Since the first day of last year, I was on a mission to see as much live music as possible. I kept telling myself that 2016 would be ‘The Year of the Concert” for me.
As the year winded down it was unreal to reflect on the last twelve months and realize just how many shows I’ve been to. I attended ten festivals (three of which were 2-day fests) and at least fifty concerts all over California. I visited venues such as the Observatory North Park/Santa Ana, House of Blues SD, Birch Aquarium, Sleep Train Amphitheatre, Bang Bang, Valley View Casino Center, Omnia SD, Del Mar Racetrack, NOS Events Center, Microsoft Theatre, Empire Polo Fields, Golden Gate Park, Waterfront Park, Petco Park, Music Box, The Wiltern, and I’m most likely missing a few. I attended most for fun, but I also worked some events. While some were better than others each show holds a special place in my heart because I was able to share my passion for music with the people I really care about.
For the bracket challenge, I am only pitting festivals against each other and mentioning my stand out shows of the year at the end. There is so much to a festival that I had to determine a set of criteria to help me decide the winner of each festival matchup. After brainstorming what I believe are the most important aspects of a festival I based my criteria on the lineup as a whole, venue, vibe, and a miscellaneous portion (sleep accommodations, cost, 18/21+, food, art, etc.). I labeled small sheets of paper with a name of a festival I attended and chose at random from a hat to create the match ups. Below are the match-ups and winners!
Zach’s 2016 Festival Bracket
SnowGlobe ’15 vs Groundwater ’16
SnowGlobe 2015 was exactly a year ago, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was so hyped on the lineup consisting of Dillon Francis, Eric Prydz, Chet Faker, and Ghostland Observatory that I bought my ticket immediately. It made it even better that the original SnowGlobe crew from 2014 would be reunited and we booked a cabin walking distance from the venue this time. It made everything much more convenient and there is something really special about sitting in a jacuzzi when it’s 7 degrees out. Kaskade was a late add to the lineup and we rang in the new year with What So Not. Not too shabby…
Check out my review of SnowGlobe 2015 HERE!
It’s unfortunate that this matchup is too easy to pick a winner because Groundwater was a really amazing 2-day Halloween event in San Diego. Hosted at Petco Park in its inaugural year this 21+ event brought huge artists such as Disclosure (DJ set), Justin Martin, Lane 8, and Dusky together for a one stage event. I actually preferred the vibes of GroundWater to SnowGlobe because of the 21+ factor, but it doesn’t compare to seeing your favorite artists in the snowy forest of South Lake Tahoe.
WINNER: SnowGlobe 2015; with the combination of a good crew, beautiful scenery, a 3-day event as opposed to a 2-day, and a stellar lineup, it was a no contest which fest came out on top. GroundWater was significantly cheaper and closer, but it still doesn’t touch the experience I had at SnowGlobe 2015.
CRSSD Spring ’16 vs CRSSD Fall ’16
I swear I randomly drew these from a hat, but talk about a funny match up! CRSSD fest has become San Diego’s largest most popular festival and for a good reason. The weather and venue are beautiful, the lineups are more obscure but still totally awesome, it’s 21+, and it’s 30 minutes from my house. I always have an awesome time at CRSSD because most of my friends go and it is less stressful because of its proximity. The only thing separating these two fests was the lineup and CRSSD Spring satisfied my musical craving more.
WINNER: CRSSD Spring The lineup at CRSSD Spring featured Odesza, Chet Faker, Gorgon City (Live), Gesaffelstein (DJ Set), Tycho, Claude Von Stroke, and a bunch more. Gesaffelstein was the main reason I bought my ticket and his set was epic mainly because it was raining, but also because it’s Gesaffelstein. The Dark Prince threw down an unforgettable set and the downtown San Diego backdrop was stunning. The fall lineup of CRSSD was still good and that’s why I attended, but a bit more underwhelming even though it had more artists.
Coachella ’16 vs Life is Beautiful ’16
Again, I swear I drew these randomly! This was the hardest match up for me because I have a fun track record with both these festivals. I have attended Coachella every year since 2011 and Life is Beautiful every year since 2014. Each festival is unique in its own respect, but also so similar in many regards. Life is Beautiful has a larger focus on the art, city (Downtown Las Vegas), and experience as whole; because, Coachella is more centered on the headliners and camping. The immersive camp experience of Coachella makes for a convenient and fun weekend, but if you do Life is Beautiful correctly you can be in a hotel right outside the festival entrance. With that criteria, I would say the festivals are pretty much level peg. Also, the lineups are fairly similar when it comes to headliners just Coachella brings more artists number-wise.
WINNER: Coachella. The thing that sets Coachella apart from Life is Beautiful is the open polo fields and vibe. Once you enter the Polo grounds you are free to roam a vast, and hopefully green field filled with stages for all musical tastes. You can get sprayed at the Do Lab then proceed to the Sahara for crazy electronic sets. Sit in the shade of art installations staring into the clear blue sky with strings of balloons blowing in the breeze. Afterwards, you can head back to the campgrounds and hang with your new friends and neighbors at the silent disco. It is truly a magical place.
Lightning in a Bottle ’16 vs EDC Las Vegas ’16
I attended both festivals for my first time this year after having each on my radar for the past few years. EDC was the first of the two and it was even better than I could have imagined. This was the first fest that I’ve attended that went all night rather than all day and partially into the evening. That’s what I loved most about EDC. They call it the Electric Sky for a reason! From the moment you enter the speedway you are engulfed in lights and neon. The speedway is an enormous playground with endless things to get lost in and explore. The fireworks were amazing every night and each stage has unique production. This year also happened to be the 20th Anniversary of the Electric Daisy Carnival so it was the perfect year to finally go. The only downside about EDC Las Vegas is that at some point you have to leave and that’s where Lightning in a Bottle got me…
WINNER: Lightning in a Bottle. From the moment I arrived at our campgrounds I knew that I was in for a trip. We had 20-something people in our group and we came prepared! And, that is no understatement. We brought carpet, an abundance of shade, installed a ceiling fan, had a solar contraption for power, and a delicious supply of food and beverage that lasted the whole weekend. Lightning was completely different from any other festival I have attended. You can camp a stones throw away from some stages and there is a huge focus on art, sustainability, consciousness of self and environment, and of course the music. The combination of all these aspects creates a wonderfully unique atmosphere and a vibe where people can genuinely express themselves. Everyone is so kind, the diverse food stands are amazing, and the main and smaller side stages give you so much to explore. As you walk from place to place and over bridges you are showered with high fives. There is just no comparison when it comes to Lighting in a Bottle.
Outside Lands ’16 vs SnowGlobe ’16
This was a hard decision because each experience was completely different. Both have a foresty vibe, but the landscapes are completely opposite. Outside Lands is in the bay surrounded by trees, but still warm and sunny with a slight bay breeze. SnowGlobe is foresty, but you’re for sure going to need more layers, snow boots, and some toe warmers. There was a surprising amount of overlap between to the two lineups considering SnowGlobe is more electronic focused. That’s the main thing that Outside Lands has over SnowGlobe is diversity in the lineup. I attended Outside Lands with a portion of the Lightning in a Bottle group so it was great to have a little reunion, but I have to say the group aspect was what made SnowGlobe 2016 more exciting.
Check out my review of SnowGlobe this year HERE!
WINNER: SnowGlobe 2016. I have attended SnowGlobe every year since 2014 so 2016 was definitely on my radar. Typically I would go with the original SG crew and my brother, but this year everyone had different plans. Once the lineup was released and showed Odesza, Flume, Rüfus Du Sol, The Knocks, Marian Hill, Big Wild and many more performing I knew I had to attend…I just didn’t have a group to go with. Luckily for me all the stars aligned just in time. I and another EDM Identity writer were both approved for media and her group adopted me into their crew! I was really excited to go with a new group where I knew no one because I love meeting new people. I knew I’d miss the crew I usually go with, but from the moment I met everyone at the cabin I felt right at home. It was a really refreshing experience to join a group knowing nobody, but by the end of the weekend feeling like I had made a whole new group of amazing friends. Add in the fact that I got to help interview Big Wild and play giant Connect 4 with Marian Hill. It’s definitely safe to say SnowGlobe 2016 takes this one.
And, the champion of Zach’s 2016 Festival Bracket is…(Drumroll please)…Lightning in a Bottle 2016!
The winners from the 2016 festival bracket challenge were Coachella, Lightning in a Bottle, CRSSD Spring, SnowGlobe 2015, and SnowGlobe 2016. Every fest was unique and fun in its own way, but out of those winners, my favorite fest of the year has to be, undoubtedly, Lightning in a Bottle. Just like SnowGlobe 2016, I had met everyone at Lightning in a Bottle for my first time as we were setting up camp. As the weekend progressed I became closer with and created unforgettable memories with my future best friends. The whole weekend was surreal and it has been the only festival where I got home and felt rejuvenated after rather than drained. I couldn’t believe how much fun I had and how great the people and energy was. You bet I will be returning to Lightning in a Bottle 2017 and I cannot wait!
Single night concert highlights of mine included:
- Porter Robinson x Madeon Shelter LA + SD
- Gorgon City x Rudimental at the Shrine
- Porter Robinson at Omnia SD Comic Con Weekend
- Flume at the Valley View Casino Center
- Griffin and Rüfus Du Sol at the Observatory Santa Ana
- Marshmello b2b Skrillex, Ookay, Getter, Jauz for the 1 year anniversary of Omnia SD
- Chromeo at the Del Mar Racetrack
As much as I realize concerts are about the music it is just as important the people you spend that time with. Music inspires me. It shows me how to genuinely love and be myself, but it’s sharing this passion with my friends and family that makes music so important to me. 2017 is a whole new year full of opportunity and I cannot wait to see some great shows, travel the world, and share/create these unforgettable experiences with everyone. Cheers to a new year!
Featured Photo Credit: Julian Basjel