Hard Summer Music Festival 2017 was undoubtedly the best and most organized it has been since leaving its home at LA Historic Park in 2013. It is no secret that Hard has had a rough couple of years suffering several deaths, venue changes and countless logistical issues, but Gary Richards, also known as Destructo, and the whole Hard crew really stepped their game up for this years event.
This years Hard Summer was always going to be an extra special one as it was the ten year anniversary of the company. However, some somber news recently broke that it would be Richards’ final event as part of Hard as his contract with Live Nation was finished and was not going to be renewed. The combination of the celebration of ten years of Hard and the farewell to its founder was the perfect mix to create an unforgettable weekend full of nothing but good vibes.
Richards decided to truly go out with a bang by curating an unforgettable all star lineup at a perfect venue with nearly everything going smoothly. Everything felt absolutely flawless at the event including the short wait times to enter the festival, the open grassy festival grounds with plenty of shade, the multiple water refill stations, the incredible production at every stage and most importantly the unparalleled musical talent Hard has consistently offered for ten straight years. The VIP pool located on the left side of the Harder stage was also a nice touch for those looking to escape the insanely hot San Bernardino weather.
Problems that Hard had become notorious for in the past were turned into their strengths this year and made for a near perfect all around experience. While the festival itself was amazingly well-organized, there were a few major issues that are hard to overlook, but understandably difficult to overcome for Hard. One of the only real issues with the festival, like almost every other major festival, was trying to leave it, whether it be by driving, shuttle or Uber.
Many people shared their horror stories about sitting in the parking lot for hours as cars bottleneck into the small exit. Those who chose to Uber or Lyft had equally bad experiences as many has to wait in line for hours to get in the shuttle just to be transported to another area while they waited for their Ubers.
Parking always seems to be a major issue at just about every festival and with tens of thousands of people all leaving the same area at the same time, there is truly very little festivals can do about this issue. That being said, Hard did an especially poor job and those who chose to pay for the preferred parking actually had it worse than most. Preferred parking made it a shorter walk from your car to the festival, however it also made it that much further from the exit.
Another downside to the festival came in the form of a seated amphitheater for the main stage. The Glen Helen Amphitheater has a pit area in the front and then two full sections of seats before opening up into a massive lawn area in the back. When thinking about a major music festival, a seated amphitheater isn’t the ideal situation and that became very clear with Hard’s main stage as getting through these seats was extremely difficult.
While Hard’s organization was the best in the past five years, the music it coincided with was just as good if not better. On paper, the eclectic group of artists that Richards booked to perform at this years event was outstanding, and the actual performances found a way to far exceed the hype.
The undisputed best set of the weekend in my opinion has to go to Xavier and Gaspard of Justice. The two Frenchmen played a rare DJ set on the Harder Stage on the first night of the festival and truly impressed the crowd. The duo came up to the decks with their famous cross on the LED screen above their heads as they teased the intro of “Genesis,” but being as this is a DJ set, the track didn’t last long.
They quickly switched the song up mixing it with Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” before transitioning into Boys Noize’s “XTC” and finally into Dog Blood’s, “Next Order” to cap off their epic intro. They proceeded to play a combination of old and new tracks including their classic anthem, “We Are Your Friends,” their second album hit, “Civilization,” and a new favorite, “Alakazam.” Justice closed out their set with debatably their most famous track, “D.A.N.C.E.” before the crowd migrated to another frenchman, DJ Snake, who closed out the main stage.
Another highlight of the weekend has to be the long awaited reunion of Skrillex and Boys Noize’s collaborative project, Dog Blood, which has been on hiatus for several years. Dog Blood had announced prior to the festival that this would be the duo’s only official 2017 performance, causing the crowd to be one of the biggest of the entire weekend.
One of the best moments of the set is when the duo played an absolutely filthy, dark heavy new edit of Kendrick Lamar’s, “Humble” that is presumed to be a new Skrillex or possible Dog Blood remix. In addition, the two played some of their previously released collaborations including “Chella Ride,” “Middle Finger” and “Next Order,” as well as some songs that definitely sounded like some new Dog Blood. The duo brought out Destructo, Justin Martin, Baauer, What So Not and Ekali to share a moment on the epic stage together.
What So Not had a memorable daytime main stage set where he played on an interesting stage setup with the horse from his ‘Divide & Conquer’ EP art as the centerpiece. The Australian DJ had the crowd going crazy nonstop as he played cuts from his ‘Gemini EP’ including the title track as well as his long sought after remix of the “Stranger Things” theme song.
Destructo had one of the most memorable sets of the weekend as he turned his set into a full on party allowing people to dance all over his stage as he played, looking as happy as ever celebrating ten years of the company he built. He even brought his wife and kids up in the booth with him at one point and decided to close out the set by bringing up electronic dance music legend, Giorgio Moroder to finish off his last Hard set as it’s leader.
Hip-hop was without a doubt a major part of this year’s lineup with an unforgettable headlining performance from Snoop Dogg performing his 1993 classic debut album, Doggystyle to close out the entire festival. Snoop walked onto the stage smoking a blunt as he started to perform one of his biggest hits from his near-thirty year career, “Gin & Juice,” with visuals from the album up on the screen. The performance included a tribute to Nate Dogg while Snoop performed “Ain’t No Fun (If The Homies Can’t Have None)” with Kurupt.
While not an official Hard set, it is worth nothing that the LA-based, Brownies & Lemonade threw two successful campground afterparties featuring some crazy sets. Both nights featured insane lineups including a set from E-40 who missed his actual Hard set, plus a rare b2b trap set with Baauer and What So Not, among many others.
With Gary Richards no longer being a part of Hard, the future of Hard Summer Music Festival and the Hard brand itself is in question. If this was the last Hard Summer, then Richards and the whole hard crew went out with a bang, complete with great production, the best organization in years and countless unforgettable performances.