Hard Summer has already announced a few big new moves for its 2016 iteration, including a new venue (Fontana's Auto Club Speedway) and the addition of a camping component. Yesterday, Hard Events announced another upgrade to its most well-known event — this time in the realm of safety.
Hard has struggled in recent years with keeping its mid-summer festival safe for attendees. Two years ago, a 19-year-old woman died of a suspected drug overdose at Hard Summer. Last year, two young women — both under 21 — died on the festival’s first day, also of suspected drug overdoses. In those same hours, L.A. Weekly reported seeing many festivalgoers showing symptoms of heatstroke in the 90-plus degree heat; we also heard numerous reports of people throwing up in the porta-potties. After the tragedies of Hard Summer, Hard Events upped the age restriction on its other big L.A. fest, Hard Day of the Dead, to 21-and-over. (That restriction has been dropped back down to 18-plus for Hard Summer.)
Hard has been adamant about calling itself a “music festival, not a rave.” But whatever you want to call it, it remains true that many of Hard's attendees like party, well, hard — and that partying (read: drug use) can be dangerous, especially in the searing mid-summer heat of the Inland Empire. Hard Events has taken steps to minimize the risk, including the installation of free water refill stations and an air-conditioned "chill room," but it's clear they still need to do more. So this year, they are.
Earlier this week, Hard Events took to its website to announce the debut of the Stand Up + Dance Crew, a group of young people who will be onsite at Hard Summer and other future Hard events. The purpose of this crew is multi-fold: “Whether it’s where the nearest water station is, or how to locate the medical booth, and even if you or a friend require medical assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to this peer-led coalition,” the page explains.
The Stand Up + Dance Crew seems to be modeled after rave promoter Insomniac’s Ground Control, a collection of young people who are paid to wander the grounds of festivals like EDC Las Vegas in search of ravers who look like they might be unhappy, lost, dehydrated or — in some cases — in need of immediate medical attention. Both Hard and Insomniac avoid describing their safety crews' efforts as "harm reduction" — likely due to the fact that, under the RAVE Act of 2003, electronic music promoters must adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards drug use at their events, or risk facing criminal charges under the so-called "crackhouse law."
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Like Ground Control, who wear matching purple shirts and carry backpacks full of water and other supplies, the Stand Up + Dance Crew will be easy to spot in matching red shirts. They’ll also carry blinking batons that will serve as beacons. “They can easily serve as a marker in the crowd for you to stay put while medics come to you,” Hard’s post states, reiterating this new group’s primary function.
Hopefully, the presence of the Stand Up + Dance Crew will help ensure everyone at Hard Summer 2016 has a great time — and, most importantly, gets home safely at the end of the weekend.