Thirty-five thousand people attended last Saturday’s (Nov. 3) sold-out HARD Day of the Dead festival in downtown LA. Attendees dressed in their leftover Halloween costumes, painted their faces like skeletons and erupted into song, singing "We Are Your Friends" by main stage headliner, Justice, whilst piling out of the packed Chinatown metro station early Saturday evening.
Upon exiting the metro station, which was conveniently located across from the festival's entrance, festival-goers were forced to wait in an obscenely crowded mob to get IDs checked, which were barely even glanced at. For a festival that adheres to strict security (they make attendees take off their shoes), this appeared to be counterproductive. Once past that checkpoint, fans had to wait in another lengthy line, but some grew impatient and just hopped the barriers wreaking havoc and causing even longer lines for those coming in after.
Once through the initial ID check, security check, ticket check and another ID check, people fled to catch bass-blitzing, wobble-dominating dubstep acts like Zeds Dead, Foreign Beggars, Kill the Noise and Knife Party assault the stage (they don't call it HARD for nothin'). Artists that should have been the highlight, HARD veterans, Justice, for example, fell flat. A dubstep-worshiping crowd isn't a patient one and there were too many lulls and holes in their set to maintain their short attention span.
It wasn't all bad, though. The view from the main stage at the LA Historic State Park, a departure from the previous four years spent at the Shrine Expo Center, was majestic. The downtown L.A. skyline and festival rides like the ferris wheel (an addition thanks to HARD’s merger with Live Nation no doubt) were all in plain sight. The reformatted festival layout created a bigger dance floor and better sound preservation.
Acts like fan favorites Jack Beats, Dillon Francis, Major Lazer and Diplo (one-half of Major Lazer) were consistent as expected and others like Boston-based and recent label owners Soul Clap, 24-year-old British rising house starlet Maya Jane Coles and French techno hunk Gesaffelstein provided a much-needed bomb shelter in the midst of dub-electro warfare.
The festival may be called HARD and cater to mainstream audiences by procuring a dub-centric bill, but there’s burgeoning talent to uncover outside the dark, core-shaking bass if you’re brave enough to step outside of your comfort zone. Festivals mean something different to each of us, but there’s no denying it’s an ideal way to figure out what it is you do and don’t like and to stumble upon something that totally catches you off guard and steals your heart. HARD gives you every opportunity to do just that.
With upgraded amenities and a big-name roster, what sets HARD apart now from any other dance music festival? Does it matter? When you see 35,000 hollow-eyed, dance delirious electronic music addicts pouring out of a festival at 2 a.m. and their only complaint is that Gary Richards should have given everyone one more hour due to daylight savings time, you’ve sure as hell done something right.
Photo Credit: Meryl Luzzi