In a recent interview with DJ Cobra we discussed his new business venture, Drink City, which he launched in San Diego as a test market. While taking a risk by launching his own business, it only makes sense that so many companies start in San Diego considering the cities’ eclectic community of youth scenes. From the college party crowd, to the underground music aficionados, hipsters, scenesters, pop culture nerds, outgoing activists, and young professionals, there is a tiny beacon within the San Diego denizens which acts as an accurate portrayal of the nation’s larger youth market.
This, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with the nationwide EDM touring concert, Identity Festival, held at the Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre in San Diego on Saturday, August 18th. Still, the event drew a sold out crowd in the thousands, attracting a diverse mix of people from all manner of age groups, nationalities, distant cities, and culture scenes.
“Music brings people together like nothing else.” says Natasha, a 19 year Eastern European native with flowers painted over her nipples.
The late afternoon start time proved a bit of a deterrent. When the gates opened at 2 p.m., only a handful of zealous youth trickled in, dancing to the openers in the sweltering heat. The highlight daytime set was undeniably that of Stephan Jacobs, whose glitchy style of whimsical dubstep proved a breath of fresh air into a genre which has become over saturated and, not unlike the music itself, mechanized.
“I’m pretty sure these beats are turning my brain into liquid.” Quipped a lean college student as he lay shirtless on the hot parking lot blacktop.
Between the two stages – a stadium for the house and trance performers and a large ad hoc style set up for the drum and bass and dubstep performers, there lie the LED Stage amid the vendor village. Artists like RL Grime and Lightyear played amazing original sets to an ever growing crowd of passersbys. While the simultaneous running performances on multiple stages is always a dilemma for music lovers who are forced to choose between multiple amazing acts, the duality of stages proved a perfect complement to the talented musicians; plus it’s still better than, for instance, the seven simultaneous stages of Warped Tour.
On the Amphitheatre side, EDM legends and old timers like Bingo Players, Paul van Dyk, Porter Robinson, and the #1 (highest paid) DJ in America, Erik Prydz. Naturally, every act blew the audience away. Later in the evening, a majority of the chairs surrounding the Amphitheatre were filled by gurning and exhausted ravers. Some danced atop their orchestra seats, some journeyed just in front of the gigantic stage only to be packed in, shoulder to shoulder, with other screaming EDM fanatics.
All in all, Bingo Players has to be a personal favorite. Having seen all of the aforementioned acts before, most of their performance involves little to no new material and becomes very stale. Bingo Players, on the other hand, manage to keep things fresh with a good mix of handpicked songs that really engage and energize the crowd. Still, for most patrons, it was their first time seeing these powerhouse performers and where appropriately thrilled to be there.
Across the way, in a vacant parking lot, a massive stage towers over a sea of people. Complete with high quality lighting, visual projection, and eight foot bass speakers, the dubstep stage was equipped with all of the gear one would find in the loudest clubs today. As low frequency bass chords rip through the adjacent parking lot, Doctor P made his presence known to anyone within a mile radius while neighbors in the surrounding hills surely thought it must have been a small, but very long, earthquake. Rocking the stage with all of his hits and a handful of original remixes, the good doctor shows us why he is so popular both in the states and in his UK homeland.
Bringing a bassacopia of beats to the hungry ears of San Diegans, Noisia shocked and awed many while traversing everything from throwback drum and bass, dub, moombahton, dubstep, drumstep, and more during his hour long set. Unexpectidly joined on stage by MC Dino (Nero), Noisia’s set was brought above and beyond the next level by Dino’s rasta infused verses. While some rave purists left during his set, many stayed to dance, headbang, and even mosh. (Moshing is just like dancing, right?)
If I had a dollar for every time I heard the words “Showtek” and “sick” or “the illist” in the same sentence, I would have enough money to be producing my own EDM festivals. Without a doubt, Showtek’s manipulation of the BPM throughout his set really brought the sweaty audience back into a refreshingly energetic reality. The adjacent Monster Energy truck handing out free drinks, of course, helped with that as well. Showtek’s performance is unique, never boring, and always original. With the use of his own MC and faster tempo dubstep with low frequency drones, this guy is a natural crowd pleaser.
Finally, around 10 p.m., the real star of the show steps on stage. Excision is to dubstep what Neil Armstrong is to not being on Earth. Although mostly instrumental, he is able to communicate tangent meaning and story through his songs via low bass cuts, squishy reverberating bounces, and drops so hard it looked like people were about to have a seizure. Of course every car alarm in the parking lot was set off – it wouldn’t be a proper show if they weren’t. Showcasing all of his hits and several new tracks, including one with Datsik, Excision’s hour long set appropriately closed ID fest ensuring everyone in attendance left with beaming grins and exhausted feet.
One of the best things about ID is that most artists are actually doing original sets, with many of their own songs and remixes, in a seamless DJ style performance. Anyone can do a DJ set, but seeing these guys blast and live remix their own tracks is a priceless opportunity. Although an all ages event, for a music junkie in his mid twenties, this was not nearly as vexing as anticipated. Literally everyone I talked to had a good time – including a couple who had just vomited their guts up together – aww. The venue was a decent choice for such a large crowd, definitely amplified by the brilliant light and sound production. The line-up of artists was absolutely rock solid and provided a little bit of everything for EDM fans. The single biggest problem most people had with Identity Festival is that it started at 2 p.m. – way too early in the afternoon to begin a rave in triple digit heat – and it ended at 11 p.m. – far too early to expect people to go home pleased, even at an all ages show. Here is crossing my fingers that next year goes a tad smoother as far as the set times are concerned, but ID is definitely a festival worth making an annual tradition out of.