Hard Summer Sunday: Brodinski, Gesaffelstein, Dillon Francis, and Dirtybird highlight superlative closing day
Hordes of Los Angelenos returned for the second and final day of HARD Summer 2013 — ready for another twelve hours of frolicking in cool tents, woodchipped stage grounds, and dusty lawns areas of the Los Angeles State Historic Park. For diehard fans of Ed Banger Records and Dirtybird, the two labels owned their own stages on Sunday (on the Summer Stage and Underground Tent, respectively). Bromance fiends got sets from both Brodinski and Gesaffelstein, and those prone towards the “HARDer” sounds soaked in the grinding basslines of Flosstradamus, Dillon Francis, Baauer, and Clockwork. Click through to read more about our highlights from the festival’s closing day.
Because visa issues forced Brodinski to miss last year’s festival, the French techno star was given a hefty 2-hour time slot this time around. To say he justified the decision would be a gross understatement. The talented DJ pulled out all of the stops, showcasing his mastery behind the decks with flair and feeling. The Bromance boss kept it chill early on, opening with a mashup of Breach’s “Jack” over a reverbed funk backdrop before easing into Justin Jay’s “Static.” Eliciting cheers as he spun the turntables for the first time, Brodinski began introducing modulated techno notes over his relentlessly funky fare, priming the crowd for the harder material to come.
No one can hold a candle to Louis in the stage presence department. Seamless technical execution combined with the sort of onstage moves that exude total confidence and control are his hallmark. As he slowed down the tempo to drop into “Send It Up,” the Kanye West song he co-produced, his body followed the BPM with slowly exaggerated movements while he mouthed the words with menace. Building back up into an interlude that paired laser synths with orchestral cellos, he transitioned flawlessly into “Nobody Rules The Streets,” drawing gasps from his rapt audience. The chops he displayed on an extended rendition of “Let The Beat Control Your Body” were unmatched by any of his prior performances, upping the ante from his customary pre-drop looping and pitch-shifting of Louisahhh’s vocals by continuing to manipulate their tone and timbre even after he had sent the crowd into convulsions by delivering the song’s twisted bass line. Not content to leave it at that, he executed yet another technically astounding live loop-driven mashup of his own “Dance Like Machines” with Gesaffelstein’s “Pursuit,” bringing the vocals back in to preface the second drop. With complete mastery over the crowd attained, he ended his set on James Blake’s somber yet beautiful “Retrograde,” the final cherry to top his tour de force. It was quite simply an instant classic performance by a top-tier talent in a singular festival showcase.
Not to be outmatched by his Bromance buddy, Gesaffelstein’s live set on the HARD Stage fully delivered in an entirely different fashion. It takes a staggering amount of time and preparation to ready a live set exclusively comprised of one’s own material, so while his set may not have matched the track count or dynamism of Brodinski’s, it was in no way a lesser feat. Techno’s dark prince took to the stage behind a black marble altar while a foreboding filtered kick drum slowly took shape in the expectant air. Pairing pounding kicks with spidery hats and groaning atmospherics, Gesaffelstein wove a complicated sonic web that was well-reflective of his sound and defied linear progressions, often featuring concurrent elements from multiple songs. Following a jaw-dropping performance of “Pursuit,” the stoic performer allowed an atmospheric pause before causing a collective intake of breath from the crowd by mercilessly summoning the dark downtempo devilry of “Viol.”
Speeding up the tempo to thrill the crowd, Gesaffelstein constructed a patently patient build marked by a shrill whistle whose pitch slowly increased over a sea of waving arms. As release finally came in the form of “Control Movement’s” vocal stabs, he slowly brushed back his hair and adjusted his belt while the throng of fans roared with approval. The artist performed his biggest track with bravado, mashing it up an acapella of Boys Noize’s “XTC” over shifting loops of pounding drums. On the second drop, Gesaffelstein cut away to a filtered down bass part that sounded like a throbbing heart, allowing piercing analog squeals to sweep the song back into the main vocal progression, which he reverbed judiciously on the following build. Cutting out the bass entirely on the modular rising arps at the end, the artist ensured the track had been executed in the improvisational and effective manner that is the aim of any live set. An animated Gesaffelstein nodded and shook with the force of his sound as he ushered in the show’s climax with a dark techno orgy of squealing synths, arpeggiated techno bass and frenetic drums that left fans sweating and spellbound as he bowed and slunk offstage.
“Los Angeles, I love you guys,” Dillon Francis crowed at the start of his set. “I’d have sex with every single one of you in the crowd right now.”
Mad Decent’s prodigal son did not disappoint, enticing the audience with his dynamic amalgam of complextro and moombahton set against a cheeky backdrop of infaltable cats and bikini-clad pigs on the ever-amusing Jumbotrons above the HARDER Stage. Francis’s set was chock-full of the personality and humor that has helped make him so popular. The Los Angeles native took to the mic to demand that every girl get on someone’s shoulders. A horde of enthusiastic ladies ascended into the night sky.
“This is the most glorious thing I’ve ever seen,” said Francis before unleashing a storm of shrieking electro synths.
Over at the Underground Stage, a cooky crew of dirtybird Records regulars manned the decks for the entire twelve hours on Sunday. From young star Justin Jay to French bass hero French Fries, queen-bird J.Phlip, and recent Essential Mix star Breach aka Ben Westbeech, HARD presented the limelight to every sound that the flaming hot label represents. The three most recognizable champions, Eats Everything, Justin Martin, and Claude Vonstroke, carried the booty bouncing crowd right through the second half of the evening — with no shortage of pizza and ice cream along the way.
Although his performance was somewhat marred by main stage sound issues, Zedd still delivered an electrifying prime time set on the HARD Stage. Teasing the ebullient crowd with a snippet of “Spectrum” during his opener, the German prodigy transitioned smoothly into Axwell’s rework of “In My Mind.” What his set lacked in unpredictability, it more than made up for in feel-good moments. Zedd adopted a Kaskade-like mashup approach to a number of the Clarity songs, layering the vocals from “Follow You Down” over Sebastian Ingrosso & Tommy Trash’s “Reload” and interweaving “Codec” with the Bingo Player’s “Rattle.” The most memorable moments included a full-throated crowd singalong of “Clarity” and a multifaceted show-closing showcase of “Spectrum” that found Zedd jumping atop the DJ booth with one of the broader smiles seen that day.
Bassnectar was the perfect choice to close out the HARD Stage on the festival’s second day. The forward-thinking producer’s performance was more akin to a continually flowing soundscape made up of innumerable overlapping and indiscernible elements beneath one of the most visually stunning stage shows that the festival offered up. As the screens flashed through a flip-book of interactive images, ranging from film noir flashbacks tied to hip hop verses to stone-faced Aboriginals when didgeridoos could be heard, the Santa Cruz native piled on the sounds with relish, throwing his hands skyward as mammoth dubstep growls alternated with heavy metal guitars above a smashing drum and bass backdrop. Standout tracks included a positively pummeling rendition of the Surfari’s seminal surf tune “Wipeout” alongside ocean imagery, a hauntingly beautiful remix of Nina Simone’s classic “Feeling Good,” as well as a crushing reinterpretation of Bassnectar’s own “Vava Voom.” As the dreadlocked DJ took to the front of the stage for his customary family photo, the crowd swelled and smiled in unison. A glance at the end result reveals a shining supernova of outstretched arms and electric enthusiasm, a frozen frame that captures the spirit of this year’s festival throughout.
Matt Medved and Cara Daley contributed to this post.