Three days of non-stop partying brought San Francisco into the New Year with the 3rd annual Fresh Start festival to welcome 2024. A packed weekend supplied its crowds of thousands with a wide variety of acts. Galantis and Impact by Wooli kicked off the celebration on December 29th, with Sullivan King concluding the weekend with the first show of the year at 1015 Folsom on January 1st. It was a marathon, but we made it!
Fresh Start 2024 occurred at The Midway in San Francisco on December 30th and January 1st. With four stages, the festival hosted many genres at the block party. The Main Squeeze Stage acts were largely progressive and future house. The main stage featured the Twilight Brass Band on Friday evening, who also appeared through the indoor venue. The Ride stage housed the deeper house and bass acts of the weekend. This stage had great laser displays over the entire weekend. The Friends & Family Stage was a mystery to me until the event’s last day. Parking for the weekend was easy to navigate as there was open street parking around The Midway. Each of the days I parked a 10-minute walk from the venue, and although a coat check was available, we felt no need for anything more than a light jacket and a pashmina. With two indoor and two outdoor stages, Fresh Start 2024 did a great job of establishing different atmospheres for each stage. Although the Main Squeeze Stage was fantastic, the Ride Stage was my favorite. The spaceship-like passageway to the third stage was a standout piece of decor from the event. This sci-fi runway was a beautiful and creative photo op surrounded by LED lights and mirrors. In fact, mirrors were a typical appearance across the venue.
Friday was day 1 of Fresh Start 2024, which brought out the friendliest weekend crowd. The festival was full of kandi kids, and trinkets made their appearances. PLUR was in the air as ravers from around the Bay came to celebrate with their community before New Year’s Eve. Colorful and sparkling fashion statements decorated showgoers; the vibes were fun and loving. Highlights of the day were Vnessa, Kaleena Zanders, SG Lewis, Acraze b2b Noizu, and Tchami b2b Malaa. Kaleena Zanders brought her ever-groovy spirit to the main stage. As someone who has had the pleasure of seeing her perform twice before, I was excited to see her with a larger crowd reciprocating her energy. SG Lewis had a great time at the Ride Stage and brought the heavier bass sounds to day 1. Acraze b2b Noizu and Tchami b2b Malaa closed the main stage on day 1. The two sets had the house heads in their grasp and left the other stages reasonably empty. Following the last shows of day 1, there were two afterparties that most of the crowd split into. Desert Hearts and SG Lewis hosted the day 1 afterparty at The Midway and another by Acraze about 10 minutes away; both afters ended around 3 am.
Saturday was the big day, New Years Eve. The sundown set by Odesza drew a huge crowd. It was probably the longest line of the weekend to enter an event. Parking was also the most difficult despite the fact that I arrived very soon after the doors opened. The venue was packed and the crowd was a different breed. Odesza’s set was light and euphoric, however, the crowd at the main stage was particularly rough. Saturday being NYE, the show attracted party goers from all backgrounds. The crowd was packed and refused to allow others to move through. I overheard many people voice their negative feelings towards others going into the crowd. There wasn’t much PLUR being practiced except at the very back of the crowd at the main stage. And the usual colorful and extravagant fashion choices were replaced with sleek, black, and metallic attire, and kandi was mostly absent. Saturday was packed full of amazing artists and the most memorable were Wenzday, Its Murph, Gentlemens Club, Levity, and Dr. Fresch. Wenzday warmed up the Ride Stage for the headliners of the weekend. She also previewed a new ID which leaned into the lower tones and deeper bass sounds in her music. This was my first time seeing Its Murph. They were surprisingly good and had some of the better visuals of the mainstage. I had the chance to see Levity on December 29th when they opened for Wooli’s Impact show at San Jose Civic and it was nice to see their two different sets immediately after one another. Both sets were incredibly energetic and connected with the entire crowd. Highly recommend catching their set if you get the chance! I caught the beginning and the end of Louis the Child’s set and though it was enjoyable, I was at the Ride Stage with Dr. Fresch for the countdown. You could say I’m a little biased towards the Doc, but the room came alive when he stepped on stage. The energy was like fire. It was definitely the most exhilarating set of the weekend. The crowd was in constant motion, not a moment of stillness until the end of the show. And when the clock hit midnight and balloons rained down on the crowd, everyone lit up with electricity. The vibes were immaculate. Louis the Child continued his set for an hour longer than planned and brought out Dr. Fresch and others to keep the party going. The Midway hosted Fresh Start 2024 afters with Tedd Patterson, but most of the crowd drifted to Diplo’s afters at 1015 Folsom. He came on around 5 am and they served breakfast at sunrise. Although the music was good, the venue was very full and Diplo played from the tech booth where he wasn’t visible to the audience.
Sunday, 9 short hours later, the show picked back up at The Midway for the final day of the festival. Day 3 was a lot more laid back and the crowd had a tired and gentle demeanor. I used this day to check out the merch and find the fourth stage which had been a mystery for the first two days. I had to ask security how to find stage four and it turns out it was placed in a far corner and the only way to reach it was to get straight through the front of the mainstage crowd. I think this was poor planning as the stage wasn’t visible at all from afar and the map was no help to find it either. There were maybe a handful of people at the fourth stage. The night was mellow and the vibes were relaxed. Chris Lorenzo and Kaskade played pretty soft sets, perfect to wind down the weekend. However, people weren’t ready to slow down yet. Sullivan King at 1015 Folsom served as the final event of the weekend and the first of the year. Turns out the weekend wasn’t as exhausting as anticipated because the crowd was hungry for more. Brownies & Lemonade, who opened for Sullivan King, played gentle bass. And the heavy dubstep Sullivan King ripped into Folsom with was the perfect high note to finish the weekend on.
As a Bay Area raver who stayed local to celebrate the New Year, the weekend was phenomenal. From what I could see, the crowd loved the festival because of everything it had to offer. It was well-planned overall and catered to people with many different tastes. It welcomed everyone coming out to celebrate and say adieu to 2023. The festival lineup was more than satisfactory, and the many afterparties complemented the main event of the weekend. Fresh Start is a festival I would absolutely go to again because it brought together ravers and local partygoers for the annual celebrations. The event has grown considerably in production and execution over the three years of its existence, and I can’t wait to see what they have planned for their next festival run. Wherever you celebrated your NYE, Decadence (AZ and CO), Forever Midnight, or in the comfort of your own home, I highly recommend you think about spending one year celebrating at Fresh Start.