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Last Night

Eyewitness Accounts of Inglewood PD Ordering Hard Summer to Shut Down; and the View from Inside

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Sun, Aug 9, 2009 at 1:17 PM

View more photos in the "HARD Summer: From Party to Riot Police?" slideshow.

West Coast Sound is going to use this post for eyewitness accounts from writers who attended Hard Summer, which was shut down last night. The first is from Danceblogga's Dennis Romero, who watched as Inglewood PD ordered Hard's Gary Richards to shut down; the second is from Lizzie Azran, who's the life & style editor at the Calabasas Courier, the newspaper of Calabasas High.

click to enlarge Police arriving at Hard Summer last night - DENNIS ROMERO
  • Dennis Romero
  • Police arriving at Hard Summer last night

Inglewood police, on advice of a county fire inspector, shut down Hard Summer at 11:05 p.m. Saturday. Doors slammed open and officers yelled out, "Everybody go, we're shutting it down."

Music had not been playing at that point for at least an hour. Outside, event organizer Gary Richards was talking to Inglewood Lt. S. Overly, the commander at the scene. Overly told the promoter, "This kind of even you're doing for 17,000 people might work for 5,000." Just then an officer radioed an official tally: 17,500 at the sold-out event.

Richards, who told LA Weekly he had planned for 15,000 after selling out previous Hard events at 10,000, pleaded with the cop. But Overly gave his final word. "Sorry," the lieutenant said, "I feel bad for you. This is probably our only safe opportunity to get everybody out."

Police from around the South Bay, including Gardena, Torrance, and Hawthorne, as well as state and Highway Patrol officers, descended on the Forum in with sirens blaring and red lights aglow. A sheriff's helicopter buzzed overhead as officers put on riot gear and lined up.

One state officer, A. Barabas, said, "There are too many people, and it's way out of control."

Fans reported seeing fights break out and at least one instance of people - ostensibly without tickets - trying to storm the gates. We witnessed ambulance crews treating at least two partygoers for unknown ailments.

As one angry young woman walked passed police on her way out, she yelled, "They shut the whole thing down with no refunds. No music, no refunds, no nothing."

As fans lingered near the gate to the main parking lot, Barabas tried to shoo them away. "You're going to get your ass kicked," he said. "Go home."

Given the trickle of people exiting the building, it appeared the crowds were kept inside for about an hour as authorities prepared to get them out in an orderly way. At about midnight a large group of officers in riot gear entered the ground floor of the Forum. Shortly thereafter people started streaming out.

Matt McMillen, 19, is an Underworld fan from Texas who "flew down here for pretty much this," he said.

Not all was lost, however. As young fans headed for their cars, more than a few opened trunks and doors and let the music play: Small, impromptu parking lot raves erupted.

-- Dennis Romero

The View from Inside (Recollected Late Last Night)

I'm still wearing my kandi, glitter, hot pink lipstick, and pink hair extensions, but I changed out of my $1 orange and white tight vintage floral dress and into comfy sweats. It's 2 a.m., and I should be wiping sweat off my forehead from the Bloody Beetroots' set. Instead, I'm at home lamenting over the amazing night I could have had if the Inglewood Police and LA Fire Department hadn't shut down HARD Summer.

click to enlarge Stuck on the terrace of the Forum while the Man marches in - LIZZIE AZRAN
  • Lizzie Azran
  • Stuck on the terrace of the Forum while the Man marches in

From the moment I arrived I knew the security wasn't fucking around. They made me throw away my black ballpoint pen at the door so I wouldn't write on walls (as if that was on my agenda). Once I got through security, I heard a group of people cheering outside. An attendee named Flipstar told me that someone had just jumped over the barrier and snuck into the Forum.

I came here to dance, so I walked into the stadium. Crystal Castles had just started their set, and the scantily clad crowd bombarded the stage floor -- an infinite ocean of American Apparel. But I couldn't dance, because for the next ten minutes, piercing feedback overpowered Crystal Castles' rhythmic melodies. (The feedback wasn't intentional.) The crowd booed until the band members fled the stage.

We were in the balcony and wanted to get down onto the main floor, where the Hard Stage and entrance to the Underground Stage were. But since the Forum's balcony only has three stairwells down, we had to wait in an endless line. I couldn't see more than five feet in front of me, so I just followed the other 14,999 people. But that was a bust, so I got out of line halfway there, and resorted to sitting in the stadium seating. They were only letting people down the stairwell two at a time.

click to enlarge At least one person at Hard could have helicoptered down to the first floor had he been so inclined. - LIZZIE AZRAN
  • Lizzie Azran
  • At least one person at Hard could have helicoptered down to the first floor had he been so inclined.

Destructo -- a.k.a. Gary Richards, the promoter of Hard -- was spinning an electro mix, and people were dancing. Attendees on the balcony, however, had found a solution to the problem of the traffic jam and started leaping from the second level to the main floor. They flung themselves over the railing, swung back and forth until they regained balance, jumped, landed, and scattered into an abyss of ravers dressed in furry boots and adhesive black moustaches.

This seemed to piss off the security guys. I saw a CDC security guard wearing spike-studded brass knuckles threaten someone. Nearby attendees yelled at the guard; they tried to protect the guy and told the guard, greatly outnumbered, to back off. The tension remained high, but soon dissipated and everyone continued dancing and waiting in line.

Destructo then stopped the music and urged the audience to sit or else the fire marshal would shut down the event. They needed to clear out some rows to prevent more jumping. This silence continued, and it became apparent that something was very wrong. While waiting, the crowd did the wave, smoked so many cigarettes and joints that they hotboxed the stadium, popped pills and offered makeshift light shows to maintain the buzz. The anxious sea of ravers sat for an hour and 45 minutes without music. But as we "cooperated," thousands chanted "Fucking bullshit!" "What the fuck?" "We want music", and "Refund!" I couldn't have agreed more.

The past two HARD festivals were at the Shrine, where there were fewer security guards, easily accessible stages and less-concerned fire marshals. There was way less chaos among the attendees at the massive Electric Daisy Carnival last month at the L.A. Coliseum -- and there were a reported 135,000 people there -- than there was during two hours at HARD Summer. At EDC, the only security to speak of were near the rides and bars; uncooperative people were immediately treated. On Saturday night, HARD Summer ruined the free, generous environment that these previous festivals have helped foster.

Midnight approached, and Inglewood Police Department and LA Fire Department arrived to shut the entire venue down. They came in riot gear, which maybe was a good idea.

click to enlarge LIZZIE AZRAN
  • Lizzie Azran

After we filed out into the night, attendees shattered the glass frame of an ATM machine, dismantled light fixtures, rattled chain-link fences, and began mini dance parties in the Forum's parking lot by blasting music from car stereos. Although the latter seemed intriguing, I decided to flee in case anything else went wrong.

So now I have $80 less in my wallet, 700 more calories from a quick In-n-Out stop, and only 20 minutes left before I crash from my 5-hour energy shot. Thanks a lot.

-- Lizzie Azran

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