Better Than… Your run-of-the-mill music festival for both the danceability factor and the people watching.
HARD Summer festival kicked off yesterday, celebrating the first year that the famed festival was given two days to celebrate the hottest EDM acts around. The doors opened around 4:30pm on Friday as swarms of festival-goers arrived in their rave-worthy best, which meant they were dressed in the smallest amount of clothing they could without getting a police record. Neon tutus, exposed boobs with butterfly stickers covering the nipples, spirit hoods and furry boots (are those still cool?) — we even spotted a midget rocking a jeweled bra and hot pink bedazzled panties.
Four stages of the hottest up and coming names in electronic, dance, dubstep, and house music took over the park grounds. Among the big players were Boys Noize, Bloc Party, Miike Snow, Magnetic Man, Little Dragon, Joey Beltram and Erol Alkan. While the majority of the crowd showed up after sunset, the early birds were treated to Lunice and Vampire Weekend's DJ Baio in the Red Bull Discotheque. As the night progressed, the talent escalated and Breakbot, Chromeo, and Bootsy Collins & The Funk Unity Band capped off things under the discotheque big top.
While there was undeniable action on the HARD and Harder Stage, the place to be for those looking to discover the next big thing seemed to be the Fool's Gold Clubhouse. A-Trak took the headlining spot at the clubhouse and spent the hours leading up to his set introducing fresh talent signed to his own Fool's Gold Records. If you were among the masses squishing into the grassy knoll to catch the bigger names last night, you missed out on the antics of Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire and his Peel Off Passion Crew (did we mention his DJ was wearing a transformer's mask which he says he only takes off if he trusts someone or when it's time to make out?) and Danny Brown who riled the entire crowd into chanting along to “Blunt After Blunt.”
For many, HARD was more about the chance to express themselves than the music. Groups of females arrived sporting that “I spent six hours getting ready for tonight” look. There were shirtless men with glitter on their pecs, people sporting sombreros and many who had whipped out the Sharpie to scribble: 'Hard or Bust” on any exposed body part. HARD was the place where eccentric became the norm and attendees that missed the “dress to impress” memo stuck out in the crowd like a sore thumb.
As the vast line up of DJs and live acts performed, fans rushed the stages. Every performer played to gigantic audiences, the majority of them at some point spurring dance parties. There was aggressive rave dancing, seductive crawling on the floor and uncoordinated hopping around to energetic beats. As one performer finished, people picked up their purses, wiped the sweat from their brows, and hightailed it over to a nearby stage to see another show. People chugged water and took breathers on a hillside covered in tall grass, anything to keep them going all night.
Despite the first act taking the stage at 5:10 p.m., the vast majority of the crowd stayed until the very end — some taking breaks to pass out for extended periods of time in between sets. Bloc Party came out at 11:30, and the masses crammed in for a sing-a-long to their live renditions of “One More Chance” and a tune from lead vocalist Kele Okereke's solo album. Boys Noize closed the night, wrapping up around 2 a.m. HARD attendees left sweaty, exhausted, and musically satisfied. And they get to do it all again today.
Personal Bias: I was really looking forward to seeing Araabmuzik and he didn't disappoint. He's so different from other EDM acts out right now. He went crazy on his MPC for his entire set and everything is improvised.
The Crowd: Anyone who wasn't trying hard stuck out like a sore thumb. Being in reporter mode, I wore a blue sweatshirt and jeans, and found myself getting comments on my lackluster rave attire.
Random notebook dump: The highlight of the evening for many was a strung-out girl who rushed the barricade and attempted to climb up the side of the stage during Boys Noize. She got about a fourth of the way off the ground before bouncers tackled her. She flailed her arms wildly and hit one of the guys in the face who quickly retreated. This left her lying on the ground dancing her ass off while a big burly bouncer made at least 20 attempts to escort her out. Every effort to pick her up failed and he stood over her yelling, “Ma'am, please get up. You have to get up!” I think everyone on site caught that moment on camera.