Hard Summer, the ongoing premiere EDM music festival in Southern California, brought a huge sold out crowd to the Pomona Fairplex for two days, August 1st and 2nd. The festival, the brain child of promoter Gary Richards, began in 2007, and has morphed into an annual, multi event cornucopia of EDM music. Events now include the Hard Summer, as well as the Hard Day of The Dead festival, an annual cruise and a whole host of related one off concerts. The festival, which began in downtown Los Angeles, has found a new home the last two years at the massive Pomona Fairplex. With summer temperatures soaring into the high 90’s, some of this year’s new features, including an air conditioned chilling station, (a big empty air conditioned building), proved quite popular. While many found different ways to escape the oppressive heat, other scantily clad concert goers, (as is the custom at most EDM gatherings), embraced the conditions spraying each other continually with water. The soggy sweaty masses engulfed the five stages and surrounding fair plex. Just like last year the festival featured five stages. Three large (Tent) stages, featuring nearly nonstop music from some of EDM’s top DJ’s, offered more respite from the blazing sun. But the large Hard stage featuring a more eclectic mix of music and the Massive harder stage, with a roster of EDM’s top talent, were ground zero for most music fans.
Day 1 Memorable Moments
A particularly fierce early evening set by DJ Destructo on the Pink stage. His real name is Gary Richards. Yes the same Gary Richards that founded the festival back in 2007. His smaller stage set had less of the glitz and glam of his Main Stage appearances in previous years, but the music was just as intense, invoking a trance like dance frenzy from the packed crowd around him. His mixing skills showcase his twenty years experience as one of the most influence proponents of modern EDM music.
ScHoolboy Q was set to hit the main stage at 6.30, but technical difficulties kept the show from beginning for another twenty minutes. In the meantime, dozens of delirious fans were being hoisted out of the huge steaming audience, as the relentless summer sun began to take a heavy toll. When the southern California hip hop artist and his band finally took the stage, he apologized for the delay, blaming a long list of behind the scenes people for the delay. It was unfortunate that set was cut so short, as the rapper made a great juxtaposition between main stage EDM DJ’s. His rap style was refreshing and his crack band of live musicians gave his sound real dimension.
William Grigahcine, better known as DJ Snake made a surprise appearance as the next unannounced act on the massive main stage. The French EDM artist who mixes hip hop and electronic music is best known for his mega nightclub hit “Turn Down For What”. He had a huge crowd gyrating to well known hooks in his songs.
The Weekend, arguably the biggest mainstream music star of the festival, took over The Hard stage at dusk. The set time benefited from cooler temperatures and an explosion of color, light and multimedia that brought the performance alive. For many who attended his pair of Coachella performances last spring, he stole the show at that venerable festival. The crowd literally looked like they were swooning when the experimental R&B singer sauntered onstage and signaled his band of impeccable musicians to begin. The singer may have one of the most pleasant singing and rapping voices in modern pop music. Added to his set were covers of Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love” and his collaboration with Ariana Grande, “Love Me Harder”. But it was his final two songs that had the enamored crowd glued to the performer, singing along to every word on the nightclub hit “I Can’t Feel My Face” and the ballad “Earned It” from “Fifty Shades of Grey”. Inexplicably, the set ended early.
Ironically, the next and last set on the Hard stage by “The Chemical Brothers”, was probably the longest set of the night lasting nearly two hours. It seems that the recent trend in this ADD generation is for festivals to have more and more performers with shorter and shorter set times. But fortunately these elder statesmen of the Manchester EDM music scene were able to play a full set, showcasing their music, some of which dates back to 1989. The band played songs from their great new album “Born in the Echoes,” including “Sometimes I Feel So Deserted,” and house music grooves like “Star Guitar” and their biggest dance hits, “Galvanize” and “Block Rockin’ Beats.”
Over on the Harder stage, the evening ended with a massive lights, fireworks and multimedia orgy, featuring sets by Porter Robinson playing much of his “Worlds” album and Dillon Francis. The headlining Los Angeles DJ mixed just about everybody he ever collaborated or listened to into his mash up of dance trance music.
Day 2 Memorable Moments
Jamie xx may be the newest old school DJ, mixing actual vinyl. The Englishman’s infusion of classic funk, jazz and blues into EDM has made him one of the most popular alternative DJ’s of late. Mixing classic New York house with Chicago acid house, he wrapped up the set up with his own solo track, “Loud Places,” featuring, Romy Madley Croft, his band mate from the group xx.
There is nobody to compare Die Antwoord to. The South African rapping duo, who have created their own kind of music rapped in the mystique of the obscure Afrikaans language. The sardonic couple describe themselves as “zef rap-rave” (“zef” being roughly equivalent to the English word “bling”). The pair, along with their trusty DJ, Hi-Tek in his trademark guerrilla mask and backup singers, bolted on to the stage dressed in brightly colored Pokemon and Pikachu costumes. Tall lanky Ninja and tiny squeaky voiced Yolandi quickly worked the crowd into a sweaty dance frenzy. The anarchistic, irreverent duo produce perhaps the most original music since The Sex Pistols reinvented rock. Their infamous live shows almost invariably find the pair slowly disrobing throughout the set, until they are naked or next to naked. The tall bodied Ninja is always compelled to stage dive and crowd surf during every live performance, while the salacious Yolandi sensuously twerks about in every nook and cranny of the stage. The infectious grooves of their music are truly unique and their own invention. If their appearance alone wasn’t enough to ignite the crowd, a surprise appearance by a portly Jack Black in a warm up track suit sealed the deal. The profusely sweating comedian turned rocker, sang along with the band. Then he told a short anecdote about how he had to climb the fence to get in because no one gave him a stage pass. By the time he disappeared backstage and the band ended their set with the song “I Feel Freeky”, the whole crowd was jumping in unison.
The Hard stage continued to offer up the most eclectic music of the festival, with Chromeo taking over just before dusk. This Canadian duo from Montreal make their own sound as well, a funky electronica infused fresh sound. Dave 1 and P-Thugg brought their explosive funky mix to the HARD Summer crowd, with their hit songs like “Bonafied Lovin’ (Tough Guys)” and “Sexy Socialite”.
As the sun faded and darkness fell over the gargantuan Harder stage, Los Angeles DJ RL Grime whipped the massive crowd into a frenzy playing much of his debut album “Void” and some of his most well known collaborations as well. A spectacular multimedia show exploded in a visual volcano of lights around him.
The hottest EDM collaboration of the summer closed the show, with DJ’s Diplo and Skrillex performing as Jack U. Skrillex skateboarded on stage while Diplo came out on a personal people mover, the two waving giant American and California flags. The action was non-stop for the entire set, with the pair taking turns on the mic and bolting into the crowd or mixing masterful beats in the towering DJ booth. If that wasn’t enough to send the crowd into euphoric frenzy, guest appearances by rapper 2Chains, Keizhsa, and Justin Beiber, (all contributors to the Jack U album), sealed the deal. The duo offered up spectacular remixes of (Drake’s “Energy” and Beyonce’s “7/11”), as well as their original hit track(Major Lazer’s “Lean On”). The not such a surprise appearance by Justin Bieber, featured the Jack U hit that he collaborated on, “Where Are U Now.”