After standing in line and passing what might have been the most lax security I’ve ever seen for an event of this caliber, I headed over to the Summer stage to see Gesaffelstein. His set was surprisingly good and crowd pleasing for his genre – I have never seen a crowd get down to techno as hard as when he dropped one of his signature tracks, Crainte. One fan jumped around with a sign that said ‘BANGER!’ that was raised in the air for drop after heavy tech drop. He’s a cool looking dude too, what with a tuxedo and a constant supply of cigarettes to mirror the classy simplicity of his sound. Towards the end of the set, he began slowing down his electro-driven techno tracks to create a new version of moombahton that we have dubbed ‘techmaton’ here at Metrojolt. He only gave us a quick taste, so I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, but it seemed like people were getting down and I know I never stopped dancing.
I left before the end of Gesaffelstein’s set to catch Emalkay at the Harder stage. The two stages were on opposite ends of the park, and the area was packed with people, making it difficult to get around quickly. When I arrived at the stage, I was greeted with an even denser pack of excited fans, all trying to get into the center and front of the stage. The mass off people was so thick that no matter which direction I tried to insert myself into the crowd, I would encounter an impassable wall at some point before my intended destination. Once properly situated, I was disappointed to find that the volume and bass for the entirety of Emalkay’s set simply was not high enough. Sound quality seemed to be an issue at a number of stages earlier in the evening, with the Summer stage as the standout exception regardless of its small size. Emalkay played a decent dubstep/dnb (drum and bass) set, pleasing the crowd with anthems like Doctor P’s Tetris and an insane Sweet Shop remix I have yet to ID. He fell victim, however, to a common pitfall of the dubstep DJ; he was a shitty MC. The guy annoyingly screamed over drops and builds that the crowd was straining to feel due to the low volume. Add that to Emalkay himself stopping the music mid-track (not entirely clear whether or not this was on purpose) to talk to the crowd. We were left with a pretty average set, made worse by Emalkay yelling at the crowd with nothing interesting to say. In my opinion, a DJ set should speak for itself, and anything but a quick hello during the set is unnecessary.
Thankfully, my disappointment was completely dissolved upon returning to the Summer stage for Jack Beats. The sound was EQed perfectly, with the right amount of bass for the heavy, destructive sound that is Jack Beats. Most likely because of their experience in the scratch world (both members of the duo have a history in the UK hip-hop scratch DJ scene), their set was very impressive in terms of its technicality – they did not simply mix from one song to the next, they created an interesting and engaging performance that showcased what live DJing should be. Old favorites like Get Down and Out of Body annihilated the dance floor, and even lighter tracks like their remix of Skream’s Where You Should Be made everyone’s jaw drop on the beautiful sound system. I was surprised to hear a live mashup of Jack Beats’ All Night and Afrojack’s Replica – a pleasant surprise, as I never imagined Jack Beats’ aggressive wobbles and Afrojack’s stabby synths working so well together.
For the last sets of the night, I wandered between Skrillex and Boys Noize. Skrillex has this magical ability to control a crowd harder than anyone I’ve ever seen live– even though his mixing is average at best (I will say he has improved since the last time I saw him). People go absolutely insane to favorites like Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, Scatta, and his remix of Hey Sexy Lady, all fun tracks to jump around to because literally every single person in the crowd knows them. I liked hearing various remixes of Skrillex classics I hadn’t heard before, and so did everyone else, and for this reason Skrillex receives my award for most crowd-pleasing with new tracks set.
During Skrillex, I headed over to the main stage to see some of Boys Noize. He killed it at POP 2010 at the Cow Palace, so I had nothing but the highest expectations. Perhaps it was because I had just come from the heart pounding energy of a Skrillex crowd and set, but I could not get into the minimal electro Boys Noize was spinning. I normally enjoy the genre very much, but that night I was in the mood for a different vibe, so I headed back to the Harder stage for the end of Skrillex. I did return to Boyz Noise, however, and was very excited to hear a mix of Yeah and his remix of Swoon, two of Boys Noize’s best tracks.
All in all, the boys at HARD threw an awesome party. I will definitely be attending this event next year and HARD Haunted Mansion in October, and am excited to see the undoubtedly killer lineup they’ll book. If they fix the sound issues, I would have very few complaints about the event itself, and for all our readers in the Bay, I recommend a road trip for the next one.
P.S: HARD, please, for the love of God, never book Odd Future again.