On Saturday night, the Pink Stage at HARD Summer is brimming with a throng of hyped-up stompers and twirlers generating plumes of dust beneath illuminated pepper trees. The woman conducting this symphony of shufflers is Los Angeles–based multihyphenate (DJ, singer, songwriter, producer, radio show host) Anna Lunoe. With the grace and ferocity of a tiger, she hops atop the DJ booth clad in knee pads and commands the stage like a rock star. The fact that she's eight months pregnant doesn't deter her at all.
“Pregnancy isn’t an illness; it’s just a stage,” Lunoe says as she relaxes in an air-conditioned artist trailer after playing her set. “It’s interesting growing physically and accommodating that growth and accommodating the health of the baby. I’m much more subdued DJing pregnant, but I still go pretty hard.”
Lunoe has much to celebrate tonight; it not only marks HARD’s 10-year anniversary, whose events she has been playing since 2014, but is also her last American show of 2017. Her career began 11 years ago in her native country of Australia, and this upcoming hiatus will be her longest departure from performing since she started DJing.
Six of those 11 years were spent in Australia, where she began making connections in the American EDM scene through touring. With no idea of what the electronic music scene was like in the United States, Lunoe took a gamble and moved stateside in 2012. Her distinct blend of oscillating house beats and bass-dropping club bangers quickly caught people's ears, and that same year she was introduced by mutual friends to Gary Richards, the founder of HARD Events and himself a DJ/producer who goes by the stage moniker Destructo.
“I had a couple of American DJ friends who are still my friends now, and they were all doing HARD Events,” Lunoe recalls. “That’s where my crew was, where my like-minded people were, and that’s where I wanted to be.”
Two years later, in 2014, Richards booked Lunoe for HARD’s now-defunct Day of the Dead, a festival that took take place around Halloween. Since then, she has become a fixture, performing at almost every HARD event, even stepping in as a last-minute headliner for an artist who missed his flight at last year’s summer festival. Her career has been nothing short of dazzling and now, as a soon-to-be-mother, she has unintentionally become a modern icon of female empowerment.
The imbalance of men and women in the EDM industry, with the scale tipping in men’s favor, has long been a contentious topic among fans and artists alike. Dance music festival lineups will often feature all male headliners, with a few women populating the smaller slots. This year's HARD Summer, though it did feature more female artists than usual, was no exception, as top billing went to the boys: Justice, Snoop Dogg, Zeds Dead, Bassnectar, DJ Snake, Rae Sremmurd, Dog Blood and Migos.
While this imbalance is clearly visible, the reasons behind it are a constant source of debate. Though women (and many men) want to see more women on EDM lineups, women DJs don’t necessarily want to be booked simply for the purpose of meeting a quota.
“I’ve always felt really respected and validated here [at HARD],” Lunoe explains. “Gary is really wanting to make things equal and wanting to hear what I think. … On one hand, you need to make grand gestures to equal things out, because it is uneven in a lot of ways, but it’s how to do it tastefully and how to do it in a way that respects the art form that women bring to the table and respects what they stand for and not just make it a novelty.”
Though they didn’t appear on the lineup in the largest typeface, there were still several beloved female DJs who kept the dance floor thumping at HARD. The legendary Colette and DJ Heather, whose musical lineages trace back to the Chicago house scene of the ’90s, played a back-to-back set on Saturday. Kim Ann Foxman and J. Phlip played consecutive sets at the Pink Stage during Dirtybird Records’ Birdhouse takeover on Sunday, while techno star Ellen Allien closed out the Corona Stage on Saturday.
For Lunoe, though, none of this seems to be much on her mind, as she is now embarking on another, more mysterious path — the path to motherhood. Raising a child as a traveling DJ poses an entirely new set of challenges that she is happily, albeit nervously, willing to face.
“It’s been a really interesting journey for me,” says Lunoe as she reflects on her pregnancy. “I have been a DJ my whole adult life and I always wondered, ‘What will happen when I have kids?’ I remember when I was young thinking, ‘No one’s gonna want to see that; no one’s gonna want to see when I’m pregnant and DJing.’ It’s like we’re conditioned by society to think that no one wants to see that, and that was definitely a fear that I had before I publicly announced that I was pregnant.”
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Upon her announcement, however, her fears were quickly dispelled, as friends and fans alike openly supported her. She says that human stories are what keep artists three-dimensional, and the more they reveal of their true selves, the more relatable they become. The impossibility of women having both a career and a child has become an antiquated sentiment, and Lunoe's choice to continuing DJing well into her pregnancy has opened a whole new door for women in dance music.
“The festivals have really accommodated my needs,” Lunoe says in regards to her recent touring experiences. “It’s just been really pleasant in general and a nice indication of what to expect for the generations of women DJing who may also go down that path.”
Though Lunoe looks forward to settling into her musical intermission, she does not plan to stop all of her endeavors. She will continue to produce her radio show, Hyperhouse, which streams every Friday from 9 to 11 p.m. on Apple’s Beats 1 and has had past guests such as Diplo and Justin Martin. Creating music will be an ongoing project, as she plans to revisit unfinished tracks in addition to producing new ones. Because there will be plenty to keep her busy — both music and motherhood — when Lunoe will emerge from her performance hiatus is yet to be determined.
“There’s no need to rush into anything at this point,” she says. “I feel like it’s a really nice time to take a break. I’ve been DJing nonstop for 11 years, touring nonstop for 11 years. This will definitely be the longest break I have ever taken and I’m excited, even musically, to reset and to reimagine.”