Sometimes, it's OK to throw the same festival twice.
Dance-music fans scanning the lineup at Saturday’s Hard Day of the Dead festival at L.A. State Historic Park north of downtown might be forgiven for thinking they’d raved themselves through a cosmic wormhole back to 2012. Headlining acts including
That is, until everyone actually started playing music. This year's Hard Day of the Dead was less about announcing new stars into the EDM world, and more about showing how established ones are tweaking, refining and amplifying their formulas to stay relevant as their genres move along. Add in some refreshed festival logistics and a solid underground disco card, and Saturday's fest might be worth conjuring up yet again someday.
Sunday’s installment brings some different blood to Hard (headliners include Deadmau5,
Take Nero, for instance. The proggy U.K. dubstep duo (with singer Alana Watson) emerged as a kind of techno Pink Floyd built on dorky synth drops, and seemed forever doomed to second-headliner purgatory. Imagine fans’ surprise, however, when they turned in a lean, tasteful and occasionally even melancholy set from Hard’s beautifully LED-encircled main stage. If the mission in “Gravity” had gone better for
The Bloody Beetroots stole the early evening with a bizarre but riveting new live setup, where frontman Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo played
German producer Boys Noize and headliner Skrillex have been collaborating as the appealingly harsh duo Dog Blood, and that new arena to be angry has refined what they do well individually. Boys Noise is introducing more space and longer breaks to his sets, which made his liftoff moments feel even bigger. Skrillex, having crafted an entirely idiosyncratic dubstep sound, is now owning up to his influences in exciting ways -- dropping more patois-soaked Jamaican dancehall vocal samples, or relying less on his hit singles in favor of focused hard-house workouts. It all made Skrillex feel more fundamentally musical and less laptop-choppy -- a good sign for him as a lifelong producer and not just an EDM-era phenomenon.
For all this main-stage progress, we can (as always) thank the underground for the influence. Hard generally kept its cool-kid spaces self-contained, with the Underground stage at the far south of the grounds and the Discotheque acts in a floor-to-ceiling tent.
But the moody, azure deep house tones of
It’d be hard to ask for a better sendoff than Cirez D (the spacier, minimal alias of Swedish star Prydz). His watch-gear drum programming gave his tracks an