Live Review: Hard Festival - Shrine Auditorium - Los Angeles, CA
Mon, 21 Jul 2008 14:16:34
After getting their promotional feet wet this past New Years Eve with a downtown party that saw French electro masters Justice sharing the stage with Miami's legendary smut peddlers 2 Live Crew, the team at HARD came back for another round of dance hedonism with their HARD Summer Festival. Taking over the Shine Auditorium this past Saturday, they upped the ante with two stages and a bill that included everyone from local noisemakers LA Riots and Steve Aoki, to bigger names on the indie dance circuit, like Spank Rock and MSTRKRFT. Throw in a dash of multi-platinum production cred from the Neptunes, with their band N*E*R*D, and you have the recipe for a night of neon revelry.
Props to the promoters at HARD for providing a well-organized atmosphere at the over-sized event. The indoor stage was devoted mainly to DJ's throughout the night. That 70's Show alumn Danny Masterson [MOMJEANS], local radio personality Jason Bentley and Kanye-approved turntablist A-Trak kept the energy high with a steady stream of bass-heavy, electro grooves. Backed by a giant LED display and accompanied by occasional shouts from a hypeman, the DJs drew a progressively larger crowd over the course of the night, as partiers would wander inside between sets from acts on the outdoor stage and find themselves drawn into the dance frenzy.
The majority of attendees congregated outside in sight of the larger stage where the night's headliners were scheduled. Party rap trailblazers Spank Rock kicked things up a notch with their booty shaking beats and lascivious rhymes, priming the audience for N*E*R*D's arena-rap workout to come. Cramming the stage with nine musicians, including dual drummers, N*E*R*D put on a bombastic show with a mix of material from their new release, Seeing Sounds, as well as fan favorites, like "Lapdance" and "Brains." Unquestionably a better knob twiddler than he is frontman, Pharrell still managed to bring a compelling bit of stage presence to the set. He may never burn down a house like James Brown, but considering the band is essentially a diversion from his day job as a hit machine, he doesn't need to lose much sleep over it. Up next, MSTRKRFT proved to be the night's biggest draw attracting nearly all in attendance outside with their distorted basslines. In a genre with many average practitioners, MSTRKRFT separate themselves from the crowd with sets like the one spun here. Loud and thumping, they still employed a sense of musicianship that's often missing from other DJ's overly-aggro beatdowns.
The HARD crew threw a respectable party, though there was a sense that you were witnessing the last days of disco. The hipster irony that events like these rely on to score cool points has started to wear predictably thin in places. Rapidly encroaching corporatization and the lack of any coherent ethos are exposing holes in the scene that can't be plastered over with even the most unexpected mashup. The post-rave, indie dance movement may very well be taking its last breaths—at least in its current incarnation—and somewhere beneath all the music you could hear it gasping for air. The youngsters at the party had no idea what they missed, andjudging by the relatively uncrowded beer gardenthe old fogies mostly stayed home. It'll be interesting to see how many more HARD parties get thrown before pop eats itself and finally consumes the entire scene, because no matter how loud the quartet plays, the Titanic is already sinking.