With a brand new home at Pomona’s sprawling Fairplex venue, Gary Richards and the rest of the HARD crew were primed and ready to blow minds this Halloween weekend. With a handful of dance music events clouding the festival-goers view, they were sure to enlist a remarkable lineup. Names such as ZHU, Diplo, a B2B from Eric Prydz and Deadmau5, and nearly the entire Dirtybird label drew in massive crowds each day, and yet again proved why HARD lies atop the festival totem.
Upon arrival at the Fairplex, there is an instantaneous recognition of the highly structured festival layout. Cars funnel in at a surprisingly smooth pace through winding roads of residential Pomona, directed by what seems like half of southern California’s police force.
So, already, HARD has stepped up a few notches from festivals prior with the venue alone. I step inside the festival grounds to be somewhat awestruck by a reason foreign to me at festivals — personal space. I mean, walking across the Fairplex was laughably easy, with clear lines of vision to all amenities and stages — with exception, however, to the HARD (Main) Stage.
This gargantuan pyramid was gifted its own corner (possibly quarter) of the grounds. Pointed away from all other stages, the HARD stage design was brilliant in that it occupied arguably half of the entire crowd at any given time.
Moving down the line was the slightly smaller yet equally impressive HARDer stage. A circular scaffolding design offered an awesome depth-of-field visual experience that was truly mesmerizing. I much enjoyed the placement of it’s neighboring beer garden, from which you could relax, grab a drink and get an almost “skybox” view of the action. It was from here that I watched Bassnectar take full advantage of the augmented visuals, and terrorize the crowd for over an hour.
As promised in our official preview, the Dirtybird team came ready to play. Adorned in aprons and weilding trays of food, the BBQ was certainly not underplayed. The tunes? Legendary. One by one, the likes of Kill Frenzy, J. Phlip, Shiba San, Eats Everything and even special guest Cashmere paved the way for the apex of Sunday’s lineup — a huge performance from label head Claude Von Stroke. Music aside, the thing that set this stage aside for me was how much fun everyone was having — there was a full-on stage party for most of the evening, blurring the lines of backstage and front row.
Rounding out the stage lineup, the Pink and 7UP stages were two massive hangars on the south side of the grounds. These stages were slightly off the beaten path, and I was surprised by how absolutely massive they both were. The scope of these things reminded me of Coachella tents, but with glass doors.
Needless to say, I think HARD has found its new home at Fairplex. The layout, sound, and overall ease of the weekend was tangible, and everyone I spoke with was noticeably impressed. Over the years, Gary Richards and the HARD team have strived to expand their brand while maintaining the artistic and creative excellence for which they have always been credited — and I think they’ve carried on the tradition nicely with Day of the Dead 2014.
Anna Lunoe was a crowd favorite. The Aussie has had a massive year, and with the release of “All Out,” it would seem that her US fan base has grown immensely.
Danny Daze spun a blistering techno-heavy set of almost entirely exclusive material.
Gesaffelstein, the dark prince of techno, drew a huge crowd. The Kanye West-collaborator seems to be a huge red “X’ on the map for part-time techno-lovers, drawing some of the masses from the main stages.
Zhu debuted his live show on the HARDer stage. There’s no way around it, this dude is the real deal, but we hope there’s more to come in the way of live performance from him. We couldn’t quite put our finger on it, but we’re keen to see this progress in further shows. Masked in anonymity, the shadowy figure commanded a very excited dance floor. A quirky Michael Jackson edit was one of the hidden gems in his set, further establishing his diversity in sound.
Eric Prydz and Deadmau5 go B2B for “Mau5-ville.” There was quite a bit of both buzz surrounding the collaboration, as you never know what will happen. It was amazing. Despite some fleeting drama between the two legends in the days leading to the event, their performance was immaculate. It was so interesting to see how both producers’ tunes mingled and played off one another. Truly an awesome show.
Kill Frenzy played one of the first sets of the day on the Dirtybird BBQ stage. While he is one of the younger acts on the label, he is slowly becoming one of the most talented. He just released his “Taylr Swft” album, as well as an immaculate video for “All Night Long.”
Destructo played a hip-hop/house fusion set with a little help from Future and Too $hort, dropping exclusive cuts from his forthcoming “Westcoast EP.”
Thomas Jack‘s smooth and tropical set served as a nice getaway from the cold Pomona night and more hectic crowds.
Booka Shade proved that their live show is the one to beat. This is the first time I have seen them with the entire production, and I was blown away. Such mastery with such an array of equipment and technology — these guys are just on another level.
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