All non-watermarked photos by Diva Hammad
Last weekend, flocks of dance music lovers trekked from all over the country to experience the first ever West Coast Weekender festival in downtown San Diego. Hosted by a powerful group of leaders of the SoCal underground scene (I'll House You, Soul on Beat, SD Union, United by Bass and the Deep End), the inaugural Weekender was a successful culmination of tribes.
Dozens of DJs from veterans to up and comers colored the diverse weekend with house beats, techno, drum and bass, disco, and everything in between. The 3 day event was not only a music festival but also a music conference, with panels in the day led by DJs and industry mavericks.
The main event was held at Balboa Park's WorldBeat Cultural Center Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15, while Friday's pump-up night was held appropriately at Spin Nightclub. Panels were hosted at the Four Points Sheraton in Downtown San Diego. All in all, we felt lucky to be a part of the Weekender in its first year, as it ended up exceeding our expectations and being one of the funnest events of 2016 so far.
Although this year is packed with more dance music festivals in the U.S. then ever before, West Coast Weekender now humbly stands above the rest, leaving attendees swearing to return next year before the event was even over.
Why? The biggest reason the event prevailed in its first year is because the Weekender successfully revived the old school culture of dance music in the freshest way possible.
Yet before you tune out, this isn't the type of "culture" that you learned about in Social Studies class. First, let's get a definition.
Most of us know the first part, culture as a way of life, but the phrase "from one generation to the next" is key. As the new school wave of dance music fans enters the scene this decade, the post-disco generation shares their love with Generation Y... making us all Generation Dance, or whatever you want to call it.
Regardless, labels or age are not necessary. The point is that although we see a different picture painted of dance music in the U.S. today, the Weekender demonstrated how beautiful it is when all become one.
Every culture has a history to begin, and knowledge or practices to stay alive and thrive. With dance music, our culture has grown and evolved so much. We have individual scenes that have popped up between the 80's and now, from Detroit to Chicago to New York and L.A. and other urban areas, and now all over the map. As our culture evolves, the styles mesh together and we become a community as a whole. Of course the musical evolution draws strong influence from Europe and the rest of the world, but the way we get down in the States is unique.
West Coast Weekender's DJ Panels were one way the event shared this unique culture, passing on knowledge of music. "Music for Positive Social Change" panel kicked off the weekend, focusing on the values of our culture - compassion, unity, love, diversity - as well as the issues that have affected our community - environmental sustainability at events, safe partying, anti-dance laws, political engagement, and drug-related issues, the latter perhaps being the most talked about by the media.
Besides tackling touchy topics, other panels worked on honing skills, such as "Brand Builders: Record Labels, Event Promoters, Social Media," and "Songwriters Workshop". There were also other art forms acknowledged like the Deep House Yoga with a live DJ, and a film screening of a documentary that detailed the works of the top deep house DJs as well as Frankie Knuckles' story and other house music innovators. With so many savvy panelists, including several DJs on the lineup, there are too many to name. However, I was impressed that they involved players from all sides of the spectrum, from DJs to magazine editors to company founders to event organizers and many more.
While the mainstream dance music scene changes rapidly, the underground will always be there. Yet it is still critical to have events like these that not only educate the community so that we can improve our craft and find ways to contribute, but also to inspire the future innovators to create incredible new music, art, brands or other passions.
At the Weekender, we rise above the stigma that others try to shade us with, remember our roots and sprout new seeds to further grow wide and far as a community.
We've talked a lot about old school vs. new school, so how was this alive at the Weekender? Although it's hard to describe a feeling, the killer old school vibe was felt through the musical styles, the well-versed crowd, the stylish fashion and the dope moves on the dance floor, just to say the least.
The Talent. Several DJs headlining the lineup included Doc Martin, Christian Martin, Miguel Migs, Gene Farris, Osunlade, Rich Medina, Manik, Jose Marquez, Oscar P., among many others. Yet no matter the set time, the underground is timeless because each artist shone in their own light. There is no formula or plan; anyone who can spin a sick beat is going to get heads on the dance floor, although we have to admit that Gene Farris and Christian Martin were our personal favorites. Overall, despite dishing out a lineup with plenty of rising artists, the classic house, techno, disco tracks along with some spontaneous jungle gave us a taste of an old school vibe in a decade swamped with commercial EDM.
The People. Many experiences in life teach us that it's not really about where you are, but who you are with. The 3000 people that attended the Weekender were a significant factor in what made it a positive experience. What a wonderful feeling it was to be surrounded by those who have lived for dance music for more than just a few years. Despite the "West Coast" in the title, the Weekender had a collection of people from all over the States, which made the melting pot even that more interesting. Talking to house heads that share their wild stories from the Bay area, to swanky L.A. urbanites, to city-dwellers from New York's nightlife, it felt like we were all long-lost cousins that finally met in 2016, all getting down to the same beats.
Certainly it is not necessary to be a dance music veteran to be a pleasant attendee; we all were introduced to emerging musical styles at some point, and I'm pretty new school myself. But to explain further, it was simply cool to attend an event with avid fans, just like it would be to attend a sold-out rock show with fellow die-hards, or San Diego's Comic-Con with fans who also read all the comics you do. It's some real sh*t, it's authentic, it's inspiring. Everyone was there because they wanted to be there, not because their friends dragged them to the latest massive. Additionally, many people throughout the weekend commented that they were pleased with the mature crowd that really allowed them to enjoy an event full of positive energy, chill vibes and a respectful atmosphere.
The Fashion. Going hand-in-hand with the last section, the Weekender crowd wore clothing styles that edged on the casual yet sophisticated side. Creativity was high with one-of-a-kind outfits, which isn't a surprise when you're at an event full of artists. But the "cool cat" vibe with old school swagger was prevalent, making fashion fun but not distracting. We tend to stray from covering festival fashion, but it certainly added a fly look to the occasion.
The Dancing. Damn, the Weekend warriors have got some moves. Dance circles popped up constantly at the Weekender, with aces flying, stepping, leaping and gliding. (Excuse my white girl terminology, can we get an expert over here?). Breakdancing was rampant; we got to witness some friendly battles. All the moves were so contagious - or was it the music that really got us going? Truly, it was a beautiful combination of all that brought the culture to life, from the talent to the people.
Though Friday night was held at Spin and Saturday / Sunday at WorldBeat, the weekend flowed smoothly. In fact, the choice to break up the festivals into two appropriate venues was a superb choice, and gave each day its own persona.
Beginning with Friday at Spin, the multi-story club became a disco fun-house with two stages, packed with party people but enough room to bust a move. Entering each room felt like a new world, making it exciting every time you turned the corner. Even more importantly, Spin is a club that gives you plenty of freedom to roam, to dance on walls and blocks, and to lounge, which tied into the underground theme of being free. Liberty to let loose can characterize your night for the better, not confined to the dress codes and rules of standard nightclubs. Being just outside of downtown and not in the heart of it, Spin was a stellar oasis of sound off the beaten path.
With the Weekender's slogan of "A Weekend of Music, Dance & Culture in Southern California", the WorldBeat Cultural Center was a perfect place to host Saturday and Sunday's festivities. Being a multi-cultural arts and music organization in historic Balboa Park, the venue was laden with worldly flags, murals, lights and art that gave that global feeling. WorldBeat always makes it feel like dance music is a reason to celebrate, not shunned to dark rooms and corners.
Between the main room and the outdoor stage, I found myself outside a lot, even as a light drizzle began. The event organizers throw several events throughout the year at WorldBeat, but it was the first time I was able to get down in the day, with summer nearing.
Located right in the middle of San Diego, hosting the Weekender at Balboa Park was such a well-needed break from all the campout festivals popping up, or events that are way outside of the city. To be able to stay in San Diego at a hotel or a house if you're local (on a non-holiday weekend, for that matter) was really refreshing. I love camping, but leaving the festival and coming back ready for a new day was part of the Weekender routine that we cherished. After party, anyone?
With multiple highly experienced event producers, there was no doubt that West Coast Weekender was going to be one for the books. However, it still surprised me how smoothly the event ran, as many first year festivals face new challenges, especially with so many chiefs.
West Coast Weekender was well organized, well attended and well thought out. Friday kicked off the show like a firecracker and Sunday ended it with a bang, a spectacular day party. The crowd, the artists, and the festival in general are all fabulous additions to our SoCal city that I thought couldn't get any better. I even forgot to mention how cheap the event was - less than $100 for 3 days.
Most of all, West Coast Weekender wasn't like any other festival out there. If you enjoy house music, techno or drum and bass, I highly recommend you attend the event next year.
The Deep End is hosting several events this summer including the upcoming Far Out day party at Quartyard as well as a Deep End Summer Series. The summer series has a special offer now since it's early, 4 events for only $30!
For more info on these events check out the TheDeepEndParty.com.
Sincerely written by...