On August 2 and 3, nearly 65,000 attendees made their way to Pomona, the fifth largest city in Los Angeles County, and the site of this year’s sold-out Hard Summer. Though many fans still lament over the wonder years of Hard Summer’s past at the Los Angeles State Historic Park (which has been under construction since early 2014), the Pomona Fairplex, which also hosts the Los Angeles County Fair, served as a great substitute for this year’s show, and for 2014’s Day of the Dead.
However, this year’s Hard Summer faced more trouble than ever, with the deaths of two young girls before the sun even set on Day 1. Scorching temperatures and heartbreak brought down the mood of the festival, though despite these tragic circumstances, the two-day festival marched on. Supported by top talent and an energetic crowd, Hard Summer solidified itself as California’s best festival of the summer, though that opinion is certainly a controversial one.
Ask any electronic dance music fan which production company they prefer, and you’ll likely find a clear divide between Hard Presents and Insomniac. Hard founder Gary Richards, whose alias is producer DESTRUCTO, has avidly spoken out against the incorporation of EDM rave culture at his events, challenging everything PLUR by insisting that his company’s productions are simply just music festivals. Meanwhile, Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella invites fans of every background to join the fun, magical world of festivals like EDC and Beyond Wonderland.
This is a case that questions whether fans should prefer talent vs. experience, and the war between the two founders has Richards looking like an embittered hipster, and Rotella appearing as a PLUR devotee. Though Hard events attract fans of all backgrounds, it’s very apparent that dressing in rave gear and kandi, which was banned at Hard a few years back, goes against everything the festival stands for. Hard’s core values are rooted in Richard’s appreciation for good music, not an ideal experience—and that should be celebrated, which is why we’ve named three of our favorite artists at Hard Summer 2015:
Porter Robinson’s 2014 Worlds LP showed that the the North Carolina-born wunderkind’s has shifted his music from hard hitting electro to a more sophisticated, ambient sound. The risky move was bold, but totally paid off, with a successful Worlds tour that hit last fall. On Saturday, Robinson took to the Hard stage to showcase his talents with a live performance complete with animated visuals and pyrotechnics. Many tracks from Worlds were played, and some were even live-remixed with added percussions. Best of all, Robinson played his infamous tracks of yore, like “Say My Name,” “Language,” and tracks from his Spitfire EP. His Hard performance chronicled his journey from budding producer to main stage success.
The two-piece Seattle band stunned Hard attendees with a performance just before sunset on Saturday. Their In Return album was well received, and key tracks like “Say My Name” and “It’s Only” got the crowd grooving as the heat simmered down. ODESZA’s live performance included the incorporation of drum pads, proving that electronic music talent doesn’t need to solely rely on mixing. Their set served as a great warm up to vocalist The Weeknd, but just before they closed out their set, they shared their latest remix of Hayden James – “Something About You.” ODESZA’s performance set themselves apart from the idea that electronic music festivals are full of press-play performers, and it is great, though not rare, to see true talent at a Hard event.
Los Angeles’ RL Grime reigns supreme as one of trap music’s most successful artists. Following a performance at Chicago’s Lollapalooza festival, Henry Steinway, who also doubles as Clockwork, put on a fantastic set that graced the Hard Stage on Sunday night just before Jack Ü’s closing performance. RL Grime’s set was extremely diverse, complete with his signature remixes like “Love Sosa” and “Satisfaction.” The producer also dropped music from respected artists like AG Cook – “Beautiful (Rustie Remix), and his edit of TNGHT – “Acrylics.” It wouldn’t be an RL Grime set without his originals, like “Because of You”, “Core,” and “Valhalla.” RL Grime closed out his set with his massive What So Not collaboration, “Tell Me,” causing the crowd to get ready. The energy and music were so on point that it’s hard to believe people missed his set.
Hard Summer showcased a lot of talented performers, and even hosted a surprise Justin Bieber performance with Jack Ü for “Where Are Ü Now.” However, the Saturday deaths have put Hard on close watch, with city officials imposing a ban on raves that take place on county property.
Hard’s next event, September’s A Night at the Fairplex, will determine the production company’s standing with the city. Will Hard events continue in Los Angeles, or will it be forcibly pushed out of the city like EDC? The only way to guarantee that Hard stays based in Los Angeles County is if they take initiative to make their festival safer. Suggested efforts include: higher availability of water, cooler indoor structures, more space to accommodate the large crowds, and counseling on drug safety.
Hard’s next big festival takes place over Halloween’ weekend with the Day of the Dead festival schedule for Saturday Oct. 31-Sunday Nov. 1.