Review & Photos | Hard Day Of The Dead Festival | California

Words & Images By: L. Paul Mann

Hard Day Of The Dead Festival :: 11.2.13 - 11.3.13 :: LA State Historic Park :: Los Angeles, CA

Check out L. Paul's full review after the gallery, and more photos on page 2!

The Hard Day Of The Dead music festival took over the downtown Los Angeles State Historic Park last weekend, attracting up to 70,000 EDM music fans a day. The Hard festival was conceived by Gary Richards, with the inaugural event having taken place on New Years Eve in 2007. Since then Hard has taken on a life of its own, with a giant summer festival, music cruises and special events centered around the meteoric resurgence of the dance music culture over the last several years.

The ABC news show, Nightline, recently featured a segment on the massive popularity of the current EDM music scene. The segment went on to explain how over the last few years top EDM stars like Calvin Harris are now making more money than the biggest pop and rock stars. Harris made a grand appearance, the second day of the festival, but he was not even one of the headline acts. The festival opened at noon on Saturday, but most of the colorful crowd opted to wait until sunset to arrive. It was a beautiful fall day in Los Angeles, with warm temperatures extending right up until the midnight closing hour of the festivities. The park itself was a fitting and fascinating location for the event, located just across from Los Angeles main train depot, Union Station, and in the heart of China Town. The park was bordered on one side by the under utilized metro train tracks and offered a spectacular view of Downtown L.A.'s High Rise District. The rolling hills of the park afforded various vantage points to view the spectacle form a distance.

The festival itself was composed of two giant stages, complete with massive sound systems and huge state of the art LED animation and lighting panels that wrapped around the crowds. There was also a large Disco “tent” and a smaller chill stage at the edge of the festival grounds. With little downtime needed between DJ sets, the music was nearly continuous and simultaneous on all four stages. The festival grounds were rounded out with several carnival rides, animated light towers, gourmet food trucks and two fully-stocked garden bars on opposite ends of the grounds. Fans who arrived early on Saturday were rewarded with light crowds at all the stages and could dance about freely and quickly. The event took on the persona of one giant risque costume party, celebrating EDM culture, Halloween and the traditional Mexican Day of the Dead (November 1st). Wisely, promoters had limited the age qualification to attend the festival to 18 and up. That allowed EDM fans to wear their sexiest and raunchiest costumes and act out their primal fantasies, without fear of offending underage attendees. The result was an astonishing array of tiny sexy outfits, cartoon characters, superheroes, vampires, monsters and just about anything else you can think of in the festooned world of EDM costumes.

Spirits were high the first day as fans darted about listening to all types of EDM music from across the globe. As twilight fell across the park, the massive lighting arrays began to take on a life of their own and music fans went into a full dance trance frenzy. Sumptuous food trucks offering up everything from Blue Crab quesadillas to Korean short rib burritos were easy to access as few in the crowd seemed to have much of an appetite for food. Even the beer lines were short through the night as most attendees seemed to be happy with a diet of water and smart drinks and whatever else they might have brought with them. There were many highlights the first day of the festival, including the only group to perform with traditional instruments, The Bloody Beetroots. The trio, led by front man Bob Cornelius Rifo, played an explosive set, sounding more like an industrial rock band (a la Nine Inch Nails), than an EDM group. Rifo danced about in a frenzy, alternating between a grand piano and electric guitar, while screaming out vocals. The crowd responded with a dance trance frenzy of their own, whipping up a dust storm in the dirt field in front of the stage.

A different vibe was being offered up on the main stage with the English dub-step duo Nero. Joined by the striking blonde figure Alana Watson on vocals, Nero created a decidedly English synth mood. Earlier, Germany’s' Boys Noiz had already brought a European flair to the main stage as they played on top of a giant skull podium. In the Disco tent, France was being represented by a chain smoking Kavinsky, who played a dance-infused set with a nod to the '80s. The crowd loved it, devolving into a much more fluid dance trance than at the tightly packed main stages. Over on the smaller Underground stage there was a much more relaxed atmosphere conducive to freeform dancing with the electric light ninja stick and glowing hula hoop crowd in control. Maya Jane Coles had that crowd in a deep house mood during her set there.

Later, the Gaslamp Killer turned the stage into a circus-like atmosphere with a carny-inspired array of costumed dancers gyrating about him. He first appeared in a Mardi Gras type mask only to unveil himself in a pied piper persona. He actually looked and moved much like Ian Anderson in his early Jethro Tull days, while laying down a solid trance beat. EDM superstar Skrillex closed the main stage, transforming his spaceship podium into a giant pumpkin for the event. The massive LED light screens transformed the huge crowd into a glowing mass of gyrating bodies. Skrillex gave a nod to the Day of the Dead theme with a bit of a remix of Michael Jackson's and Vincent Price's classic collaboration on “Thriller." Photographers and security in the pit in front of the stage could almost feel their internal organs being eviscerated by the sheer power emanating from the massive bass speakers. By the midnight hour most of the crowd had swarmed the main stage and were engulfed in a massive dance trance fever.

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