Booming bass heard within a 10 mile radius, half naked girls strolling around, and the scent of a night that's truly about to get wild… Hard Summer Music Festival has finally arrived and EARMILK has graciously sent myself, Artham Pierre, and my pal Nathan Beer over to explore the urban nightlife that is the rave scene of Los Angeles, CA.
Hard Summer is unique in all the right ways, and there is a reason why even Nathan and I were particularly interested in going to this massive over some of the others. This year held a special Underground Stage, which played hosts to great California labels with members of BODY HIGH playing there on Saturday, and the Dirtybird Players planting themselves there on Sunday. There were three other stages- the Hard Stage, the Harder Stage, and the Summer Stage and all of them held an unique dimension and chemistry within.
Our adventure actually began the afternoon before, where Ed Banger's Busy P had a relatively low-key signing event with So Me at Amoeba Records. Nathan and I saw A-Trak in the middle of the crowd, nonchalantly standing there, and eventually we managed to get an autograph and a record signed (lost my damn Barbra Streisand record in the process though). Not too many people make me nervous, but this was one time I lost it a little, I bumbled around and made myself out as a fool. He was/is one of the first DJ's I started listening to, and probably the sole reason why I'm still crazy about turntables. #vinyllife #regret
Nathan ended up getting his record on A-Trak's coveted Instagram, and neither of us spent too much money buying records, so I'd say it was a great kickoff to what (we now know) would be a rather crazy weekend.
We started our morning off with a visit to the LRG Treehouse, where we got a chance to grab a beer and hang out with the guys of gLAdiator in Hollywood. After meeting the two great guys (seriously the nicest dudes in the game right now), their crew that makes it all work, and everyone else along for the ride, Nathan and I finally made it to Hard Summer. Under the fiery sun, I quickly realize that while I loved my beanie, my head was going to be on fire. There was tremendous heat, half naked girls featuring pasties and tutus, enough glitter to make Santa Monica Blvd nervous, bros in tanks, and the smell of California's favorite plant in the air. We walk in and immediately hear Ryan Hemsworth doing some crazy thing, and blowing everyone's mind away; he had more talking than I expected a set from him would, but I'm one of those people that actually likes that from a DJ. While I wish i could have stayed for longer, we had some interviews to get to, so it was time to find this mysterious spot known as the media tent.
Later on in the night we would meet the guys from FOX, who walk into the tent for the first time right before Flying Lotus's set, the last artist of the night. It ended up actually being right next to where Hemsworth was playing, and there we got clean bathrooms and cold water upon arrival.
Now that the spot was found, we checked out Jerome LOL, who was playing at the Underground tent. It was only roughly around 3, so it was half huge BODY HIGH fans, and half people waiting for the heat to die down while basking in the tent's highly-prized shade. Jerome did everything I would expect, a mixture of the so-called "deep house" vibe that's pretty popular these days, mixed in with LA swagger. I never thought that the first place I'd get to experience this label in action would be at a massive like this, but Destructo and co. really did some work on the lineup. Point one for Hardfest.
Then XXYYXX pulled some crazy mindblowing ish. Utter brilliance, the world ain't ready yo.
We managed a short stop at the Harder Stage to check out Just Blaze. For the short duration I did get to stay, he played Jay-Z's "Interlude" (AKA that "Public Service Announcement song") that he produced, which made me happy since I always knew him as the PSA guy before the whole trap thing came about for him.
After that, we run over to Duke Dumont, who began his set with his famous "Need U (100%)." He played easily digestible garage tracks and some deeper house, mixing between his creative interests and what everyone wanted to hear. That sounds like an attack, but it's not- not every DJ knows how to work a crowd, and I've seen many artists just have the hardest time adapting to different situations. The set was great, although next time I definitely want to catch him in a more intimate setting.
2 Chainz was up next, ramping up an ultimate twerkfest over there on the Hard Stage. Considering his whole thing is to get people to go ratchet, he very much successfully did just that. Lots of respect to get the massive crowd he did when most people are just trying to dance to some 140bpm hard hitting EDM. The sun was starting to set, it was time for a cold beer.
And then came Disclosure.
The first time I saw Disclosure was pre-Settle, although right on the cusp of their release. I got to see them front row at Coachella in April, when they closed the entire Festival. I'm pretty sure no set from them would ever beat that time, considering it was my first time seeing them then, and the crowd wasn't nearly as packed.
So, with that being said, please consider that everything I'm about to say about the set is only because I got to see them front row, in a much cooler location at night. Really, people should have my problems (I've seen Disclosure too many times ahhh!).
Their tent was… crowded. It really is an amazing sign of transition in the world of dance music that they've got that many people rushing to see them in Los Angeles, the city that hard hitters like Clockwork, Skrillex, and Diplo call home. With their artwork singing on screen, the crowd went wild, and for many this must have been a life-changing set. They had an amazing connection with the crowd, and their live show is something any dance fan needs to experience at one point. It was mostly all tracks off of Settle, although they did play my favorite "In Your Head," which goes back to their less-lyric based style of a year or two back. For me though, this was too many people, and so I chilled in the back and enjoyed it there. The crowd went nuts, and anyone that missed it should be disappointed in their bad decision making.
Then Julio Bashmore went up. Come on LA, he deserved more love than he got. However, he's a talented performer so he was able to build up his crowd as time went on. My legs were pretty exhausted at this point, but I still enjoyed hearing him, and he kept a good vibe going – an energy consistent with Disclosure. It's a pretty tough act to follow, but like a true professional, he kicked up the energy and pretty soon the tent was packed again.
It started getting colder and darker around this time. Next up was Hudson Mohawke and Lunice together as the one and only TNGHT. The two together has been on a hot streak, especially after their work on Yeezus, but every time I see TNGHT, I feel very much stuck in high fashion trap music. It's great, but heavily artistic, and perhaps on a caliber I can't understand. As some of the angry submitters I deny on my emails like to tell me, “I'm no artist” (like they know what I'm doing in my non-internet life), so what do I really know. I'm pretty sure they busted a speaker though, because halfway through the bass was no bueno and the stage sounded weird again on Sunday too.
At this point I've also realized that I failed to mention we kept running into gLAdiator throughout the whole day. Great guys, always saying hi, and always including us into whatever they were up to at the time. We ran into some of their crew again during this set, and also met lil Texas, although when we were introduced, it was more of "Hey, this is—–," so I had no idea who he actually was until I stupidly asked him where he was from (the answer obviously being Texas). I just thought he was a chill dude with sunglasses that were vaguely like mine. We talked about some cool, totally normal stuff, and with his new move to LA, I'm excited to hear what he's got in store. He also told us he dropped a remix for the new Duck Sauce track, which I checked out and loved. Super chill dude, excited to hear what he'll make now that he's moved over to the city of angels.
We went back to the media tent before Flying Lotus to grab a rest, and we talk to a couple guys relaxing in there before deeming it “Beer-o-clock.” Man, it's been a hot day, but then we're quickly reminded that Bonnaroo was probably a lot worse than this. As we walk out the guys from Brainfeeder, as well as FlyLo, Boys Noize, and even Bronques from Lastnightsparty are just chilling there waiting. Cool. We get a chance to meet some of the guys and it's a pretty mind-blowing experience.
It's important to note here how much love everyone has for their craft, and I've never felt more passion from other people than I had on Saturday (and Sunday). From the photographers capturing these intimate moments, the publicists making interviews possible, to the DJ's making art with sound, it's all about the drive they have. They love what they do and the smiles on everyone's face is so genuine and amazing.
Anyways, onto his performance. The 3D set up was phenomenal, and if there is any scene right now that is defining Los Angeles, it has to be the beat scene that Flying Lotus is spearheading. He included some Captain Murphy stuff which for some reason never occurred to me was going to happen, and I don't really know what a typical FlyLo set is like, but this one had people going nutz. He got everyone up and dancing, which is pretty powerful considering his music isn't exactly the most dance-able stuff. “DMT Song” was played, which happens to be one of my favorites from him, and he freaked everyone out by saying Earl Sweatshirt was there (he wasn't). It was super nice to see the LA artist play in his hometown. The love and joy I could feel from him for just being back home makes it so much more special. He tried to get the crowd to make a beat for him to rap over, but of course that didn't work- adorable idea though, and it definitely would have been sick if it had panned out.
Man, exhausting day. We had the option to go to the after party, but 12+ hours in the hot sun really does some work on the body, and we had Sunday still to cover.