly two stories tall on either side of him. Encapsulated by the light show structure and confronted by the entire festival’s attendees that filled nearly every inch of the amphitheatre, Skrillex performed an assortment of his own original productions, old and new, closing out the night; and initiating the official start of a long, EDM-filled summer in San Diego: the city we love.
For our full I LOVE THIS CITY photo albums from the festival, check back on our Facebook Fan Page over the next few days, and be sure to be on the look-out for our special **35mm collection** for the black & white photos we shot on film throughout the festival!
Tickets for the IDentity Festival 2012 tour are now on sale, with a limited number of $25 tickets available. For line-up details and to purchase tickets, please visit this link.
All photos © Donnie Valdez for TheMixster.com 2012