HARD Day of the Dead was definitely the biggest thing happening in EDM over Halloween weekend (and damn there was a lot going on), and our very own Molly Gale went and completely crushed her way through the two full days of #rage. Check out her recap and photos from each day below. —Editor
Saturday, November 1st – Day One
As you drive east out of Los Angeles, the endless concrete strip-malls end and the landscape opens up in front of you. Rolling hills and purple mountains in the distance against a colorful sky–we were already in a completely different world than the traffic-jammed, billboard-cluttered City of Angels. There is something so magical about experiencing a festival for the first time. Even though Hard Day of the Dead is nothing new to the LA music scene, they have been cycling through new venues through the past year and with each new location comes a new personality. It’s always a new adventure.
Upon entry, you are greeted with the obligatory ferris wheel (always pretty, never worth the line) and a Pink’s hot dog stand that peaked my interest but there is NO TIME. We have places to be. Rounding the corner into the main arena, we stand in awe of the Mayan-themed HARD Stage. It has to be at least three stories tall and comprised of solid LED panels shaped like a temple. Chicks in “costumes” and bros in animal onesies flock towards the overwhelming structure – Derek Vincent Smith is on his way to the stage. This is not something you are late for.
The sun has just gone down and the colorful scene was slowly coming to life. As the jolly giant took the stage, there was pure joy on his face. Without delay, Pretty Lights unleashed a back-to-basics set packed full of the soul-shaking tunes that put him on the map. “Hot Like Sauce” and “Total Satisfaction” – these are songs that we have come to regard as national anthems of sorts. The live instrumentation made the beats tactile and aggressive. This set warmed my soul and reminded me of how this all began for me – a $5 Pretty Lights show in a tiny theatre in Boulder, CO. It was true then, and it’s even truer now: there are truly few things in this world I love more than the killer combo of “Finally Moving > Finally Moving Remix”.
Halfway through the set we race over to the HARDer stage – the 2nd tier main stage that is slightly smaller but boasts an impressive ring of lighted trellis’ and screens. It was time for Zhu. Probably the most highly anticipated set of the weekend, Zhu has managed to remain anonymous through his rise to prominence. His hope being that his fans will focus solely on the music and remove his identity from the equation – we’ll see. This show was his North American debut and he most certainly proved his worth.
Shrouded in semi-see-through LED screens in front and behind him, he remained quite the enigma throughout the set—only getting on the mic once or twice to greet the crowd. He ran through his brilliant EP and flexed his remix/cover muscle with some new Outkast swag and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (fittingly). His brand of deep house abandons the incessant repetition for something more soulful and sensual. Did he live up to the hype? Definitely. Is he a groundbreaking electronic epiphany? We’ll see. There has to be more to this act – this feels like it’s only the beginning of Zhu’s NIGHTDAY experience. Enticed is an understatement.
For something completely different, we pile into one of the expo halls across the Fariplex grounds to see our favorite neo-house Frenchie, Gesaffelstein. This cavernous room was the perfect atmosphere for The Prince of Darkness– I felt like I was in an abandoned warehouse somewhere outside of Paris. Waaaay down at the end of the room, Gesaffelstein is surrounded by solid, minimal beams of light. This man is just so damn cool in the way only a Parisian can be. He is poised and unassuming, though you sense he could snap at any second. Gut-wrenching, industrial beats boil over around him and yet, his only movement is to light a new cigarette. The sound is reminiscent of a freight train driving forward at ever-increasing speeds. The crowd eats it up: we are sent into a full frenzy when Gesaffelstein drops into “Viol” quite early on in his set, and once more with the ever-so-filthy “Hellifornia”. You’ve got to wonder what it’s like to hang out with this guy. Like how many cigarettes does he really smoke? Is he as psycho as he seems? Either way—my answer is “Yes, Gesaffelstein, I will marry you”.
deadmau5 B2B Prydz (MAU5VILLE)
What is there to say about Deadmau5 and Eric Prydz? This B2B set was dreams coming true. These two producers have some of the most loyal, long-standing fan bases in the industry. Prydz is among the most creative, diverse performers in EDM and Joel Zimmerman, while being one of the most infamous trolls in the industry, will always be one of the best. As the volleyed the set back and forth, the duo touched on their individual anthems with a new collaborative sound. My favorite moment came with “Cthulhu Sleeps > Ghosts N Stuff”. Actually scratch that, my favorite moment was when Deadmau5 tripped while exiting the stage trying to act cool. All jokes aside — this set was stuff of legend. Here is a low-quality stream for your convenience (lets hope they release an official download sometime soon because this is pretty awful).
Finally, the feature presentation of Day One. It’s been years since we’ve heard anything new from this game-changing duo, but Knife Party’s most recent releases have been electrifying in the internet. “Boss Mode” is credited with inciting riots and causing revolutions from the second it hit airwaves (I can personally attest to this but that’s all I’m legally allowed to say). Many people don’t realize just how important Knife Party really is. Have you ever heard this song or this song or this song? YEAH WELL ITS NOT PORTER OR SKRILLEX, those are all original Knife Party productions. Where would we be without them?
Expectations were at an all time high and man, did they deliver. With a haunted house-themed production and fire cannons galore, Knife Party tore through their freshly-finished album with momentum and spirit while also re-visiting some of the old classics that put them on the map. Their sound was a deep, relentless electro from start to finish—they showed the industry who da real Boss Dogs are here. I know this a super early prediction but I’m just going to throw it out there that this album would work reeeeallly well in the Sahara Tent at Coachella JUST SAYING.