Hard Summer made having a great time easy

Aug. 12, 2010, 10:32 a.m.

For a culture normally defined by bright lights, uninhibited dancing, infectious music and instant personal connections, this past summer has been relatively tumultuous and macabre for the rave scene across the globe. Over Memorial Day weekend at ETD POP, the rave held at the local Cow Palace, three concertgoers died from apparent ecstasy overdoses, while a month later at the much larger Electric Daisy Carnival in Los Angeles, an underage girl also died from too much of the popular rave drug. This caused city and state officials to begin to rethink and restructure everything from security to location at future electronic concerts. However, both tragic incidents are minimal in comparison to the disaster at Germany’s Love Parade, where the death toll has risen to 21 after poor planning led to a fatal stampede in the festival’s only tunnel entrance.

Hard Summer made having a great time easy

While not billed as a “rave” and attracting an arguably different crowd, this past weekend’s Hard Summer festival in downtown Los Angeles was placed under a lot of scrutiny as the biggest L.A. dance festival since the widely publicized death at EDC. Effective security was of the utmost importance, and it became increasingly hard to ignore the fact that last year’s Hard Summer was shut down after riots ensued. However, this year’s festival, featuring major dance and electro acts like Erol Alkan, Major Lazer and Crystal Castles, seemingly went off without a hitch, not only because of the minimal arrests and speedy, yet thorough, security line, but because of the consistently incredible musical performances and the collective great time had by the 10,000 people attending.

When Intermission arrived at the Los Angeles State Historical Park in the afternoon, we immediately headed to the Hard Stage, while many opted for the other stage, appropriately named Harder – those with a palette for dubstep and heavy electro got their fix at the smaller and more intense option. The first act that we caught was Theophilus London, an urban pop artist straight out of Brooklyn. Accompanied by famed producer Skeet Skeet, Theophilus charmed his way into our hearts with slick dance moves, even slicker hip hop and a charisma perfect for warming up the crowd. The day really started to pick up when he called for all of the ladies out in the audience and announced, “It’s time to make this a rave!” while Skeet Skeet mixed dance beats into Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”

From then on out, the crowd was dancing into the night. Sets from Breakbot and The Twelves heavily favored disco elements, and aside from a minor technical glitch at the beginning of Breakbot’s set, all three DJs proved to be up-and-coming talents with infectious sounds. Smoothly transitioning from the Twelves’ set of disco and hit pop tunes was seasoned DJ Green Velvet. Dressed in a casual all-white suit, wearing perhaps the biggest grim of anybody attending, Green Velvet dropped “My House,” the Rhythm Controll classic that proclaims, preacher-style, “And in my house, there is only house music” to wild cheers. He continued to spin electronic and house music that kept the crowd not just dancing, but smiling.

As the sun began to set on the amazing talent that is Erol Alkan – who took the stage after Green Velvet – Thomas Pentz, better known as Diplo, took the stage for an even larger audience. After gaining considerable popularity by producing many of M.I.A.’s best songs (not to mention dating her), as well as working with many other major artists, Diplo is enjoying the peak of his career – and his set at Hard Summer did not disappoint. After an hour of dancing to his electro house set, the audience eagerly awaited his return as half of the wildly popular Major Lazer. Once back on stage with Switch and the rest of the gang for Major Lazer, Intermission was glad to see that this outrageous show lived up to the high bar previously set at this year’s Coachella.

Hard Summer made having a great time easy

Headliners Crystal Castles opened with eerie chords from Ethan Kath on the synthesizer, surrounded by swirls of fog and hazy lasers. Frontwoman Alice Glass appeared on the drum set, swaying and singing in a seemingly drug-induced trance. With music sounding like a perfect mix of hypnotic tones, thumping drums, video game synths and screeching vocals, the live show is every bit as confusing, haunting and captivating as their recorded work. With Ethan hunched over his equipment in the back of the stage, a hoodie thrown almost completely over his head, we were enraptured with Alice, throwing herself into the crowd from every side, moaning and screeching with seemingly no direction as the security guards made sure that she made it out from the crowd surfing somewhat safely. Their set seemed to go by in the blink of an eye, leaving the crowd with not just goosebumps and awe, but also the sentiment of “what in the hell just happened?”

Closing out the night was Belgian electro-rock band Soulwax. Dressed in their standard blue leisure suits, the four-person band took the stage with little to no fanfare, playing many new tracks that left audience dancing with their mouths wide open, in shock that a rock group could be so intense and non-stop at such a high energy. When the clock struck midnight, the set was abruptly over, and the music stopped for good. Concertgoers trickled out of the park, disappointed at the night’s end, but thrilled with memories of the events prior. Despite all of the danger, death and sadness of this summer’s rave scene, Hard managed to pull together not only a safe and well-run event, but one with music that reminded everybody why dance festivals are so amazing in the first place.

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