HARD has a lot to live up to. With incredible parties all across North America, they really have nowhere to go but up. That being said, the twice-a-year festivals they throw at the State Historic Park in LA have been up to such a high standard lately it seems impossible to top. So this year, when the lineup was announced for HARD Haunted Mansion [Re-named Day Of The Dead], the first question on my mind was ‘will it live up to the brilliance of HARD Summer?’
What I should have asked myself was if it would match the summer event. It is simply impossible to have a well controlled event of this scale during the school year in LA. Every college kid and their brother is looking for the freshest party for the Halloween season, and naturally they all looked to HARD this year. This comes with a good and a bad side – while more people get to experience the music, crowd control and comfort become increasingly difficult to regulate as the park fills with drunk fraternity brothers arriving by the busload, average drugged out party goers, and that one group of thirty that just needs to be in the front row for Justice. (‘Oh man this is my girlfriend’s first rave, let her through man!’)
With the capacity bordering on a riot and the general disregard for safety the average party goer exerts, something bad just had to happen. While there was a bit of rowdiness in the line, HARD and the LAPD did an excellent job of keeping the crowd together. When I was entering the venue I was almost certain the amount of people would dampen my ability to have a great time, but I severely underestimated the quick response time and tight planning HARD put together. It’s no surprise LA continues to let them have events – they do them right. It’s no doubt a lesser event team would have let the party quickly disintegrate into costumed chaos.
Once you were inside and comfortable, it was quite easy to focus on the music and get a prime spot in the crowd, no matter the stage. So, on to what really matters, the music:
I had always wanted to see this guy, not so much for the style of music he plays but the way he presents it. Many producers that are gifted in the studio fail to translate that talent to the stage (fg. 1: Madeon). Aarabmuzik is not one of those producers. His drum work on those dual MPCs is one of the most technically challenging and rewarding styles of live performance I have ever seen, and it really gives a fresh outlook on the ‘live’ label placed on so many acts nowadays. The sample is an under-appreciated art form, and Aarabmuzik is definitely doing his part to show that the correct performance and choice of sample can make for a phenomenal live show.
What is there to say that hasn’t been said about this brilliant UK duo? Their mixing was as on point as ever, and with a slew of new releases it was no surprise that they picked up the pace of the evening by 10 times in the first 20 minutes they played. Their single ‘Careless’ was just so perfectly fitted for this crowd it made my head spin, and with the exception of a few dubstep tracks they had some of the most on point track selection of the evening. A standout was the Friction remix of ‘You Should Know’, a wonderful nod to dnb unheard of by many DJs, especially such fidget house oriented ones.
Now, I wouldn’t normally have chosen to see the moombahton pioneer group had they not opened for Crookers, but I’m glad I did. It was a definite change of pace from my normal music choices, and while I had thought that moombahton was as good as done for, I was immediately proven wrong by the small but energetic crowd. I especially enjoyed a more reggae oriented moombah section towards the end of the set. The only thing that really dampened their set was both the receptiveness of many of their tracks with a blaring airhorn that pretty much drowned out the first 16 bars of any drop. Drop the MC and the airhorns, and Nadastrom was definitely an unexpectedly entertaining act.
Crookers (Best of the Evening)
‘Croooooookkaarrrrssss!’ The sample blared as the recently single ‘Crooker’ took the stage to the onslaught of cheering following Nadastrom. The crowd easily quadrupled in size the minute he took the stage, and by god was he brilliant. I’ve been trying to see Crookers for about 4 years, and I’m really, really happy I waited until now. While their (ah, sorry, his) signature 2008 fidget sound is great and fun and hard, his new, almost indescribable sound is just…hard. There aren’t many other words, tracks like ‘Hummus’ obliterated the entirety of the crowd, and left all of us in a continuing state of shock. Huge track selection, creative mixing, and funny vocals, what more can you ask for? I was quite sad I had to leave early, but on the other hand…
Goddamn. There is no one with as much suave and style as this French techno wizard. While is live set at HARD Summer was (unsurprisingly) leagues above his DJ sets, it’s always interesting to hear tracks other than his own that he might listen to and draw inspiration from. As always, his remix of The Hacker’s ‘Shockwave’ was a huge highlight not only of his set, but of the entire evening. The hugely loud and perfectly EQed speakers at the Red Bull Stage always help too. After seeing him come out and transition from Maya Jane Cole, I wished I had stayed at that stage for the entire evening…it seemed she killed as well. The energy in that room was undeniable, and was a great way to transition into the supposed crescendo of the night, Justice.
What is there to say about Justice that hasn’t already been said? They played their signature live set, long pause and all, and the crowd fucking loved it. I have a hard time reviewing this show time and time again because the same things remain true…all their songs are brilliant in a live setting, including all the tracks on the new album. This is the one new thing I took away from this show – when you look at Audio, Video, Disco as an entirely different work than Cross, it begins to take on an entirely new feeling and relevance. Re-listening to the album after the performance was interesting – while many (including myself), bashed the album for being underwhelming compared to Cross, we should have been listening objectively, where the album works brilliantly as a standalone.
HARD unsurprisingly took the trophy for best seasonal event. Keep on keepin’ on HARD, and don’t stop with the insane lineups. See you in summer!