Posted On 05 Sep 2013
Lush green festival fields with sweaty half dressed concert goers dancing to pulsating bombastic beats coming from all directions.
Ah yes, the summer festival season is here!
The annual sold out electronic music festival Hard Summer this past weekend drew an estimated 70,000 electronic music fans over two days to L.A. State Historic Park in Chinatown.
I must hand it to Gary Richards, CEO of the promotion firm Hard Events who devised an incredible tailor made line up this year. In addition, Richards is a producer and DJ in his own right. He also performed an energetically enthusiastic set under his alter ego, Destructo. If you think this was going to be a festival of that one incessant, “unst, unst, unst,” sound on a loop, you are mistaken. It was a pretty diverse line up.
I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued by a lot of the artists on the bill. Once lineups are announced, it’s all about scheduling where you want to be and at what time. Check out Destructo on the Hard Stage then bounce over to SBTRKT on the Hard(er) stage then back to the other for Flux Pavilion and Duck Sauce. Part of the fun too is dancing your way through the dust clouded and grassy field to each stage to see your favorites or new discoveries.
On the first day of the festival my friends and I were excited to see London based music producer, SBTRKT. He has remixed songs for other artists like, M.I.A, Radiohead, Modeselektor, Basement Jaxx, and Underworld.
To support his anonymity, SBTRKT sported his signature modern interpretation of a native society ceremonial mask. He has a knack for stylishly mixing rap songs into jittery atmospheric instrumental goodness. He sets himself apart by utilizing electronic and acoustic drums alongside triggering samples, vocal loops and singing. His most popular track, “Wildfire” which features Yukimi Nagano from Little Dragon on vocals, drew in the crowd to a hypnotic climax.
I was looking forward to checking out French producer and DJ, Breakbot’s set, who I’d heard about from a friend living overseas in Shanghai. “If you like Daft Punk’s vibe you will love him!” She was right and Breakbot’s set made the sweet summer vibes even sweeter. What followed was an upbeat, hopeful and happy set of funk, disco and Discovery-era Daft Punk, which are clear reference points, but no influence looms larger then, “You Should Know” and “Why Than That” of Michael Jackson. Breakbot wears his influences on his classy white suited sleeve. From the get go, he had the entire effervescently joyful crowd disco dancing on the grass during his entire set.
I was excited to come away from seeing a new discovery from the festival this year. My friend, DJ Moni Vargas, also in attendance, turned me onto production duo Disclosure. They have, for me, dropped the soundtrack of the summer. ‘The Face EP’ is the latest offering from brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence (aged just 20 and 17 respectively). They recently supported SBTRKT on his UK tour. They were the highlight for me, blending deep house bass lines and melodic two-step. Their sweaty packed tent set showcased them as producers with a sonic maturity beyond their years. And despite its uptempo BPM, the duo’s sound mixes ‘90s Hip Hop with Detroit House and UK Garage creating a warm jazzy sound. Forget age limitations and lazy categorizations, Disclosure is the sound of electronic music, past, present, and future.
And in the words of Fatboy Slim (who was not present at the festival) it was time to “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat.” which brings us to Sunday, the final day of the festival.
We kicked off the second round of festivities to the sinister sounds of French techno artist and DJ, Gesaffelstein. The DJ, whose real name is Mike Levy, has worked alongside, and remixed for artists as varied as Kanye West and Lana Del Rey. His sound and visuals can be described as twisted angry techno. The DJ and his sound remind me of an instrumental take on N.I.N. Trent Reznor, I think would be proud.
One of the biggest draws of the weekend was Aussie group, Empire Of The Sun. As the sun set and an amazing assortment of lights and lazers painted over the crowd, it is fairly obvious why it has taken Mr. Luke Steele and Mr. Nick Littlemore so long to return to the stage. This is a serious production. Luke Steele is a total rock-star, and man, he looks cool: like a cross between an Aztec God and a shogun warrior. The singer wore a shiny golden dress and was surrounded by Lycra clad dancers that reminded me of Michael Jackson’s Captain EO.
The dancers spun off stage in what seemed like lightening speed returning with LED lit guitar shaped objects and gyrated around stage the entire performance. The set was incredible. The crowd went wild during the opening riff of “We Are The People.” They played their latest single, “Alive,” just released off the new album, which is packed full of those iconic deliriously happy chants and rising builds we have come to love from these lads. The crowd erupted when the singer held out the microphone for the audience to sing the lyrics back to him for, “Walking On A Dream.”
Speaking of dreams….we thought we’d have enough energy left to take in Zedd and then it would be time for our much needed bed. The Russian-German producer and EDM superstar Zedd took the stage by storm Sunday night and slayed the crowd with his sick beats. Zedd’s album “Clarity” was a huge success last year, and he has collaborated with some of the biggest names in electronic music, which includes producing Lady Gaga‘s upcoming album, ARTPOP.
Anyone who attended the two day festival, probably extremely hung over at their respective professions the following day, would attest that it was well worth it!
* All photos by: Nicole DeRosa