GROUNDWATER cements itself as San Diego’s premier Halloween festival [Event Review]
FNGRS CRSSD have established their brand as San Diego’s premier destination for alternative and underground electronic music. With five wildly successful CRSSD Festivals and years of club shows and day parties under their belt, the company recently expanded into holiday territory with the introduction of Halloween’s GROUNDWATER festival.
GROUNDWATER is akin to a underground centric offshoot of CRSSD Fest — a far more intimate affair outfitted with a single stage, whose lineup comprises some of the best house and techno-leaning names of the semi-annual festival. Disclosure and Justin Martin were elected as the gathering’s very first headliners, signaling early on that GROUNDWATER had plans to become yet another mainstay addition to the FNGRS CRSSD agenda. Its centralized, pristine location of Petco Park, San Diego’s baseball stadium, added further appeal.
photo credit: Fixation Photography
Akin to other CRSSD events, production was minimal at GROUNDWATER. Organizers used their tried and true tactic of setting the festival in an extremely picturesque location, using the downtown city skyline to their advantage. The stage was covered in lush greenery, giving off an almost tribal, rainforest vibe that fit the music well. A smaller venue size also worked well for San Diegan noise ordinances — though not as booming as a normal festival, sound hit at just the right spots in the small space and was amplified nicely by surrounding buildings.
One minuscule damper to the overall experience was the overtly high ratio of security staff and police officers to actual festival attendees. Their laser-like facial expressions and closed off body language cast a slightly intimidating and oppressive feeling into the mix. This is not to say that the extra help was bad in anyway — safety is one of the most important aspects of any large event, and the weekend most certainly flew by peacefully and incident-free.
photo credit: Miranda McDonald
Top-notch music drove the festival forward into a an overwhelmingly positive direction, however. A plethora of skilled performers brought their A-game to Petco Park, never ceasing to spark copious amounts of foot movement. As evening settled in on Saturday, the wizard himself Damian Lazarus treated fans to a quirky set filled with an array of mystical house and hard-hitting techno pieces that allowed guests to “Get Lost” for 90 minutes as he bounced around the booth.
Lane 8 took the stage next, eliciting peak emotional response with his smooth, melodic brand of dance music. Justin Martin closed out GROUNDWATER’s first night with a bass-fueled set that mixed hip-hop, Dirtybird house, and tech into an eccentric bundle.
A last minute Infinity Ink cancellation left some fans disappointed, but nevertheless, Sunday presented an enticing sonic palette to guests. Hannah Wants did a formidable job riling the crowd in Infinity Ink’s place with hearty 4/4 kicks and infectious energy. Dusky dominated the twilight hours with a stylistic mixture of breaks, techno, and melodically oriented house, centered around pieces from their new album Outer. Finally, Disclosure concluded the festival’s inaugural run with their typical catchy mix of deep house and garage cuts pieced together in appealing, modern fashion.
photo credit: Miranda McDonald
The after parties were as brilliant as the main event itself and served as perfect fillers for the nighttime portions of Halloween weekend. Radio 1 tastemaker Pete Tong showcased his new favorites on Friday as a preview of what was to come, while Damian Lazarus and Disclosure presented their darker sides on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Breach and Jey Kurmis also played Saturday after parties, as well as the Canadian legend Tiga for a special live set on Sunday.
Ultimately, GROUNDWATER has proven itself as yet another cherished addition to the FNGRS CRSSD family while San Diego’s dance scene continues to mature. Despite a last minute cancellation and a few minor bumps, the first edition was as flawless as it could be, especially given limitations brought on by city ordinances. A strong lineup of house royalty foreshadowed the event’s success, and each artist delivered in their vastly unique ways to curate a fun and danceable weekend. With positive reports all around from fans, chances are more than likely it will become one of the city’s top Halloween destination in the coming years.
Header image credit: Felicia Garcia