When you’re paying $100-plus for a ticket to see your favorite DJ, you hope to get more than just a guy behind a laptop. Where's the entertainment value in that? Fortunately, DJs and electronic acts are beginning to catch on that their fans need more of a performance to shell out for increasingly high ticket prices. Many are adding live elements to the mix, whether that's in the form of instruments, vocals or epic, interactive light shows and projections.
This year's HARD Summer festival is a prime example. To really get the most out of that ticket, get to the sets with the best can't-see-it-in-the-club setups. Then, raging your face off to your favorite press-players (it's OK; we all have them) is just a bonus.
Here, the five artists for whom you should be fighting your way to the front this weekend at the Pomona Fairplex:
Dance music and saxophone is a combination straight from heaven, especially when the saxophonist is live, right onstage. That's the M.O. of Big Gigantic, who take the sultry brass instrument, backed by digital beats, and create melodies that combine jazz, hip-hop and EDM for a mix of sound that's truly unlike any other. When else can you see a sax killing it onstage to a backdrop of rave visuals? That's reason enough for us to get there early for a good view.
Caribou main man Dan Snaith has transformed what was once a solo project into the rock stars of EDM. His music can be described as mesmerizing — it’s the kind of sound that will get you out of the real world and into his. But Snaith's tunes alone aren’t why you should stake out a spot. Seeing his group live, with a full drum set, guitars, vocals and keys rounding out the recorded digital sound, you’d never know that you weren’t about to hear alternative band rock out. And in a way, that's exactly what you're about to hear.
With the introduction of his alternative, anime-inspired electronic album Worlds and its accompanying tour, Robinson changed the definition of “live EDM.” Yes, the majority of his tracks’ elements are still press-play-ready. But he’s also bringing live vocals, drums and keyboards, all impressively pulled off solo, thanks to some breakneck shifting between instruments, which in itself is worth being near the front to see. His on-screen visuals only add to the story he’s telling.
The Glitch Mob
If there ever was a group worthy of being called “face-melting,” it’s The Glitch Mob. In 2014, the trio took on a "fourth member" — The Blade, a state-of-the-art live setup with custom software and hardware for the guys to wreak havoc on. A combination of drums, tricked-out iPads, and MIDI controllers, The Blade is a new-school take on old-school live electronic music. And the only way to see how it really works is to be up close and personal with the machines.
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Years and Years
Self-described as a “soulful electronic pop” group, Years and Years is part indie band, part EDM act. But the real must-see element isn’t even an instrument — it’s Olly Alexander, the trio’s charismatic frontman and lead vocalist. Awkwardly relatable (with dance moves to match), he hops past drums and keyboards, talking and singing to the crowd in a way that makes him seem like everyone’s best friend.
The sold-out HARD Summer festival happens this Friday and Saturday, Aug. 1-2, at the Pomona Fairplex. More info at hardsummer.com.