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Tucked away in a watery oasis on the beach of Lake Perris, California, the Same Same But Different Festival returned for their second year and looked to up the ante on what ended up being an unexpected success last year.  With new festivals popping up everyday and everywhere, most are centered around a specific genre of music, provide several stages, and cater to niche demographics. While that’s all fine and dandy, the founders of the SSBD festival (Peter Eichar and Brad Sweet), envisioned quite the opposite. While their festival did have two main stages (dubbed the “Same” stage and the “Different” stage), only one stage was active at any given time.  The two founders wanted the festival goers to party and dance in one place at one time. No separation or divisions. Through this, the hope was that the festival goers would realize that all artists, all types of music, and everyone in attendance was, “same same, but different”. This held especially true to me. If you explore my Spotify heavy rotation, you’ll find heaps and bounds of rap, hip hop, trap, and a bit of house music. Baauer’s live sets are an exemplification of all 4 mashed up into a single sound. For this reason, when I heard Baauer was headlining, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to cover his set and explore the festival. I didn’t know anyone else in the lineup. But boy did I learn, that they were all same same… but different.

Day one kicked off with Aviator Stash, an alternative rock band from San Diego. Admittedly, I’ve never seen, nor have I been interested in seeing live rock. These guys immediately changed my perspective. They were high energy and super fun to shoot. They’re also really cool down-to-earth people. I ran into these guys in the campground and drummer Tyler Pinto was even cool enough to offer me some hard kombucha. Up second was Chugboat, another San Diego staple. These guys did a great job kicking things off at the second main stage. It was during this set when I realized the SSBD designers knew what they were doing with festival layout. This stage was adjacent to the beach and while there weren’t too many people dancing on the sand in front of the stage, you could see tons of people partying and dancing atop their floaties in the water.

Third up was the Mustache Bash Family Band. This funk super-group from San Diego was the band who swept me away. It wasn’t just me. They had a great deal of reception from the crowd, partially because the majority of their set was their own funk style covers of classic jams. Because a lot of their stuff was cover, it was really easy to sing along with their set even if you were unfamiliar with them. Also from San Diego, Fashion Jackson rocked the stage next with a set which was a little more diverse, mashing rap and indie rock into a chaotic but extremely entertaining act. Elektric Voodoo was yet another band from San Diego. They played right through the sunset and it was during this set where the entire festival transitioned rapidly from a day beach party into a nocturnal rager.  Swimming in the lake is not allowed after sunset so it’s no surprise that the beach crowd doubled and tripled during this set.

Hats off to San Diego. They were well represented. But up next was Turkuaz, the nine-piece funk band from Brooklyn. The diversity of styles from this band was super impressive to see. They started off with a very funky style but transitioned into some of their more electro sounding stuff as the night went on. They were the perfect tee up for our headliner, Baauer.

"Harlem Shake". We all know the song. This is the song that went viral on Youtube with the two-part shake. Everyone including but not limited to corporate offices, schools, political campaigns, police departments, hospitals, movie theaters, all had to get a piece of the action online. This song was produced by none other than Philly-born DJ Baauer. Don’t let those cute videos fool you.  Baauer dropped one of dirtiest, trappiest, bassiest rap-infused DJ sets I’ve ever heard. Assaulting the crowd with samples from the likes of 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross, 50 Cent, and Lil Wayne, Baauer delivered 1.5 hours of non-stop screwface-inducing body-moving music to round out the main portion of the night.

Megan Hamilton dropped a set shortly after as some of the crowd started to wind down and head back to their camps after midnight. SSBD didn’t leave the true nocturnal party people stranded, and The Coconut Club stayed open with several acts DJing into the wee hours of the morning (5:45 AM to be exact). While I didn’t personally didn't attend the after-after hour party at the Coconut Club, I know it definitely was a blast and probably got a little weird!

SSBD also provided some amazing food options with three major food trucks on site throughout the festival . While options were limited to three choices (Asian, Mexican, and Greek), the food was great. I personally tried the chicken pad thai noodles and the steak burrito. I didn’t try the Greek food but judging by their competition, I can almost guarantee that a beef or lamb kebab would have hit home as well.  In addition to “normal” festival activities like food trucks and music, Same Same But Different also featured things like yoga classes and beach activities such as paddle boarding on the lake. This gave festival goers the opportunity to dip into the water during the day before they dry off and get ready for the all-night live music party.

All in all,  the second annual SSBD knocked it out of the park and took it to a whole new level in 2019.  It was a small festival where you kept running into the same people (and artists!) over and over in the crowd  which provided a sense of community between all festival goers. While much of music wasn't completely up my alley, I can see myself giving into the urge to give this festival another run next year.  Founders Peter Eichar and Brad Sweet did an amazing job bringing SSBD to life in ways that most festivals fall short.  Only change I'll be making in 2020 will be me bringing swimming trunks and floaties so I can thoroughly enjoy the all-day party on Lake Perris.  


Kris Kuganathan

Photojournalist - Orange County

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