Long-running EDM fest, Hard Summer, kicked off last weekend in Los Angeles. Day 1 featured a slew of the world’s best DJs with a peppering of hip-hop acts. The highlight of the day though was obviously the performance of Skrillex and Diplo’s new project, Jack U, which had so far only performed at Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra Festival this year. While Skrillex has been involved with Hard Summer since 2010, Jack U helped promote this sold-out fest, which had its first year at a larger venue site, Whittier Narrows, due to a renovation project at the usual site, L.A.’s State Historic Park.
Hard Summer, like most EDM festivals, is about the crowd more than anything else. When I asked British DJ Alex Metric, who has played the fest for the past three years now, what he thought of the venue switch, he had to admit he hadn’t seen much of the venue outside his dressing room. But, “In regards to the crowd, has it changed since the venue got bigger? No. The vibe is just as good as it has been.” Metric continued, “Last year for me [Hard Summer] was the best gig of the year, it was fucking amazing. And this year has been up there with them…For me at Hard it feels like a homecoming show, like I can play what I want and really do my thing. With the new venue it feels like the same vibe and the same kind of people there.” Alex is right, as everyone at the festival was so excited to see their favorite DJs and musicians play and experiment. It’s no wonder that so many artists felt free to premiere new tracks. Metric played his new single for the first time live and the crowd ate up every moment of it up.
The most crowded and insane performances of the fest came from Disclosure, Jack U and surprisingly the non-headliner Clockwork, who stole away most of 2manydjs’ crowd. While Jack U made an impressive performance for the project’s first headlining show, Dillon Francis had the most visually interesting performances of the festival. Sorry Disclosure, you come in a close second with your blazing fireballs during A Fire Starts To Burn and your creepy, floating LED head. And Dillon Francis had “The Gary” structure by V Squared labs, which is a visual light experience modeled after Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. Francis’s set also featured visual graphics, most of which were inside jokes for his millions of Vine and Instagram followers. Francis also had Taco from Odd Future as his hype man, highlighting the two other big players at the festival: hype men and hip-hop. Sub Focus had his focus stolen by his hype man when MC ID had the crowd following his dance instructions to a T. The fest also featured amazing performances from Pusha T and A$AP Mob.
While Dillon Francis’s set was full of inside jokes, the entire festival was really one big inside joke referencing the fest’s lineup video. Skrillex, Diplo, Dillon Francis, A-Trak and Destructo starred in it. It features Diplo and Skrillex wearing strawberry heads/hats while hanging out with their DJ friends, all also wearing various foods on their heads. Fans of Destructo made giant pineapple heads and wore shirts saying “Pineapple Gang” because he sported a pineapple head in the video, and one A-Track fan made his head into a giant Bloody Mary which was the only drink head in the video. Okay.
Disappointments in the fest came when fans abandoned the main “Hard Stage” after Tommy Trash didn’t make it from the airport, and when Josh Wink switched set times with the Tiga vs. Audion performance, making it so that the DJ battle was up against the headliners. Overall though, there was not a single upset or cynical face to be seen. Hard Summer is about the fans and they are the ones that walked away satisfied, wearing those amazingly garish outfits.
Photos by Annie Lesser.