7 Scary Good Performances at HARD's Day of the Dead & Insomniac's Escape: Psycho Circus
With all eyes on HARD this past weekend after the drug-related deaths of two teenage girls at the festival organizer's summer event in August, the West Coast brand returned to the Fairplex in Pomona, Calif., over the Halloween weekend with a noticeably increased police presence, a newly appointed 21-plus age limit and a genre-bending talent lineup catered to the most eclectic of ears.
Meanwhile, just 30 minutes down the I-10 highway in San Bernardino, Insomniac's annual dance music freak show, Escape: Psycho Circus, delivered over-the-top visual production, haunted attractions and a stellar house and techno roster.
House heavyweight Eric Prydz may be known under his many aliases, but the Swedish producer has solidified his ranking among electronic music elite not only with his unparalleled stream of 2015 EP releases, but his jaw-dropping laser shows as well. Prydz showed no mercy to the wide-eyed revelers in the Slaughterhouse megastructure, dropping tracks like "Generate" and crowd favorite "The Truth" in sync with his acclaimed light show of epileptic proportions.
2. HARD: Gesaffelstein brings the dark and twisted techno
As nightfall consumed the Pomona Fairplex, French producer Gesaffelstein took to the visually enticing Haunted Mansion stage to perform for a crowd as far as the eye could see. After a massive response from fans over his mysterious website countdown, where he unveiled a new motion picture soundtrack for the film Maryland, festival patrons remained enthusiastic throughout his DJ set as his silhouette bobbed to the soul-cutting beat of his track "Control Movement Mega" in front of ghoulish LED images.
Minimal mastermind Richie Hawtin debuted his experimental ENTER. party in Ibiza back in 2012, and the 45-year-old techno titan has toured nonstop with the underground utopia since. He enlisted acts like Loco Dice, Solomun, Dubfire and Hot Since 82 to perform at the curated Cannibal's Tea Party stage in San Bernardino. With Hawtin's parents onstage smiling and looking on proudly, the sweaty, pitch-black warehouse remained full as thousands of bobbing heads and multiple shuffling battles raged on until Escape's 2 a.m. closing time.
4. HARD: NERO's main stage set gives the crowd chills
The trio's vocalist, Alana Watson, captured the audience with her celestial pipes to perform new material off their sophomore concept album, Between II Worlds, as well as classic records like the Skrillex-assisted "Promises." Similar to their groundbreaking Coachella performance, the group's founding members Daniel Stephens and Joe Ray play their individual keyboards and pads live in front of an LED pyramid as the bass rattled the beer and liquor bottles at the beverage stands alongside the warehouse walls. Watson, adorned in an ankle-length white skirt, seemingly cast a spell on the hypnotized crowd with her sorrowful vocals and interpretive dance moves.
5. Escape: The Magician casts a spell on Ghoul's Graveyard
Belgian house DJ Stephen Fasano, a.k.a. The Magician, was a breath of fresh air from his main stage counterparts in the tent next door. While fans sang along to his more notable tracks "Sunlight" featuring Years & Years and current single "Together," Fasano's magic came in the form of his predominantly deep house set that had festivalgoers running out of the haunted houses and carnival rides to his Ghoul's Graveyard takeover.
6. HARD: Branchez's hip-hop-inspired remix of Kaskade & Deadmau5's "I Remember"
The most unexpected performance of HARD day two came from rising New York producer Branchez whose onstage charisma is only topped by his breadth of music knowledge. Blending hip hop, alternative, indie rock and house, Branchez daringly tackles Kaskade and Deadmau5's super collaboration "I Remember" for a hip hop-inspired rework of the 2008 Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart-topper. He also went on to remix Alesso's "Heroes" and closed out with his debut interpretation of Justin Bieber and Skrillex's "What Do You Mean?"
7. Escape: Martin Garrix debuts new music as day two's headliner
Nineteen-year-old EDM poster boy, Martin Garrix, has remained a force to be reckoned with since his 2013 worldwide smash "Animals" and he's quickly gained a spot amongst dance music's finest allowing him to be the youngest artist on Escape's lineup to close out the main stage. Pyrotechnics, fire, lasers and confetti shoot off during Garrix's staple big room tracks like "Helicopter," "Tremor" and "The Only Way Is Up." Martin brought out friend and frequent collaborator, Jay Hardway, to perform their latest untitled ID that inspired the sea of totem-bearers to mimmic his famous high jump.