“What kind of rave ends at 11?”
The question posed by a straggly bearded bro on the Hard Summer shuttle bus was one of many heading into the South El Monte festival’s first day over the weekend. Another: Why did the New York rap collective A$AP Mob hold such an elevated spot on the lineup, given the event's emphasis on electronic dance music?
Whittier Narrows Recreation Area hosted the electronic jamboree, and masses of EDM fanatics raged on the festival grounds among DJs and carnival rides.
Many female attendees strolled from stage to stage wearing scant two-pieces and woolly boots, looking as if they had fused their most seductive lingerie with a Chewbacca costume of Halloweens past. Whether in Native American headdresses, basketball jerseys or glittering spandex, fans made their enthusiasm very clear Saturday, particularly at the set of A$AP Mob, whose 8:20 slot was slated against DJ Snake (“Turn Down for What”) as well as the rising Martinez Brothers.
A$AP Mob quickly defied doubters. A$AP Rocky, arguably the group's ringleader, commenced the set in rousing fashion, delivering “Long Live A$AP.” He pounded verses of his debut album’s title track through his mike, and the crowd responded fervently.
This was a redeeming performance for Rocky, who disappointed some fans opening for Outkast at the recent BET Experience festival in L.A. That show was plagued by technical difficulties, as his robust hit “… Problems” had to be halted several times because of audio complications.
The song went off successfully Saturday night, highlighting a rambunctious set that also featured Rocky’s “Goldie,” A$AP Ferg’s “Shabba” and the entire group’s “Hella Hoes.” Fans echoed the multitude of verses and at some points removed whatever skimpy material was covering their midriffs.
Rap collectives don’t always translate live, as accompanying members annoyingly bark the ends of verses. A$AP Mob held its own, though, as lesser-known members strengthened the show's energy without impairing the vocals.
Rap held its place throughout the day as another MC, Pusha T, won over the crowd with his evening set. Fans crammed in, waved “King Push” T-shirts and proudly applauded as he described signing to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music. (Pusha T collaborated on West’s 2010 “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”)
The crowd seemed more focused for Pusha T than during the preceding set by Scottish DJ Rustie, who looked dispirited after his show concluded.
Chicago duo Flosstradamus had one of the day’s most popular sets, as fans keenly supported the group’s boisterous jam “Mosh Pit,” sampling Atlanta rapper Casino. Fans readily accepted Flosstradamus’ mosh request during the track, kicking up clouds of dirt.
The most notable collaboration was Jack U, composed of dubstep titan Skrillex and party-inciter Diplo. Jack U was another question mark before the headlining set, mainly because of a lack of material made together. But the two do have a mixtape in the works, and they showcased their hyper sound, seemingly fit for large-scale shows.
The rain-cooled crowd fist-pumped and ground along to the pair, warmly welcoming a “Lion King” sample in the process. The duo seemed to lean toward Diplo's signature rowdy sound, and they offered plenty of stirring samples that kept the crowd engaged.
The late-evening drizzle sent many fans to the parking lot with an hour of the fest still remaining. Others simply moseyed around, gazing at the neon lights around the grounds. But as the rain increased, the crowd at Seth Troxler’s headlining Pink Tent set remained surprisingly sparse.
What the audience lacked in quantity, the show made up with quality. Troxler’s set spurred conga lines that snaked through the crowd. Steady beats inspired continuous dancing, cementing the set as one of the most day’s most inviting.
Perhaps the day’s most impressive moment came from DJ Baauer of Mad Decent. It's possible the vast crowd had gathered at his set simply to hear the 2013 hit “Harlem Shake,” but he had the audience in awe as he jumped down from the stage, ran through the crowd and was elevated to the top of a central DJ tower, all to his Jay Z-sampled track, “Higher.”
The festival continued Sunday with Tiësto, Disclosure, Nero and Dillon Francis.