Sunday’s crowd was noticeably weary, as many of those who were attending had endured traffic and parking lot woes twice now on top of the all day commitment of a festival. Luckily, those who bought a one day pass were able to bring the energy immediately and everyone else followed suit shortly after, making for another memorable day at HARD Summer despite a rocky start — that was quickly relieved by a stellar set from rising star Giraffage.
He may have been performing early in the day, but Giraffage quickly proved himself to be a crowd favorite; and while the energy at their stage may have found itself outdone by many of the later acts, you would never know it as a spectator at his stage. The crowd he attracted suffered from an early day minuscule size, but was entranced by his upbeat music stylings and retro video game inspired visuals that got the second day off to an uplifting start. One of the standout moments of the set was when he played “Tell Me” from the Waterbed EP, and its light as a feather production quickly caused the audience to vibe out, sing and dance as its fantastically chill marimba drop hit. Later on in the set his song, “All Hands on Deck” would inspire a back and forth “Whoop” chant to reverberate through the steadily growing audience as he transitioned into a stunningly gorgeous remix of “Alone” that featured a crowd favorite visual of cute animated puppies in neon colors. One of the best songs of the entire day was his mash up of “Bands Make Her Dance” and “Saria’s Song” from Legend of Zelda that masterfully accomplished the difficult task of appealing to modern tastes and nostalgia in the same song. Giraffage even pulled off the nigh impossible task of mashing up a non-annoying remix of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” with the iPhone marimba ring tone, which of course came complete with visuals of Drake’s ridiculous sweater dance from the music video. To top off the set, he even remixed “Down With The Sickness” and MADE IT WORK to the shock and surprise of literally the entire universe, making this an absolute must see of the day much to the chagrin of late arrivals. Hopefully they should be able to catch him at late sets in the future, as Giraffage seems destined to blow up to near headliner levels.
When MK came out it was to a crowd of equal or lesser size than that of Giraffage, though it was clear that this DJ had a wildly different intent. Where Giraffe hoped to inspire and mystify with his unique sound palate, MK aimed to crush the minds of the audience with his aggressive deep house sound. Fifteen minutes into the set, his crowd had absolutely eclipsed that of Giraffage’s as MK played a deep and twisted remix of Rihanna’s “Runaway,” which was met with an excited cheer from the audience as he dissected the song into a deep house dreamland. The visuals at the stage seemed lackluster in the beginning after an exquisite showing by Giraffage on the same stage, but they quickly evolved into twisting psychedelic shapes that were able to appeal to everyone in the audience as MK’s set continued to grow even darker. On a brighter upturn, MK played “Always,” which helped to break up the aggressive nature of his set, giving the crowd a welcome reprieve from the intensity of the music as they danced, seemingly tirelessly, in the brutal heat. The organizers of the event deserve a pat on the back for having the wisdom to schedule MK and Giraffage back to back at the main stage, allowing two different crowds to appreciate its magnitude while providing a wide swath of musical styles in the opening hours of the day.
While MK worked through the meat of his set, Graves took over the fan favorite HARDer stage to great applause as his signature deep bass rattled the largest crowd of the day. The HARDer stage again proved to be one of the most engaging stages at the festival with its abundance of visual elements and superior accommodations for VIP guests. Graves certainly proved the idea that dubstep-centric acts still dominate the crowd’s consciousness, as both HARDer and the Green Stage were packed to the rafters while other stages played host to small crowds by comparison. The true turning points of Graves set was when he played a remix of The Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up” which came complete with a stunningly filthy drop that lead directly into “Mosh Pit” and a vicious remix, “Blunt After Blunt.” These three remixes were more than enough to knock the brains right out of the audience’s skulls, rendering them into mindlessly elated dubstep zombies hungry only for the next drop and the deepest bass. To top it all off, he remixed TNGHT’s “Goooo” which, on top of being one of the best electronic songs released in modern times, is an absolute crowd crusher, and when mixed with “It’s A Party” it’s effects were similar to lighting fire to the bottoms of each foot in the crowd, leading to the best atmosphere at the festival thus far.
On a much different note over at the immaculately designed Corona Electric Beach stage, Nancy Whang hoped to provide a different type of elation for her small crowd. The LCD Soundsystem alum wasted no time attempting to engage the crowd with a whimsical and happy DJ set that featured group vocals sung in a foreign language. Her use of uncommon styles at HARD Summer made for a must see set that brought together styles from various countries and showed her contributions to the band that brought her fame. Sadly, this was proving to be the smallest crowd of the day and at no point in the set did it ever seem to pick up in any meaningful way. While small crowds had proven to be the norm at this stage, Whang’s crowd was smaller than even the average Electric Beach crowd, consisting of no more than thirty people actively participating in the audience. Whang’s crowd engagement also left something to be desired, and despite her legitimately interesting musical style and clarity of audio quality. Whang largely kept still for the majority of the set, and whether it was due to the near nonexistent crowd and their lack of engagement, or if that was the result of her demeanor was up for debate. It should be noted though that the song, “Starlight” with its modern twist on disco and funk would prove to engage some of the crowd though sadly not enough to truly make it a memorable experience for those who attended.
While Whang struggled at Corona, 24HRS was commanding the attention of his respectably sized crowd over at the Purple Stage. His auto-tuned stylings on (that ain’t too much) were reminiscent of T-Pain or Lil Uzi Vert which made it very apparent as to why he was able to land a booking right before R&B/Pop superstar Tinashe. He also pulled out an absolute banger with his song “Gucci,” which forced the crowd into a frenzy befitting a much larger act. His stage presence was respectable for his status as a relative unknown, and he certainly took advantage of his fortuitous set time by providing an energetic set that brought out guests and kept the moderately sized crowd extremely warm for Tinashe’s experience.
As one of the standout niche acts of the day, Tinashe immediately commanded the attention of the Purple Stage and any nearby stragglers. Nearly every person who attended 24HRS set remained for her performance, and all were greatly rewarded for their patience despite her slightly delayed start that irked the crowd who audibly commented on it as they walked about the staging area. When her set began roughly five minutes late with an exciting drum solo, (that was victim to some minor mic issues) the anxious crowd seemingly forgot their frustration and stood gape jawed at the backup dancers as she started into “Ride of Your Life,” which featured stellar choreography from both Tinashe, who arrived on stage clad in a cutoff grey sweatshirt and sweatshirts, and her backup dancers who may have ended up being the true show stealers were it not for Tinashe’s ever-phenomenal voice. Her second song, “Party Favors,” continued the theme of incredible gyration-based choreography much to the excitement of a roaring crowd, or as one nearby spectator incredulously declared “She’s perfect, she’s just perfect” — a sentiment which the rest of the crowd heartily agreed to. After a brief crowd interaction, she toned down the energy by playing “C’est La Vie,” which would prove to be much welcomed by an exhausted crowd. When she eventually stepped into the stellar “Aquarius,” the crowd was treated to an invigorating drum solo that immediately regained the previous energy level, showing an incredible level of set crafting on the part of Tinashe, who all things considered may have been the most technically proficient performer of the night. During an in between song intermission, she gave a phenomenal intro to “Company,” stating that she may be single and not looking for anything serious but sometimes “a girl could use a little company” which was met with thunderous applause before setting into the bass laden track of the same name, further cementing her as a must see act of the festival.
Over at the intimately sized Pink Stage, Justin Martin was hard at work with a DJ set designed not to to relax or annihilate, but to get the crowd dancing. While other artists focused on intense drops or ambient club pulse, Martin was able to combine the two into an exciting package that drew a crowd far too monstrous for the diminutive Pink Stage. The crowd was fully engaged in his driving, punctuated bass beats and exciting use of shrill synth that would lead into shuddering drops and mid sections that were exciting when many others clearly used it as an excuse to put a non-drop section in their songs. His clever song creation, coupled with his fun visuals of clouds and his name in block text was able to keep the crowd engaged in a way that many other acts at the smaller stages often struggled to.
Back at the Purple Stage, superstar DJ Mike Will Made It was getting to work playing a well mixed selection of his greatest hits. Even from a distance, it was apparent that he was the biggest draw of the Purple Stage, whose tenting struggled to contain the excited crowd. While Tinashe may have been a more complex set from both a construction and performance standpoint, no one at the stage truly minded as he launched into a remix of Kanye West’s “Fade,” though it was constantly interrupted by the hype man, stifling some of the enjoyment of the fantastic remix. The next track was a remix of Kendrick Lamar’s “Element” that pushed into a solid four on the floor drop that shook the whole tent with motion and rhythm. All in all, the set was the one opportunity at the show to catch a well rounded smattering of both today’s and yesterday’s greatest hip-hop hits with a unique twist, essentially making it the world’s most exciting prom DJ showing. That may sound insulting, but was endlessly appreciated by the large crowd pressed together under the bulging tent.
Down at the main HARD Stage, Dog Blood (Skrillex and Boys Noize) was met with incredible fanfare to the surprise of no one. The stage was set up with a monstrous custom banner signifying their presence, the crowd cheered for the banner long before they even took the stage. They came out to a mix of “Midnight” by Dog Blood member Boys Noize. During this intro, the lights were positively insane and the crowd exploded into a mass of flailing limbs and jumbled phone screens. The set was doubtlessly the most intensive non Green Stage set of the night and the crowd couldn’t seem to get enough of it. All through the amphitheater, people thrust their arms skyward, danced on chairs and generally lost their mind as the bass seemed to shake the very foundation of existence. Through the smoke filled stage, Skrillex and Boys Noize both traded songs focused on their specific style, which kept the audience enraptured and on their toes. Between the visuals, intensity, crowd engagement, and undeniable star power, Dog Blood managed to create one of the most intense and exciting atmospheres of the show, all the while building a crowd that would follow their every command.
The crowd on hand for Migos’ performance was so full it was practically unnavigable. It was impossible to tell where the crowd ended and those walking to and fro began. Their hype man had no issue creating an explosive atmosphere that only grew more energetic with each song. At a certain point, festival organizers must have been wondering if there would be a riot when they left to make way for Bassnectar. By the time they played “Slippery,” people had to imagine that their songs contained the same properties as the drugs that make cameos in the lyrics as the crowd who had spent all day dancing and running was now suddenly rejuvenated by the presence of these new hip-hop giants. In an impressively ballsy maneuver, they managed to force open no less than two mosh pits for “Trouble” which managed to last even beyond that song as The Migos looked out proudly over their handiwork. One of the most notable moments of the show was when they took it back a few years with “Hannah Montana,” and as it turns out there seemed to be quite a few long time Migos fans and the already absurd energy level only continued to rise leading to what was undoubtedly the most energetic show of the festival.
It seems almost pointless to say this, but Snoop Dogg was the king of the festival. Forget that it was (primarily) an electronic music festival; the man oozes charisma. From the minute he stepped on the stage, he owned the crowd; it was apparent they were watching a legend perform history in the making. “Gin and Juice” opened the set late, complete with a featured intro and a video, setting a tone of unshakable coolness that immediately permeated not only the crowd, not only the festival, but all of Southern California. The late start of the set actually even seemed fitting given Snoop’s status as “the coolest man on earth,” and as such, a late entrance is on time and an ability unique to only the most incredible of performers. And don’t worry, of course he came out smoking a blunt. When his trademark smooth voice finally announced “Who Am I,” it had the same effect as a bomb being dropped nearby — it was chaos, it was madness, it was beautiful. By the end of the set, any electronic purist festival goers begrudgingly dragged by their friends to “that old hip hop guy” were undeniably won over having borne witness to the king in his eternal prime.
Interestingly enough, the second day of the festival was a more rousing success than the first. Everything from the parking to the entrances to the sets were far and away superior on the second day of the festival, despite the first day being an overall strong experience. HARD Summer was an overall success despite some organizational issues and perhaps most incredibly there were almost zero technical issues and incredible sound throughout all the stages, making for a unique and memorable weekend for all who attended.
Photo Credit: Mauricio Alvarado