What you need to know from HARD Summer 2014
By this time, you’ve probably been inundated with news of the large number of arrests and untimely passing of a 19-year-old at this weekend’s HARD Summer. Yet, aside from these regrettably common festival misfortunes, Gary Richards and crew’s latest festival production was, for the most part, a laudable success. With a 90+ lineup of tastemakers, trendsetters, and headliners over its two day spread, this year’s HARD Summer was quite possibly the company’s most ambitious (and rewarding) outing to date. We’ve broken down all the information you need to know from this year’s event.
The new venue is huge
And far better than the previous one for that matter. LA Historic Park may have been closer to the heart of Los Angeles, but its compact size proved too small for HARD’s sprawling summer attendance. Pavement has been traded for grass at Whittier Narrows Recreation Area — although there’s still no escaping the endless stream of dust and dirt. The sheer enormity of the venue — nearly a fifteen minute walk from the Purple Tent to the HARD Stage — was definitely tiresome, but ultimately had the effect of dispering the crowd in a very favorable manner.
The sound curfew was a bit early
But the days were so long we hardly noticed. At first, we were upset about the earlier end time. After spending ten hours running around in 90 degree heat, however, 11pm didn’t feel so bad. As it happened, the earlier curfew forced attendees to arrive at the festival sooner. By 3pm, the venue was quickly filling up with eager fans. Of course, more nighttime sets is always preferable, but spending the day in the blistering sunshine wasn’t so bad either. In fact, the dry desert heat and the greener pastures of Whittier Narrows brought a distinct Indio vibe.
Techno and tech house abounded
But most people weren’t there to catch it. The Pink and Green Tents were havens for fans of the underground sound, yet for the most part, vastly overlooked by the masses. Dusky’s sleek set merged straight into the blossoming talent of Justin Martin — two of the best performances of the weekend — and both were criminally under-attended. In a similar vein, Seth Troxler closed out the night in the Pink Tent while Tiga and Audion laid down a ferocious back-to-back techno set in the Green Tent to crowds far too small for their respective abilities.
The sound was an improvement from last year
For the most part, that is. Nailing the acoustics on a massive festival system is a mathematical feat to say the least. There are so many factors that come into play, and maintaing a consistently loud and clean sound for eleven straight hours is nearly impossible. After troubling issues on the main stage system the past two years, we can safely say that the sound on the HARD (main) stage was a vast improvement. The HARDER stage, however, easily suffered the most casualties over the weekend, most notably during DJ Snake and Carnage’s sets as unpleasantly distorted bass rattled the limits of the system. The best sound of the weekend was easily found at the Pink and Green Tents to the delight of techno and house fans everywhere.
Jack U drew the largest crowd of the weekend
Not even a steady drizzle could stop Jack U. In fact, it only fueled the fire. The tag-team duo brought HARD Summer to its knees as Skrillex and Diplo put on a show that won’t soon be forgotten. A horde of rain soaked, galvanized fans bounced and swayed as Diplo and Skrillex shook HARD’s enormous new venue with an arsenal stocked full of new music, unreleased edits, and hair-raising hits. Spastic bursts of fire shot into the night sky, while lasers and smoke shrouded the colossal crowd as Sonny and Wes made the larger-than-life performance seem like an average day’s work. With a kind energy and stage presence seldom found in other performers, HARD Summer’s Day 1 headliners picked the perfect way to remind everyone who is on top.
A-Trak brought his turntablism to the main stage
And reminded us why we love him so much. The Fools Gold king delivered a crowd commanding set packed full of crisp hip-hop jams, grimy Low Pros cuts, Duck Sauce shout outs, stomping electro-house, and funky disco selections. The most impressive part of A-Trak’s performance, as per usual, was his unmatched scratching routines. Everyone in attendance stood dumbstruck as the classically trained DJ wielded his turntables with unparalleled skill and finesse. Cruising between genres and tempos, A-trak’s seamless mixing jumped from Drake to Kid Kamillion and back to Chromeo flawlessly. Reviving the dying art of hip-hop bred scratching at HARD’s mainstage, A-Trak brought his own flavor to the West Coast shakedown.
Dillon Francis made his hometown proud
And Los Angeles reciprocated. As it approached 7pm, a mass exodus could be seen as thousands began streaming towards the HARD Stage. Dillon arrived dressed to the nines, ready for one of the biggest headlining performances of his career, and delivered in impeccable fashion. Since opening up HARD Summer just a few short years ago with an early daytime set at the moombahton stage, Francis has grown into an international superstar while keeping close to his roots. With his full live set up, the Mad Decent mayhem maker schooled a crowd of thousands, mixing in all of his electrifying hits. The beloved jokester pulled out all the stops on Sunday night but without the funny business — just hard-hitting beats and thundering waves of bass. Chaotic visuals, pyrotechnic cannons, and a microphone at his aid, Dillon Francis showed his hometown just how far he’s come.
Nero unveiled the breadth of their new album
And we’re still talking about it. It seems with every set they play, we get a little bit more new material. The world of Nero is quite unlike anything else out there. Futuristic, totalitarian, cosmic, visceral — it’s like Huxley’s Brave New World meets Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, mixed with the cinematic production of Fritz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi epic Metropolis. It’s safe to say we’re hooked, and the damn album hasn’t even come out yet. Perhaps most enlightening from the set is the amount of 120-128BPM material they played. As their single “Satisfy” led us to believe, there seems to plenty more Nero-house and Nero-techno to come, and we couldn’t be more excited.
HARD remains one of our favorite festival brands, if not for their forward-thinking lineups, then for Gary Richards’ uncompromising vision. Sure, the festival books the big names like Tiësto and Disclosure, but it balances those out by providing artists like Justin Martin and Brodinski with huge stages and generous set times. Perhaps the thing we love most about HARD events in general is that they cover the entire spectrum of dance music. They provide a space for the dubstep punks and techno heads to come together with the trap lords and deep house snobs. They build a platform for artists pushing the sounds of tomorrow to bring their freshest work to the masses. With a spacious new venue and possibly a new permanent home, we couldn’t be more excited for what HARD has in store.
Additional words by David Klemow / Photos from Jake Lifschultz and Arabo Noravian