1. The Venue
It seems like HARD has officially been crowned LA’s premier roaming festival, as the last three renditions of their two flagship festivals, HARD Day of the Dead and HARD Summer have changed locations. However, it seems like HARD may have found its home at the Pomona Fairplex. Situated about 45 minutes outside of downtown Los Angeles, the Pomona Fairplex seemed like the best venue they’ve had to date. An all-concrete stomping ground lead to very few, if any, dust complaints all weekend. The stages were situated just far enough to prevent sound bleed, yet close enough to allow for stage hopping - a necessity at HARD events given their extremely diverse lineup.
2. The Green Tent
One genre that’s getting exponentially more popular is the future bass/future house/chill trap genre, and this year’s Day of the Dead had plenty. The Green Tent, located at the complete opposite end of the festival grounds from the mainstage, was home to some of the biggest and best future bass and chill trap producers in the game right now. Opening Saturday with a powerhouse lineup of Sweater Beats to Stwo to Giraffage to Snakehips before closing Saturday with what many called the set of the weekend, Odesza, the Green Tent sponsored by 7-Up was packed from front to back almost all weekend and never saw a dull moment.
3. Anna Lunoe
The Aussie house producer has made big strides since her 1pm Coachella 2014 Sahara tent slot, and she is in the midst of her huge All Out Fall Out tour. Gracing the decks of the Pink Tent on Saturday at 2pm, Lunoe quite possibly had one of the biggest crowds of the weekend and one of the most fun sets of the weekend. It was electric, energizing, and just all out fun. You could tell the Aussie bass phenom was having as much fun as the rest of us, and that’s what counts, right?
4. Just A Gent
Did you know that Aussie sensation Jacob Grant, or Just A Gent, is only a 17 year old producer? EDM.com had the opportunity to speak with this extremely talented young teenager after his slot at the Purple Stage on Sunday, and make sure you keep an eye out for this kid. Inspired by the likes of fellow Australian producers Flume and Emoh Instead, as well as Seven Lions, who was also on the bill for Day of the Dead, Grant has seemingly come into his own already. Known for his eclectic and unique style of “love trap,” Just A Gent drew quite a crowd for a 1:25 pm set time on Saturday - and he didn’t leave them disappointed. Clad in his iconic suit behind the decks, Just A Gent tore up The Purple Stage on Saturday.
5. The Disco Fries
We happened to wander into the festival just in time to catch American producers Nick Ditri and Danny Boselovic, or better known as The Disco Fries. Spinning a set that was sure to leave the audience energetic and bouncing in time for the rest of the festival, Ditri and Boselovic showed their strong grasp on melodic, progressive house. Not only did they mix huge crowd pleasers like TJR’s “Turn The Bass Up” and Wolfgang Gartner’s new track “Unholy,” but Ditri and Boselovic also gave us a glimpse of what’s in store for the extremely talented producers when they dropped a brand new Disco Fries remix, and a brand new Disco Fries track titled “Ramuh,” soon to come out on The EDM Network’s own Good Game Records.
6. R.L. Grime
Coming off the release of his highly anticipated, yearly Halloween mix, the king of trap absolutely slayed the HARD stage on Sunday, with a strong grasp on hip hop and rap as well as his signature filthy trap sound. In anticipation of his new album Void, set to drop on November 14th, Henry Steinway brought the big guns out for his primetime slot at 7:20 pm on Sunday. Opening with the second single off of Void, “Scylla,” before dropping into his bass-heavy, trap style, all while showing a masterful blend of hip hop and rap, Steinway kept the entire crowd on their toes throughout his set, not knowing what to expect next. At one point, he bootlegged Diplo’s “Earthquake” with Knife Party’s “Boss Mode,” and the crowd quite possibly created its own earthquake that could be felt some distance away.
The Frenchman known for his dark and grimey techno was absolutely in his element Saturday night in the Pink tent. With an industrial setup and a very minimal visual light show, the techno god reigned over his kingdom atop his signature triangle stage. Dropping his techno classics like “Hellifornia” and “Pursuit,” Gesaffelstein had the entire crowd scared out of their mind for what was to come next (in the best way possible). HARD actually bumped ZHU’s set up 30 minutes, eliminating the conflict between ZHU and Gesaffelstein, letting us catch a live performance by the French techno god. His set was more fitting for a dark London underground club, opposed to a Los Angeles music festival, but it was an extremely welcome change. No set was more suited for a Halloween festival and Gesaffelstein did not disappoint.
8. ZHU's North American Debut
You couldn’t possibly highlight this year’s Day of the Dead without noting the North American debut of the extremely talented LA native, ZHU. Making his North American debut on the mau5ville stage, the "Faded" producer did not disappoint with his set. As the beginning notes of his set rang out, signaling his start, festivalgoers from all over the Fairplex sprinted to the HARDer stage, attempting to catch every second of this extremely talented, albeit extremely mysterious producer. He masterfully blended crowd favorites like his hit Faded off of his The Nightday EP, as well as his "Moves Like Ms. Jackson" remix that put ZHU on the map with brand new tracks, like a remix of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” that had the entire crowd losing it.
9. Deadmau5 b2b Eric Prydz
There were seemingly a lot of complaints about the b2b set by these two superstars, ranging from a 3 hour set shortened to 90 minutes before being lengthened to 2 hours, deadmau5 not trying on stage, and more, but this b2b set was definitely a highlight of the festival. It isn’t often that we get to see two of the best in the industry come together and spin b2b, especially two producers whose styles blend together so well. Coming out strong with Pryda’s “WOWOW” before blending in their own progressive aliases as well as hints of techno and even some heavy-hitting electro every now and then, this two hour set had almost everything. Perhaps the best part? Deadmau5 closing the festival on Saturday with a 13-minute edit of Strobe. That’s hard to beat. Check out the videos of their full set below.
10. Dirtybird BBQ Takes Over The Purple Stage
In my opinion, this may have been the best thing to happen throughout all of HARD's Day of the Dead festival. On Sunday, the Dirtybird crew took over the entire Purple Stage as the final stop on their Dirtybird BBQ, and the entire gang did not disappoint. The entire crew was there, from labelhead Claude VonStroke to OG Dirtybird member Justin Martin and even some newer faces like Catz N’ Dogz, Shiba-San, and Cajmere. The crew brought along their grillmaster, Grillson, as no BBQ is complete without burgers and brats.
Dirtybird kept the entire stage bouncing on Sunday, from Justin Jay’s opening set because Christian Martin’s flight was delayed, to Kill Frenzy, whose new album TAYLR SWFT just dropped, and even special guest Cajmere, who saw the entire crowd on stage take a step back in reverence for the legend as he took the decks. Shiba-San’s 3:30 set was one of the grooviest sets of the day, as the bass house master spun his own huge hits like “Okay” and his remix of deadmau5’s “I Remember,” and Destructo’s “Dare U 2 Move” while onstage with the HARD CEO. OG labelmates Justin Martin and labelhead Claude VonStroke closed out the stage, and absolutely destroyed the stage. While there were some minor sound issues, Martin’s set definitely did not disappoint, as the last 20 minutes were all, more or less. IDs. Once Claude VonStroke took the stage, you could feel the air of energy and excitement in the crowd, and on stage, as one of the best in the industry was about to show us how it’s done. The Dirtybird labelhead showed a strong grasp on his signature bass-heavy style, while mixing in song after song of by the Dirtybird crew. Dirtybird has always been known for its unique bass-heavy house music, as well as the label’s willingness to have a great time and make sure the audience has a great time, and while this may not have been a standalone Dirtybird BBQ event, the great vibes and great times were there.