Kaytranada, Yaeji, and Amo Amo delivered electrifying sets that brought queer energy to the Southern California EDM festival
Even with a plethora of loud music, seas of skimpy outfits, and endless amounts of alcohol, EDM festivals, though growing increasingly popular, often remain largely hetero affairs. While CRSSD fest, held in San Diego this past weekend, was hardly a Pride festival, a handfull of queer artists brought an energy to the masses usually reserved for underground parties
The two-day festival held bi-annually on the waterfront of the San Diego Bay featured over 40 artists. Even among the packed lineup, the queer artists stood out.
Despite a particularly overcast forecast in usually sunny San Diego, Amo Amo performed a bright and lively set Saturday afternoon.
The five-piece band known for producing psychedelic-funk inspired dance music identifies as queer and the feel-good vibes provided by their set were definitely inclusive.
While their early set time resulted in a modest crowd of festival-goers, the band was still able to generate a palpable amount of enthusiasm from the audience. The high-point of the set was their performance of “Closer to You," a dreamy ode to human connection and the band’s biggest hit.
However, like most EDM festivals the biggest energy was saved for nighttime performances — when moving bodies are packed tight against one another underneath pulsating stage lights.
It’s no surprise that Yaeji, a Korean-American DJ and producer, thrived after dark as she’s known for curating underground queer raves in the warehouses of New York City. House music, no doubt, owes a huge debt to the underground queer club scene.
The moment she took the stage, Yaeji transformed CRSSD’s outdoor Palms Stage into the kind of sweaty techno oasis one typically can only stumble upon in the early hours of a big city.
From Yaeji’s first thundering beat, the crowd seemed to fall into her hands, vibrating intensely to her mix of soothing R&B samples, her own delicate vocals, and powerful house vibrations.
When the DJ unleashed her monster hit “Raingurl,” the crowd gyrated with even greater intensity. Even though the song, like most of her own tracks, interweaves English lyrics with Korean, the crowd seemed intent on singing along — no matter their Korean fluency.
Near the end of her set, Yaeji asked if the crowd wanted to hear more of her own original tracks or just music to dance to — the crowd responded with near equivocal enthusiasm. Yaeji answered by playing her remix of “Focus” by LGBTQ favorite Charli XCX. The two artists recently collaborated together on “February 2017” off of Charli’s new album, but the somber tone of the track and Yaeji’s particularly vulnerable outro would be no match for the crowd of sweaty riled-up disciples at Yaeji’s feet.
Ever the crowd-pleaser, Yaeji ended the set with an encore of “Raingurl,” sending the audience into another craze.
The highlight of Sunday was gay master-producer Kaytranada. Known lovingly by his fans as “Kaytra”, the artist has worked with Janet Jackson, Rihanna, and even opened for Madonna on her Rebel’s Heart Tour.
Kaytranada is known for fusing R&B and hip-hop with irresistibly danceable beats. Even with a 7:30 p.m. set on the largest CRSSD stage, the electronic maestro took hold of his audience instantaneously.
This reporter was lucky enough to maneuver my way to the front of the sizable crowd to watch Kaytranada deliver what one of my audience neighbors called “a master class in how to DJ.”
The set combined his own tracks mostly from his 2016 album “99.9%” and mixes of hits unrestricted from any one era. The lively performance coerced the entire crowd, made up mostly of 20-something’s dressed in loud outrageous outfits, into a trance-like groove.
As obvious from the sets at this year’s CRSSD, the energy of EDM flows effortlessly with queer artistry. Hopefully, festivals and festival lineups will become more inclusive as LGBTQ artists are clearly crowd-pleasers.