New Year’s Eve is always one of the most highly anticipated holidays. It’s a dangerous game, as high expectations can often lead to the likelihood of being let down. In order to avoid repeating previous disappointing experiences, I thoroughly searched through festival and concert offerings. With their stacked 20-name lineup, FNGRS CRSSD’s inaugural event, Proper NYE, was a clear winner in terms of location, weather, and musical talent.
On December 30th, I escaped the frigid cold of NYC’s winter and flew cross-country to San Diego, where Proper NYE was being held at Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres. Armed with a vague sense of the acts I wanted to see and a squad of friends, I rolled up to the festival with an open mind.
Not uncommon for a newcomer festival, the logistics sometimes felt a bit chaotic. The schedule and venue information didn’t arrive until around a week before the event, so most people were under the impression that there were only 2 entrances: one for GA and one for VIP. We later found out there was a second GA entrance just a block down with no line. With almost no one adhering to the metal barricades marking the line to the entrance and a lack of staff directing people to security, it took almost an hour to get inside the festival.
There were some more issues inside. The lack of clear signage at the entrance caused most attendees to funnel down to the field through just one of the tunnels, which also happened to be where one of the bathrooms was. This led to a very claustrophobic experience as people tried to rush down to the field, going against the grain of the crowd who were trying to use the bathroom.
After a rocky start getting in, things immediately began to improve. Given that the two main stages, Field and Park, were set up back to back, I was apprehensive of possible sound bleed but was pleasantly surprised to discover the relative lack of it. The only times the deep bass from the techno sets at Park was audible at Field were during the quiet transition periods during and between sets. There was a third stage as well, which was on a balcony along the edge of the stadium, well insulated from the main stages.
There were two heavy hitters on deck the first day: John Summit and Chris Lake. John Summit was my most anticipated set of the weekend, and he exceeded my expectations. I’ve never heard him play the same set twice, and this was no exception. Despite his distaste for the main stage, the crowd during his set was one of the most packed of the weekend, and everyone was grooving from start to finish.
Although San Diego has a reputation for having the best weather in the US, the forecasted rain came mid-way through Lane 8’s set. With Petco Park’s turf field, however, we avoided any mud pits, and the walls of the stadium shielded us from some pretty brutal wind. The rain actually felt like a welcome relief for our rising body temperatures within the crowd, priming us for Chris Lake.
FNGRS CRSSD’s apt eye for curation came into play when Chris Lake hit the decks for the midnight slot. His set kept the energy and tempo high leading up to the countdown, during which he cut the sound as the clock hit midnight so that we could properly appreciate the dazzling firework display. The feeling of love and excitement permeating the crowd was palpable as we celebrated the new year, which Chris Lake harnessed as he played for another 30 minutes. With his special brand of tech house bewitching our bodies and feet, not even the pouring rain could make anyone leave his set early. Those of us who were in attendance also got a sneak peek of his remix of Skrillex and Fred again..’s “Rumble.”
Sunday’s festivities started off smoother as we made sure to go in through the second entrance to the festival, which allowed us to avoid the massive crowd just a block away at the main entrance on 10th & Park Blvd. This also conveniently placed us directly onto the field upon entering, in the less-crowded part of the main stage.
The highlights of the second day included SOFI TUKKER and Kaskade. SOFI TUKKER may have had the best set of the weekend. These two, along with their backup dancers, displayed why having a great stage presence is so important. Perhaps due to the 1000+ live stream performances that they started doing during the pandemic, they are in perfect sync (sometimes literally, given their coordinated dance moves behind the deck). With Tucker mixing and hyping up the crowd with his signature hip thrusts while Sophie sang, danced, and wielded special effects, they generated a one-of-a-kind, infectious energy.
Then, after a raucous, lively set from Fisher, Kaskade hit the stage for a special redux set to close out the festival. Despite his superstar status, his redux set allowed him the space to play tracks from underground house artists and deep cuts from his discography. Even with some of his bigger hits, he dragged out the drop, letting the song build until the anticipation was almost unbearable. It was a perfect end to the weekend, with some of his more eclectic selections nicely balancing out the high-octane techno selections from earlier artists.
I’m always slightly wary of city festivals, given the type of juvenile, rowdy crowds they tend to attract, but I ultimately had nothing to worry about. FNGRS CRSSD went to some lengths to curate the audience with strict rules that included no rave attire and a ban on fan-clacking. The result was a laidback audience who was there for the music rather than an aesthetic experience. Everyone was dancing without fear of judgment, but I didn’t see anyone out of control. People were being mindful of each other’s space and respectful to their neighbors. To me, this defined my experience at the festival almost as much as the music did.