It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
This quote was heavily relevant at this year’s HARD Summer. On the one hand, HARD Summer was back yet again, one of our favorite festivals with a killer lineup and a brand new venue. On the other hand, the brand was mired with controversy over the founder Gary Richards and his partnership with Live Nation, which is ending this year. I went into the festival bracing myself for an odd vibe – but certainly not expecting one so much that it influenced my own enjoyment. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised to find nothing but good vibes at the festival. More than that, this year probably ended up being one of the better HARD Summers in the festival’s 10-year run.
This was the fourth HARD Summer venue in four years. After leaving LA State Historic Park in 2013, it moved to Whittier Narrows Recreation area in 2014, the Fairplex in Pomona in 2015, the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana in 2016, and finally Glen Helen Regional Park this year. You would think that a festival moving around so much would effect some sort of negative impact on the festival, but honestly it has withstood the trials and come out on top. Glen Helen ended up being a near perfect venue for the festival, the first one with grass since 2014, which was an absolute blessing. HARD, in the dead of summer, has been plagued by heat, especially as a festival that begins at noon and ends at 11pm. I say near perfect because of that damn hill… it serves as a pretty distinct line of demarcation between the Green, Pink, and HARDer stages and the Purple and HARD stage up the hill.
Sometimes I’d want to see an artist at Purple when I was at Green, and I’d think, “Nope, I’m down the hill for the rest of the night.” So it goes.
This was also the second HARD that offered camping. Last year’s camping profited from two separate buildings – a General Store, and a sort of chill lounge where people could congregate, get a massage, play some corn hole, listen to a DJ, and charge your phones. This year, that chill lounge was done away with, though there was an assortment of classic arcade games, including Street Fighter, two different DDR machines, and a racing game (though only two our four terminals worked for most of the weekend). So really, it evened out. There was also a large pool and water slide in the camping area, so another 10 points to Gryffindor for that.
I can’t personally speak for the general entrance lines, but getting into the festival from the camping area was as easy as emptying out your camelbak and walking in – this was, of course, after they had already thoroughly searched our car on the way in. Same as last year, this was one of the biggest benefits to camping.
Now let’s get to what’s really important in this recap, shall we? The music.
Oh, the music at HARD this year was just so. fucking. good.
Forgetting the headliners for a moment – which just to remind you were DJ Snake, Dog Blood, Snoop Dogg, and Rae Sremmurd – the supporting acts on this lineup were absolutely insane. First off, the amount of female DJs on this lineup, compared to others, is staggering. The first three artists I saw on Saturday were all female: Whipped Cream, Cray, and Uffie.
Whipped Cream, by the way, holy shit she is going to blow the fuck up. The energy of Alison Wonderland and the mixing style of G Jones, she had the Green tent packed and moving at 12:30 on the first day. Absolutely insane.
Came out to this stage expecting to see maybe 50 people max…. no words. Best day of my life. I thank you so very much. @HARDFEST 🌹❤️️
Posted by Whipped Cream Music on Saturday, August 5, 2017
The first day had a lot of great acts, but of course I couldn’t be everywhere at once. But even then, I still managed to catch sets from Drezo, Whethan, Cashmere Cat, A-Trak, Kayzo, Justice, and Zeds Dead. Not a bad lineup for a single day.
By the way, Justice had the best set of the entire festival. Hands down. No contest.
Back at the camp that night, the Brownies & Lemonade stage was lit because E-40 was playing after missing his set at the festival; though, it wasn’t my scene and so I opted to go back to the campsite to hang with friends, drink some box wine, and hit the sack before it got too late.
Day 2 started out a little shitty for me because I received a first degree (the “least degree”) sunburn the first day on my arms and hands, so I opted to wear a long sleeve in the 90 degree heat. Not fun. But also totally not HARD’s fault.
I didn’t have to be in the festival as early on the second day, so I took my time at camp and got to know some of my neighbors and just relax. I spent some time at the pool and caught up with a friend, and even took a nap next to the massive water slide while I just people watched. I charged my phone at the shaded charging station, got a dank breakfast burrito from one of the food trucks on site, and stocked up on sunscreen at the general store.
At about 1pm, we headed in to see the first act of the day: Vincent over on the main stage. The young producer, who is also dating Cray who played the first day, played an incredibly engaging and hard set, comparable to Whipped Cream the day before. The difference was that the HARD stage was out in the heat and sun while the Green stage was under a tent, so you could really smell the sweat dripping from everyone.
Even this early, I could feel my own exhaustion level teetering, so I took it slow. I walked down the hill to catch Brohug, caught a little bit of Hotel Garuda as I soaked my feet in the pool in the VIP at HARDer, then headed back up the hill to catch the godfather Destructo in action.
I think everyone was expecting him to maybe say something, address the crowd about the recent news, but he kept it classy and fun. Yo Gotti came out as a special guest for “Down In The DM,” and Giorgio Moroder came out as another special guest. At one point, Destructo invited out friends and fans onto the stage and it became a real house party.
Alas, I couldn’t stay for his whole set as I had been told ahead of time by Party Favor’s team that Lil Jon was coming out as a special guest, so I made my way to the Green tent once again for one of the littest sets of the festival. Lil Jon came out to perform “In The Pit,” but also threw it way back with “Get Low” – the crowd got particularly crazy when that came on.
The crowd at HARD went wild when PARTY FAVOR brought out Lil Jon!! 😱
Posted by Your EDM on Monday, August 7, 2017
Brillz came up next, but I was already on my way back up the hill for What So Not and an interview with Party Favor, not to mention getting a good spot for Dog Blood who was on after WSN.
Dog Blood was definitely one of the most-anticipated sets of the festival – after all, it’s Skrillex and Boys Noize. That’s nothing to laugh at. Their set tore through dark electro and minimal techno, as well as some of Skrillex’s bassier material, and even a rendition of Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike VS W&W “Crowd Control” which was joined by Destructo, Ekali, Justin Martin and other HARD pioneers.
I left that set to catch a little bit of Kill The Noise at the Green tent, and then headed to Bassnectar to finish things off at the HARDer stage. By that point, however, my exhaustion had gotten the better of me and I spent most of the set sitting, eating cheese fries, or walking around to find new places to sit. I left back to the campsite before the set was over and talked with a few of my neighbors about favorite sets and such, and then went to sleep, ready to leave in the morning.
Little did I know that What So Not was going back-to-back with Baauer at the Brownies & Lemonade stage about 500 feet away. Darn.
We got up at 7am and took down the tent, packed everything into the car, and were out of the venue by 7:30am with no issues whatsoever, just a few exhausted faces and empty 30-racks on the tops of cars.
It’s been two weeks since HARD, and I still have the distinct tan line from where my media and camping wristbands blocked my wrist from an intense sunburn. I still don’t think I’ve emptied my camelbak from the final night. (Ew.) But I have a lot of great pictures and stories to tell.
I sincerely hope that HARD comes back next year, but I just don’t know. No one died this year, and arrests and hospitalizations were both way down. But without Gary at the helm, the future is uncertain. It’s been his baby for the past decade, and after handing the reins completely to Live Nation, who knows what will become of the festival. But I’ll always have those memories.