For a certain sect of dance music fans, namely those who favor hip hop influences over pop-leaning EDM, HARD Summer is like Christmas. Over the weekend, the annual music festival drew roughly 40,000 people to Los Angeles for a bill that included superstar DJs Skrillex, Diplo and Disclosure along with rap staples A$AP Mob and Pusha T.
The two-day festival is hosted by HARD founder Gary Richards, whose company now sits beside Insomniac under the Live Nation umbrella. It's usually held in downtown's Los Angeles Historic Park, but due to renovations, was moved 30 minutes east this year to Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, a shady green in South El Monte that's about three times the size. The space allowed for more bells and whistles – rides like a ferris wheel and swing carousel were scattered around five stages – but sound, the festival's hallmark, remained the top priority.
"I always say we could put HARD fans in a parking lot with a bunch of trash cans and if we used our sound systems, they'd all still come," Richards said in an interview on Saturday.
His events have a cult following among those who seek a slightly more low-key approach to EDM. Unlike Electric Daisy Carnival, which runs through the night and is known for throngs of attendees in elaborate costumes, HARD Summer ends at 11 p.m. and, in efforts to distance itself from rave culture, politely asks fans to leave glow sticks, pacifiers and kandi (stacks of beaded neon bracelets) at home.
Still, the L.A. County Sheriff's Department cited hundreds of arrests, and on Monday, L.A. Weekly reported that a 19-year-old woman died after attending the festival. The cause of death hasn't been confirmed, but is a suspected overdose from a combination of methamphetamine and ecstasy.
Unusually humid weather on Saturday afternoon turned into a downpour around 9:30 p.m., but attendees stuck it out to see rare performances by A$AP Mob and Diplo-Skrillex supergroup Jack U. Although most stages ran smoothly, there seemed to be a few rain-related technical difficulties on the Harder Stage during DJ Carnage's set, setting off what can only be described as a temper tantrum (link contains explicit language). After screaming "f--k Gary Richards" and "f--k HARD" into a crowd of thousands, the trap and house DJ was accosted on social media, with attendees accusing him of biting the hands that feed him. He placed the blame back on Richards' camp in Facebook responses, saying he was "disrespected" first, but this isn't the first time Carnage has hastily ranted in public.
On Sunday, temperatures dropped around sunset just in time for moombahton producer Dillon Francis, who played to what was likely the weekend's largest crowd. Here, we rounded up 10 stand-out performances. Videos courtesy of the ubiquitous Glen Han.
Louisahhh!!!: The New York native uprooted for Paris last year to join Brodinski's Bromance Label crew full-time and released a new single with French DJ Maelstrom, "Night Clubbing," in March. After a high-energy set on Saturday afternoon, she was seen bopping around the grounds with one of Washington, D.C.'s most beloved DJs, Tittsworth, and closed the night watching Tiga vs. Audion.
Oliver: The Los Angeles DJ duo recently wrapped a Spring tour supporting Chromeo. Their Saturday evening set included a visit from co-manager Richards who watched from the sidelines along with Bromance crewmember Louisahhh!!! and Juan Maclean.
Jack U: The Dipo-Skrillex supergroup doesn't perform together often, but dropped at least three new songs during its Saturday night set on the main stage. On a recent reddit AMA, Diplo said there is a mixtape in the works and he hopes to stream it in the near future.
What So Not: Although technically a duo comprised of Australian producers Emoh Instead and Flume, Emoh tours solo under the moniker. During a chat after his set on Saturday afternoon, he said the pair recently spent several days in the studio during Flume's string of New York City shows and have new material on the way under Skrillex's label OWSLA.
A$AP Mob: Despite having a fair share of skeptics who worried a rowdy rap group wouldn't translate in the lineup of heavy-hitting DJs, the five-piece collective delivered one of the most engaging and high-energy performances of the weekend. The highlight: A$AP Rocky's "Wild for the Night," which every person in South El Monte seemed to know the lyrics to.
Shiba San: Riding the wave of his smash club hit "Okay," which was marked as the standout track on the newest Dirtybird BBQ compilation, the French producer has become one of electronic music's rising stars. His sound is often described as a mix of deep house and hip hop, and his Sunday set included a beatsy sample of Drake's "Started from the Bottom."
Destructo: Ever since HARD was acquired by Live Nation in 2012, Richards has been able to shift his attention back to producing – and it's a huge plus for fans. His evening set in the festival's Green tent was so packed that attendees danced in the fields around it while his wife and two young children watched from the stage beside him. His fast-and-then-slow remix of Warren G and Nate Dogg's 1994 hit "Regulate" stole the evening.
Dillon Francis: As one of the most active DJs on social media, whose humorous videos and alter-egos have garnered him a huge following among younger audiences, it's no surprise that Francis' sunset set was one of the most highly attended. Acclaimed DJ photographer Rukes snapped an image of the crowd during his set, which opened with Francis' remix of Oliver's "Night is On My Mind."
Disclosure: Mary J. Blige was the surprise guest during the young UK duo's performance, although she's been cropping up at their shows off and on for the past year or so.
Brodinski: The French producer and Bromance label boss is widely known as an expert on Southern hip hop and is said to be working on an album (he co-produced a few tracks on Kanye West's "Yeezus" with frequent touring partner Gesaffelstein). Prior to his headlining set at the Green tent, he spent a few days in Atlanta. Rumors are swelling that he was in the studio, but we can only hope.