Gary Richards has developed his HARD brand into one of music's most respected festival brands. However, he's not only a promoter. The talented musician balances his promotion company with his own DJ/producer alias, Destructo. He recently produced HARD Day of the Dead, where he performed a Destructo set in addition to organizing one of the best festivals of the year.
HARD Day of the Dead took place at the Fairplex in Pomona, CA, which is where the Los Angeles County Fair happens every year. Richards says, "I feel like the Fairplex is a really good spot for Day of the Dead. It’s a real venue. It’s not like a park where you have to do everything."
At the start of August, Richards produced HARD Summer, but he booked it at Whittier Narrows, which is on the other side of LA County. He says, "Whittier Narrows and Fairplex have their pros and cons. It’s always nice to be in a park with grass, but we’ve been in a drought, so it was pretty dusty at Whittier Narrows. I liked the layout there and location, though. At Fairplex, there are a lot more amenities. There are lots of bathrooms, it’s right off the freeway, and a lot of parking. The buildings here are awesome. It’s kind of like when you have a house. You’ve got a view, but no pool. Or you’ve got a pool, but you’ve got no view and you’re on a busy street. Every location has its plusses and negatives."
Richards decided to book the two massive festivals at different venues because HARD's normal venue, LA Historic Park, is being renovated. He states, "What happened with the State Park was that we did such a great job there that the state of California granted them $20 million for improvement. We thought this year we’d try Whittier Narrows and Fairplex and decide which one to go back to for next year. We were content at the State Park, but these venues are bigger. The State Park is 30 acres, and the Fairplex is 500 acres. It’s just trial and error."
HARD Day of the Dead and HARD Summer are huge, but they might not even be Richards' most popular events. Holy Ship has become the most popular floating festival in dance music. It's gotten so big that Richards has expanded Holy Ship to two different cruises in 2015. With so many stars slated to perform on the cruises, we'd imagine it's a logistical nightmare. However, Richards says different: "You would think Holy Ship would be more challenging to organize because it’s on water…But the boat is awesome and so is the crew. It’s just a different animal. 4,000 people as opposed to 100,000 people is just easier to deal with, even though you’re on the water on this floating city. It feels like it’s more manageable."
He adds, "HARD Day of the Dead is just so big. Just getting everyone in the door is tough. On the first day, people waited 45 minutes to get in, but I don’t want them waiting more than 20. From doing events so many times, we have graphs that show how many people show up at what time so that we staff accordingly. What happened on the first day was that no one came at the beginning because it was raining. They all came at a different time when the next staff came on, and everything backed up."
In addition to dealing with less people than festivals, Holy Ship can be a lot easier to manage due to the fact that it's the same process every year. "With Holy Ship, you’re dealing with customs and Homeland Security, and they know how to efficiently load that cruise ship every time," explains Richards. "I think what it is more than anything is that Holy Ship is always the same, but each time you changed locations for a festival, it’s a whole new plan. Talk to me after we do four shows at Fairplex, and we’ll have it down to a science. None of it’s easy, but I’m lucky I have really good teams that work on the events."
Richards' DJing/producing career (as Destructo) has been very successful lately as well. He recently released an awesome music video for "Dare You 2 Move," featuring Problem. The song will be released on the West Coast EP on November 24, 2014.