Hard Day of the Dead festival recap: long lines, great music, good times

With views overlooking the Los Angeles skyline and convenient public transportation, the Los Angeles Historic Park could be in the running for the best venue in the Los Angeles area to host a music festival. Combine the location with amazing music spanning multiple genres from American dubstep to modern day electro; let’s just say the festival went off with a bang. (Note: this article will not feature many pictures as my camera broke and I had to use a friend’s point and shoot. Sorry.)

Hard Day of the Dead festival recap: long lines, great music, good times

That is not to say that Hard Day of the Dead did not have its faults. I chose to wait in the line with the “regular” people instead of the press entrance to get a legitimate experience and it did not start out well. As you can tell from the picture above, it was a clusterfuck. I arrived around 8:00 p.m. to find what seemed like an unorganized mob. Reports are that earlier in the night some people broke down the barrier to try to sneak in which is why it was so bad, but of all the events I have been to at the park this has been the most unorganized.

After attending FYF Festival in September, I was really looking forward to this event. FYF was apparently undersold which is why it seemed like it was much more organized, maybe hinting that they should have scaled back the capacity for Hard just a tad. And that is not to say the music was bad at all, because it wasn’t, it just was not organized very well. Long lines for bathrooms and ridiculous water rules pretty much were the theme of the night. I understand not being able to bring open containers out of the beer gardens, but why in the world are you not allowed to bring water into them. At 4 bucks a pop the amount of money I spent on water quickly added up.

But we do not go to music festivals for the amenities; it is all about the music which did not disappoint. Gary Richards aka Destructo knows how to throw a party. Having promoted in the area for decades, he has found a knack in curating lineups. While it can be said all Hard events share vary common top bills, it is the lower part of the lineup that is what killed it on this Saturday evening. Richards knows that he needs to bring the big names in to sell tickets (Justice, Knife Party, Zeds Dead, Crookers, ect.) to bring in acts that are less known to give them a shot at making new fans. Not many large scale American electronic festivals would have the balls to give Maya Jane Coles and Gesaffelstein prime night slots.

So for the event itself I spent the most time at the “Discotheque” stage sponsored by Red Bull Music Academy. The first act I was able to catch was the Boston duo Soul Clap. With their funky vibe, they got the stage going off. One thing that was nice about the “Discotheque” stage was that they put down flooring to dance on. That was much appreciated and combined with the lack of crowds made this stage the best of the night. Next to come on was the artist I was most excited to see, Maya Jane Coles. Playing her dub influenced house music to a throng of fans who have waited all year for her to play a show in Los Angeles-she completely destroyed it. 2012 has definitely been the year for the British/Japanese producer who was voted ‘Producer of the Year 2011? by DJ Mag.

After a lot of dancing it was time for a break at the beer gardens, a friend and I sat down to catch the last bit of Major Lazer. Major Lazer needs no introduction and it was during this time that probably the cutest part of the night occurred; someone proposed. Diplo turned down the beats for a moment for a member of the crowd to come up on stage and propose to his girlfriend. Talk about awesome. It was at this time that the line to get in was receding from memory and the music was taking over.

Hard Day of the Dead festival recap: long lines, great music, good times

Back in the “Discotheque” tent French producer Gesaffelstein was about to drop his heavy beats for the crowd. Originally scheduled as a btb set with Brodinski, Gesaffelstein had to take over the duties due to a last minute visa issue for Brodinski (rumor has it it has something to do with marijuana and customs as this is not his first festival in the US he has had to drop out of this year). Either way Mike Levy, AKA Gesaffelstein took to the tracks in French fashion, i.e. no audience bonding at all and smocking a pack and a half of cigarettes throughout his set. This did not matter as his set was everything you could possibly want from the French man. Gesaffelstein has a strong classical feeling to his work in which to many it might seem dark and heavy, but to most it is just an all-around great experience. One must immerse themselves in his type of music to fully appreciate it.

Obviously the stars of the night were Justice. Haven admittedly been a huge Justice fan way back in my high school days (2007) they are the reason I got into electronic music. From seeing them play Coachella in 2008 and at Ed Bangers 7th anniversary party in New York City, I must admit that my appreciation for them has severely declined recently due to the fact that their sets are eerily similar. This being the first time seeing them after the release of their new album, “Audio, Video, Disco “I was extremely impressed.

Stepping back a bit, if you have never seen Justice before you are missing out. Their sets are jam packed with energy and would make the most tired person in the world still want to jump up and down. The way they mixed tracks off their new more rock influenced album “Audio, Video, Disco” with tracks off their earlier more beat-driven album “†” was impressive. When they dropped classics such as “Genesis” and “Phantom” the crowd went nuts. The peak of their set had to be when they played their version of the amazing Soulwax song “NY excuse.” With their amazing setup, Justice quieted all the haters with an excellent set of new and old music sending the crowd home in awe of what they just saw.

One other thing I have to gripe on is the fact that they closed the beer garden at 11:30 p.m. without any warning. A couple of posted signs would have done the trick and would have definitely increased the amount of income they could have made from selling booze. Also I have to admit how much better the venue was with actual grass, unlike FYF Festival just over a month ago it was not AS covered in dirt as it was at the previous event.

Bottom Line: The music at the festival I saw was outstanding. From the “Discotheque” stage to the awesome performance from Justice, no one could possibly leave unsatisfied. With a little bit better organization, cheaper water, and more restrooms this festival could finally live up to its potential.

Follow Kevin Camps @kpcamps.