HARD Day of the Dead Reviewed
As a native New Yorker who takes Halloween very seriously, I thought that nothing could top a New York City Halloween. When I made plans to come to Los Angeles and check out Hard Haunted Mansion Presents Hard Day of the Dead, I knew I'd be in for a treat, but nothing could prepare me for the night ahead. Having attended Hard Summer a few months prior, I was already somewhat familiar with the neighborhood in Downtown Los Angeles. As soon as we exited the freeway we could see the streets were littered with kids of all ages clad in sugar skull face makeup. I thought I was arriving early, walking up to the gates only thirty minutes after doors opened. I saw some beautiful, intricate, unique costumes as well as some awesome hand crafted t-shirts made especially for the occasion. As I exited the line, I followed the rush to the main stage, known as the HARD stage, for the first act.
Clockwork took the stage at 6:00 PM to kick off the night with a great remix of his most recent single "Titan." His high energy, big room sound was exactly what I needed to get me excited for a wild night ahead. He poked fun at his dichotomous image by playing some of his alter ego's productions as well as his own: the classic Trap on Acid, the newer Flood, and of course his remix with Salva of the ubiquitous summer anthem Mercy, which had the whole crowd singing along. Although Clockwork brought the party very early, I had no choice but to split up the block with the mysterious UZ. His "real trap shit" mixtape was all over in the past year, but information about the man behind the mask is limited. The electronic music community loves to speculate over who UZ, or BallTrapMusic, really is, convinced that because of his technical beat making prowess he must be an already established producer. His set was perfect for any trap fanatic, but at the same time the live sampling of 808 drum patches could get anyone bouncing. So even though I got to see the "real trap shit" in real life, and had a great time doing so, I still have no more clues as to who UZ is. The mystery continues! After UZ, I rushed back to the HARD stage to catch another amazing hip hop influenced live act: Aarabmusik. He never disappoints with his amazing skills on the APC. However, I couldn't stay long because one of my favorites was set to take the Ear Storm stage: Baauer. He did not disappoint, playing all of his originals that have reached anthem status this past summer.
Next it was time to say hello to the stage where I knew I'd be spending most of my night: the Moombahton Massive stage sponsored by Mojo backpacks. Moombahton is a genre of music founded in Washington DC by Dave Nada, half of DJ and producing duo Nadastrom. The genre, characterized a slowed tempo, a two-step pulse and a house and reggaeton influence, has been gaining popularity slowly but surely since its inception, but in the past year has blown into the stratosphere of popularity, its ubiquity proven by one out of four of the Hard stages being dedicated to artists in the genre. First up at the stage was GTA, production duo made up of JWLS and Van Toth. They played some songs in tribute to some of their peers in the game, like ETC!ETC!, Brillz and Diplo's addicting track Bueller and some classic moombahton tracks like Kitchen by Angger Dimmas and the quintessential moombahton anthem, Munchi's Sanduego. As the crowd piled in, I knew this would be a legendary night for moombahton. Next up at the Moombahton Massive stage was DC native Tittsworth. He got into the Day of the Dead spirit, showing up for his set with some intricate skeleton makeup. He played a lot of unknown moombahton tracks as well as some current hits, like a bouncy treatment of 2 Chainz's Birthday Song. Next up on this stage was Bro Safari. He played his original Ass Clap, Valentino Khan's perfect moombahton jam Rukus, Dillon Francis's IDGAFOS, and his awesome trap inspired production Scumbag. His high energy performance stood out as one of my favorites of the night. After Bro Safari's set came the legends themselves, Nadastrom, spinning with DJ Sabo. The three amigos all dressed up in rainbow ponchos and sombreros, matching their festive look with an incredible set. They fit in some reggaeton, a lot of originals, as well as the ubiquitous moombahton jam, which I did not complain about hearing multiple times at this stage, Sanduego. When the "Moombahton Massive!" drop played, and I saw the crowd go wild, I could only imagine that Dave Nada felt like something of a proud mother!
I hustled back to the Ear Storm tent to see Kill the Noise after paying my respects to the moombah legends, and he did not disappoint. Kill the Noise has a unique dubstep-meets-metal sound which was updated with a trap influence, dropping Waka Flocka Flame's Grove St. Party partway through the set. I head back to the Moombahton stage to catch legendary Italian DJs Crookers. They played a lot of fan favorites, without allowing the set to sound stale by injecting a current influence by playing the ubiquitous 2 Chainz Birthday Song, Mercy and some Knife Party. The set finished off with the Crookers original "We Love Animals", and the crowd showed their love for Crookers in return. Knife Party was next on the Ear Storm stage: I felt I had made this walk 100 times by now, but the beat carried my feet along as I made my way to see the Pendulum legends. They played the fan favorites off of their Rage Valley EP, as well as some songs that I could not ID but had that unmistakeable Knife Party sound to it, hopefully indicating some new releases in the near future. Despite Knife Party's legendary status, I had to rush back to the Moombahton stage for one of my personal favorites, Dillon Francis. In his hour long set he managed to fit in a great deal of his original productions, his best remixes, and a lot of exclusives. Dillon, a Los Angeles native, likes to pull out all the stops for his Los Angeles shows. He gave the Hard crowd an exclusive during his set, a sped up "rebirth" of his new single Bootleg Fireworks. Whether that is a preview of a future release or just a surprise, it drove the crowd wild! Additionally, fresh off a month-long UK tour with fellow towhead Flux Pavilion, Dillon gave the crowd a taste of a collaboration the two worked on during their time together. Get ready for this track next year!
Diplo was on next, and he acknowledged what a tough act Dillon was to follow. Not to be outdone, he started with "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls. Diplo got the party going but I had to take a break to catch the other two headliners for the night: Tommy Trash and Justice. A highlight of Tommy Trash for me was when he played his remix of Deadmau5's The Veldt- the energy in the crowd was palpable. Next I stopped by Justice, French electronic music legends. It was clear that many people had come to Hard just for this: the crowd at the Hard stage was filled to the brims. Justice brought a completely different and unique experience from any other act of the night. Instead of typical visuals behind them, they had an intricate LED setup including a wall of amps that lit up halfway through the set. They played mostly originals, including many crowd pleasing tracks off their most popular album, Cross. I made it back just in time for Diplo to drop possibly his most popular song as of late, Express Yourself. After trolling the crowd with a mini mashup with Gangnam Style, Diplo invited a whole slew of enthusiastic ladies to express themselves for the crowd on stage with him. After playing a couple hip hop chart toppers like Rihanna's Cake and Kanye West's Clique, he dropped a new jam straight out of Mad Decent studios from GTA.
As I exited L.A. Historic Park, too many songs were stuck in my head: my brain was creating one huge symphonic mashup. I smiled knowing that my sore feet were a sure sign of a good night. All my running made it so I was able to see almost 20 acts in one night. I didn't want to be disloyal to my home city of New York, but I knew that this year at least, Los Angeles had it beat in wild halloween weekends.