Headed by world-renown DJ and producer Gary Richards, otherwise known as Destructo, HARD Presents was back with a vengeance last weekend with their latest installment of HARD Summer.  Famous for such events as Holy Ship, a three day cruise featuring an unparalleled EDM lineup, Day of The Dead, a Halloween/Dia De Los Muertos themed, multi-day event, and their hosted stages at Electric Daisy Carnival, Stereosonic, and soon Voodoo Festival in New Orleans, I expected nothing less.

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Festival Logistics:
For the last three years, HARD has been holding its annual summer celebration at Los Angeles State Historic Park in Downtown Los Angeles, but with recent construction projects taking place, they were forced to move it to Whittier Narrows Recreation Area.  I was skeptical of the move to a seemingly unknown location thirty minutes outside of the downtown area (Google Maps), but I was met with gentle reassurance upon stepping foot inside the venue.  First of all, the area where the festival was held was a lot larger; so much so that they were able to have another stage, or tent, hold music both days.  Second of all, there was grass and lots of trees, which made finding shade easy when necessary.  Attendees from years past have known LA State Historic to have an incredible lack of these, but an excess of dust and wood chips.  There was still a fair amount of dust on both days, but with the rain on day one, and the lack of sleep on day two, I hardly noticed.

Now, getting into the festival for people with general admission I heard was quick and painless with wait times at a maximum of twenty minutes, but Live Nation, parent company of HARD Presents, was trying out a new system for attendees with VIP, guest, media, or artist passes that had a few kinks.  Coming in on the first day, my RFID wristband (part of the new system) kept coming up with “Not Activated” on the scanners when read.  I was stuck at the gate for over an hour in blistering heat, and was informed that they were constantly running into this issue because of the newly implemented system.  They were testing it out at HARD Summer for future festivals, so don’t be surprised if your entry to Day of The Dead is facilitated by a Coachella-like system.

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Production:

With the increase in space and a change in location, the festival promoters were able to make louder and larger arenas for artists to play in this year.   The Green and Purple Tents were the smallest of the festival, but both managed to pack in a powerful sound system, captivating LED layouts, a lineup that included OWSLA all-stars (Purple) and the HARDfather himself (Green), as well as a crowd that was constantly spilling out the sides and back.  The Pink Tent was arguably the grooviest of the entire event hosting several Dirtybirds and talent like Maya Jane Coles, Seth Troxler, and Tchami.  The LED wall placed behind the DJ booth was set up like a rising sun, and the scattered video panels on the ceiling gave the tent an old school Sahara Tent, kind of feel.  The stage was dead center in the festival, so you could find yourself wandering through in transit without feeling like you missed anything.  The HARDer Stage hosted by far the dirtiest, bass-heavy, face-melting lineup the entire weekend.  Set up like a cityscape with massive LED strips reaching thirty feet in the air, and a monstrous sound system that could rattle your soul, this took the cake as the most impressive stage at HARD by far. Lastly, there was the HARD Stage. Here, we saw Jack U, A$AP Mob, Griz, Flosstradamus, Dillon Francis, and other international superstars which would make sense considering it was the main stage.  The design itself was not overwhelming, with a basic large-panel LED screen adorning the left right and middle of the stage, but the addition of an ungodly amount of subwoofers that could be felt from the back of the crowd, as well as fire cannons that would go off on drops intermittently made up for an otherwise typical mainstage dressing.

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HARDer Stage

 

Music:

Day 1-

Bro Safari: Put down a festival-classic, bass-heavy set by on the HARDer Stage.  He had the whole crowd bouncing during each song and set the tone for the rest of the day.

Griz: Worked his sexy-sax-man routine on the main stage.  His set there was well deserved after witnessing him put down one of the groovier sets of the festival, and managing to drop “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry and “Lowrider” by War.

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Tommy Trash: Well not really; he was stuck en route, leaving Wax Motif as his stand-in for the duration of our viewing. Job well done Los Angeles traffic.  By any means, Wax Motif did an incredible job entertaining a crowd that was, of course, disappointed by the absence of the man of the hour.

Lunice: Felt more like an introspective, theater art performance than a DJ set.  I couldn’t help but feel that he was trying to emulate Kanye’s stage presence on more than one occasion.

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Rustie: Unfortunately underwhelming.  We kept waiting for something to happen, but his loud, melodic tones kept drawing on for minutes at a time. This prompted us to leave and go get a good spot for What So Not.

What So Not: Emoh Instead hopped up on the decks and opened his set with “Touched” which precedented and incredible track list which included Flume’s remix of “Tennis Courts,” the WSN remix of “Get Free” by Major Lazer, his collaboration with RL Grime, “Tell Me,” Mr. Carmack’s “Humbled,” and a successful sitdown that prompted the whole crowd to go absolutely crazy.

10553904_10152333511903920_1709028958272718363_oBaauer:  We walked back to the HARDer stage, which had become our second home at that point, to find Baauer playing on top of a giant LED tower in the middle of the crowd.  Seriously, he was rocking a crowd from thirty feet up and with 360-degree visuals. Baauer had the most unique stunt of the entire weekend by far, and a dirty trap set to match it.

DJ Snake: I was beyond excited to hear this Parisian producer drop some of the dirty trap I had come to know him for; however, I was met with a flurry of electro house that sent me wandering to the main stage to catch A$AP Mob.

A$AP Mob: Their energy was high, and the bass was heavy.  They played classics like “Work REMIX,” “Shabba,” “Fuckin Problems,” and “Wild For The Night,” that had the entire crowd singing along.

Jack U:  The well deserved headlining group of day 1, consisting of Diplo and Skrillex, managed to live up to their godly reputation.  The collaboration, having only played two shows together prior to this set, had an air of mystery surrounding them, as they had not yet landed on any one particular style or set list.  The rain was pouring and they were set to take the stage. Once they did, it was clear that this supergroup was intent on hitting hard and heavy with trap and electro bangers.  The rain and unrelenting bass made for an almost surreal experience that I thought climaxed when they mixed Diplo’s “Revolution” into Flux Pavillion’s “I Can’t Stop;” the crowd went f*cking crazy.  We left the set with a new appreciation for the duo, fifteen pounds of rain soaked into our clothes, and ringing in our ears.  We’re excited to see what the future holds for Sonny and Wesley.

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Day 2-

Mr. Carmack:  Put down a dirty but soulful sub-bass heavy set.  This was the first time I had ever seen him, and it left me wanting to see him play an hour or two set in a dark club setting.

Milo & Otis:  Their 808-style is reminiscient of a snake charmers tune, but managed to have the entire crowd bouncing to each track.  Their stage presence was enthusiastic and kept the crowd interested throughout.

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Blood Diamonds:  Stumbled into the last couple minutes of his set to see that he had totally switched up the vibe in the Purple Tent to something that reminded me of an out of control pirate ship.  He dropped a hyperspeed remix of TC’s “Get Down Low” and finished off his set with DJ Assault’s classic anthem, “Suck My Motherfucking Dick.”  I wish I had gotten to see more of his set, as it definitely was the most entertaining one of the weekend.

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DJ Sliink:  The Jersey Club King laid down such a fun set.  He had the crowd constantly grooving, switching back and forth between ridiculous heavy trap and upbeat Jersey Club; fantastic energy for a mid-day set.

Kill Frenzy: Made that booty clap; enough said.

Branchez:  Put down a bass-heavy trap set in the Purple Tent and had packed it out nicely.  Everyone was on point with singing the lyrics to his remix of What So Not’s “High You Are” which may have been the highlight of the set.

Claptone:  Made our way over to watch this funky house legend rock the Pink Tent adorned with his gold plague doctor’s mask and top hat.  This was the most packed the tent was while the sun was up, and it definitely got us grooving.

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Sub Focus:  I have been a long time supporter of this English DnB legend, so seeing him in Southern California seemed like a real treat to me.  His set list was excellent, but the sound was set to the level of a comfortable house party; it just couldn’t provide the volume that his tracks demanded.  It was still impressive, but when your MC’s voice is louder than your music, you know there’s a problem.

Dillon Francis: Took to the stage on top of his newest stage production deemed “The Gary,” created by V Squared Labs in front of the largest daytime crowd I had seen all weekend.  It was absolutely packed from front to back as he dropped classics like “IDGAFOS,” the rebirth of “Without You,” and even T-Pain’s “Buy U a Drank.”  He also played through a bunch of the tracks on his new album, which was just made available for pre-order.  At the end of his set, he had a heartfelt moment with the crowd expressing his gratitude for his city’s support and love; it’s the little things like a crowd of 20,000 that will get to you.

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Chase and Status:  Where Sub Focus’ sound failed is where Chase and Status’ succeeded.  They played through their set with some of the heaviest drum and bass tracks I have ever heard live; it definitely made up for the technical difficulties earlier.

Destructo: We ran from Chase and Status to the Green Tent to catch the end of the HARDfather’s set.  We were met with a massive concoction of ShipFam, Pineapple Gang, and house music enthusiasts that made things feel more like a badass party than a set at a festival.

DJ Mustard:  His set was 100% pure hype.  I was entirely underwhelmed by the livestream of his set at Red Rocks, but I decided to withhold judgment until I had seen him first person.  After him playing the first twenty seconds of “Fancy,” he stopped it to announce, “I didn’t produce this, but if I did, it would sound like this,” and then played Tyga’s “Rack City.”  The crowd went insane, and it paved the way for the rest of his set where he would play excerpts of popular hip-hop songs that were, well, hype.

Nero:  With the recent release of “Satisfy,” their newest track, the trio was poised to take the stage with gusto. Their unmistakable front woman, Alana Watson, came out for their first track, “Guilt.”  The epic bass and massive sounds that define Nero as a group were cranked to eleven throughout the entire set.  They played everything that a non-Tiesto crowd could have asked for, including “Doomsday,” “Crush On You,” which left me with a bass face like I had just eaten a lemon,  “Satisfy,” and closed out the night with their fan favorite, “Me and You.”  The impeccable work on behalf of Alana with her singing, Joseph and Daniel with their mixing, the sound crew, the lighting director, and the VJ(s) pushed this set to be an absolute ten in my book.  Nero had by far the best set at HARD Summer this year in my opinion.

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All in all, HARD Summer was an incredible experience, despite the change of venues.  They exceeded my expectations with the overwhelming production and the addition of enormous amounts of sound, an extra stage, and excess of incredible talent.  We will continue to support HARD Presents, and we’ll see you all very soon at Day of The Dead!

 

P.S. Strawberry Gang forever. Props to the Pineapple Gang, though.