HARD Day of the Dead: Meeting Expectations?
This year’s premier Halloween event in Southern California was no doubt put on by Gary Richards and the HARD Team at the Pomona Fairplex on Nov 2nd-3rd. An epic roster featuring some of the biggest names in electronic music, a brand new venue and a long-anticipated set by everyone’s favorite troll Deadmau5 with his laser-enthusiast buddy, Eric Prydz. Day of the Dead clearly set the bar high for festival goers.
Over 70,000 music-loving fanatics came out to play this year to see what this 2-day event was about. 2014’s HARD hosted 5 stages in total the entire weekend, and an entire special stage dedicated to Claude Vonstroke and his Dirtybird crew the second day. This was a unique Halloween spectacular, with buzz circling around the artists that were booked, and a lot of controversy, I was eager to see how Day of the Dead would play out.
Why Day of the Dead Blew Me Away
There were several reasons why this 2-day music fest in particular was one of the best I had ever experienced. Sure, there are various factors that play into what makes a great event but from being a prominent festival goer myself, my expectations were nothing short of met. The vibes were strong, the music was groovy and the experience was unforgettable.
If there is one thing that HARD does right, it’s picking the most versatile, unique and talented artists on the planet, as there wasn’t one performance that was even close to a disappointment. From opening til dawn, every set was as filthy as the next – a plethora of bass-thumping house, some soulful techno and brilliant live performances all kept my eyes and ears open the entire weekend.
The standout performances of the weekend included Pretty Lights, with a live band and mind-blowing graphics at the HARD stage; it was a unique experience of musical instruments with that oh-so-lovely glitch-hop funk you can’t help but love. Gesaffelstein singly handily changed my entire perception of french techno with dark, but energetic vibrations of sound and bass that perfectly fit the Halloween theme. The dark tent worked perfectly as a location for the handsome French god who blew the smaller crowd away with hits such as. “Control Movement” that kept me moving.
I had to show some love for my favorite San Francisco music gurus on Sunday at the Dirtybird stage – a spectacular array of fresh new tribal, house, tech-house and deep house mixed together by geniuses such as Kill Frenzy, J.Philp and Justin Martin. New tracks and remixes were constantly dropped left and right – a truly diverse mixture of music blending together to create a soundtrack for a perfect Sunday afternoon. They even started throwing hamburgers into the crowd, so you can get the idea of what kind of ‘party’ this was…
The HARD team does a fantastic job of catering to all electronic music lovers, snobs and newbies alike with their carefully constructed lineup. Throughout the night the sounds of techno, glitch-hop, trap, electro and house filled the chilly autumn night’s air calling to all with open ears. To the more popular artists like Diplo and his twerk crew and crowd favorite, Zedd (who rocked the mainstages next to trap gods like GTA), you could move just a few feet over to find yourself in house heaven with names like Tchami and Thomas Jack. As a lady myself, I loved the female presence on the lineup – with Anna Lunoe, Brazzabelle, and AlunaGeorge taking over – all who blew me away with their fierce skills.
Moving away from the usual downtown LA spot, the new venue was hosted about an hour outside of the city. Accompanied with food trucks, zip-lining and concrete floors- perfect for shuffling, dancing or running around gave a nice little makeover to the festival. The venue was large enough to not feel so cluttered and congested, with tons of vast space to dance, chill out and stroll around the fairplex -a definite improvement from past venues.
Deadmau5 vs Prydz
The most anticipated set of Halloween turned out to be the most impressive set of the year in my opinion. A well thought-out mixture of old and new classic Deadmau5 tunes as well as Eric Prydz‘s finest tracks from his alter ego, Cirez D and Pryda – made for an unforgettable performance. Chills crawled underneath my skin throughout the set with beautifully composed tracks like “Aravita” and “Arguru” sending a wave of nostalgia over me as these tunes took me back in time. Also, let me mention the spectacular laser show that cast down on the thousands of dancing festival goers as they watched history in the making unveiling right before their eyes…WOW. The two went back and forth, consistently trading original tracks in a perfect balance of progressive and melodic house and techno setting the bar for a truly immaculate B2B performance.
What to do differently next year…..
Overall, the festival was a success, but to sugarcoat an experience and say “everything was perfect” is a bit taboo and unrealistic. The overall organization of the venue and event itself seemed a bit of a mess with traffic being held up for over three hours as well as no reliable transportation, as local cabs were unaware that the festival was going on. This caused a bit of panic from attendees as they scrambled, ran and camped out in front of major roads with no method of transportation to get home. Pro-tip for next year: offer shuttle service options throughout the area to ensure that festival goers can get home safely.
Though there were an assortment of food trucks and merchandise stands throughout the grounds, water seemed to be harder to find. The overall safety of festival goers should be a first priority of HARD events and water should be readily available to attendees throughout the two days.
The lack of staff was another large concern as there were no crews or personnel to help lost attendees with questions they had throughout the night. The venue was quite large, which was great for dancing, but also caused a lot of lost wanderings since the maps they provided only pointed out certain areas.
Though there were some hiccups in the road, there is no doubt I will be making my way back to this festival again. Whatever your music (or party) taste may be — there’s something for you at Day of the Dead. See you next year, Gary.
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