When it comes to lineups, Gary Richards, CEO of HARD, certainly knows how to pick ‘em. HARD has always held a reputation of being a cut above the rest in terms of exposing incredible up-and-coming talent and oft-overlooked but equally deserving headliners, and this year’s HARD Summer was no different. Taking place at the easily navigable Los Angeles State Historic Park on August 3rd & 4th, HARD Summer’s lineup was chock-full of some of the best names in bass music, techno, and indie beats.
Day 1 saw the LessThan3 crew starting off at the HARDer Stage with Marble co-founder Surkin. The baby-faced Frenchman’s set was one of the highlights of the weekend for me; hard techno and tribal beats got the crowd jumping early on in the festival, with one of the best responses being to his summer-friendly single Lose Yourself. We stopped briefly at Magnetic Man on the main (or “HARD”) stage, but quickly moved on to Breakbot as the emcee was a bit too chatty for our tastes. After taking in the laid back disco sounds of Breakbot at the Red Bull Music Academy Discotheque, it was back to the HARDer stage for a live set by Gesaffelstein, which saw the stoic Frenchman doing on-the-fly reworks of his infamous “kick, synth, and snare-only” sound. The crowd especially enjoyed his journey into what I’ll call “moombahtechno,” which sounds exactly like you think it does. A-Trak (pictured) made his first of two appearances as the closing act on his own Fool’s Gold Clubhouse stage. The set was (perhaps unsurprisingly) trap-laden and included tracks from Flosstradamus and Baauer, both of whom have had recent releases on Fool’s Gold.
The first night came to a close for us at HARD favorite Boys Noize on the main stage. His set was markedly less aggressive than last year, opening up with new single XTC and continuing on a journey through his more techno offerings, with even some booty bass thrown into the mix. When asked about the sound he went with for his set, Alex (Boys Noize) stated, “every time I DJ I really go in and do stuff for the moment. There’s a bit of randomness involved, but that’s why I love it so much. I don’t think I would enjoy it as much if I had a set planned going into the gig. This year I played a few more techno tracks because sometimes it’s good to reduce the amount of information the crowd is receiving in the music, so I threw in two or three tracks that you could also hear in a club like Berghain in Berlin.”
Day 2 was noticeably more crowded, but with Skrillex headlining and his personal imprint OWSLA hosting their own stage, that didn’t come as much of a surprise. My first stop was at the aforementioned OWSLA stage, where German hard techno producer Huoratron destroyed the crowd with track after track off his critically acclaimed Cryptocracy album. A maniacal grin was plastered on his face for the entirety of the set–he was having just as much fun as the crowd was, if not more. The OWSLA stage remained the place to be up until Skrillex’s main stage appearance for the rest of the night, and how could it not have been? Current “it” boys Birdy Nam Nam, jack-of-all-trades Alvin Risk, moombah master Dillon Francis, and industry darling Zedd rounded out the rest of the night’s lineup on the OWSLA stage, truly one of the best stage lineups I’ve seen at any festival this year. Zedd’s stage-closing set got especially crazy after technical difficulties forced Nero to end their main stage set early, which sent practically the entire festival scurrying to OWSLA-land to see Mr. Zaslavski in action.
The sheer number of people who showed up to see Sonny Moore in action behooved HARD to close both the OWSLA and HARDer stages early and place Skrillex on the main stage rather than his own label’s stage. This afforded the spry LA native the opportunity to bring out the big guns with his “mothership” of a DJ booth and mindbending, larger-than-life visuals. Sonny’s set was an hour-long, crowd pleasing journey through Skrillex’s greatest hits. He also threw in an as-of-yet unidentified hard techno track (drop a comment if you know it!), as well as some trap, which has become a mainstay in Skrillex’s (and many of the other HARD performers’) recent sets. Harlem Shake by Baauer drove the crowd wild and was surely the most high-profile drop of Baauer’s career yet. He also managed to throw in both of his remixes of Goin’ In by Birdy Nam Nam, but this didn’t come off as redundant at all given the staunch sonic differences between the “Goin’ Hard” and “Goin’ Down” versions of the remix. After his set ended at around 2am, the crowd walked off filled to the brim with some of the best beats to hit LA this year. Bring it on, HARD Summer 2013.