Tokimonsta, a dinosaur, Travis Scott, Saweetie and other scenes from Hard Summer

Tokimonsta, a dinosaur, Travis Scott, Saweetie and other scenes from Hard Summer
Jaden Smith at Hard Summer. (Diego Medrano / Los Angeles Times)

Throughout this weekend’s just-concluded Hard Summer at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, artists meshed together multiple genres — showing how dance and hip-hop have pulled from rock and elsewhere. Spotted among the crowd was an Oakland Raiders flag that was remade to say “Ravers,” making it clear what team ruled the super-speedway this weekend.

What follows are scenes from Hard Summer:


A dinosaur walks in the shade

While several women were laced up in fishnets and neon tops, and men appeared to opt for cut-off shirts or sports jerseys, festival-goer Tony Leal was strapped in a dinosaur costume.

It was Leal’s first time at Hard Summer and this not-so prehistoric creature was spotted walking through the area known as Shady Lane, a new feature at this year’s festival implemented to enhance the fan experience and keep attendees cool in the nearly 100 degree heat.

It featured 21 shade tents, 93 misting fans and 5,000 feet of a misting line. Head of Hard Events Meg DesChenes explained how, before anything was set up, she and Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella walked the site wearing jackets in the middle of the day to fully experience the elements.

“We were like, OK, it’s hot,” DesChenes said. “We need to do something about this. We can’t just have our fans walking back and forth. So Shady Lane was created.”

Jaden’s set receives a message from ‘Hard-Father.’

Jaden Smith was one of several hip-hop acts on the lineup. He performed Saturday afternoon on what was called the Harder stage, wearing futuristic-looking shades to combat the sun.

His high-energy set had the crowd jumping while he attempted to Moonwalk. Smith performed his hit song “Icon” twice in his set, once in the middle and another time to close out the show.

While he was playing, an airplane flew over the set with a banner with a message from Hard founder Gary Richards, who is no longer with the company, promoting his new show All My Friends. “Hard-Father Loves U,” the banner read.

Travis Scott’s mike is silenced

Travis Scott closed out the festival Sunday night on the Hard stage with tracks from his newly released “Astroworld.” Having the Houston artist headline follows a long tradition of hip-hop acts for Hard, which has had Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg appear in recent years.

The energetic rapper led the crowd through album opener “Stargazing” and already meme-famous “Sicko Mode” with colorful cartoon-like visuals reflective of a theme park. He then went through his discography with plenty of pyrotechnics, Scott brought out New York up-and-comer Sheck Wes, who replaced Trippie Redd earlier in the day on the Purple Stage, to perform his hit “Mo Bamba.” The two then performed “Astroworld” cut “No Bystanders.”

Scott continued to weave through a series of hits, bringing a fan in a wheelchair to the stage for “Pick Up the Phone,” before event staffers told him to wrap it up. Scott started playing fan favorite “Goosebumps” before his mike was shut off.

Getting to know Yellow Mustard


The Dutch dance duo known as Yellow Claw combined its musical talents with DJ Mustard for a rare performance under the name Yellow Mustard. While Yellow Claw’s Jim Aasgier (real name: Jim Taihuttu) and Nils Rondhuis have been known for up tempo electro-house tracks, they have had roots in hip-hop.

Of the act’s relationship with Mustard, Aasgier said, “The fun thing is that we naturally have a lot of affiliation with hip-hop. We actually started out as hip-hop DJs to begin with.”

Aasgier added, “When we work with hip-hop artists, we try not to create beats that they already have themselves. We don’t try to get them too comfortable. A lot of times it just doesn’t work out. People get excited about something crazy: ‘This is a beat we would never use normally.’ That’s the fun part.”

When asked about why Yellow Claw decided to partner with Mustard, Aasgier said, “We’ve known each other for years. We made a couple of songs when our record came out.”

Rondhuis said, “We just had a bunch of studio sessions that turned into hang-out sessions and chilling sessions and making music. Sometimes it comes to the point where you become friends.”

While DJ Mustard is primarily known for mixing hip-hop tracks, Aasgier said, “Mustard himself has a lot of affiliation with dance music. Even some of his first beats had samples of famous dance, classic house, traps and everything.”

Project #OpenTalk wants your questions

Festivals usually highlight the biggest names in music. And while huge acts like Scott and Virtual Self headlined the event, there was a tiny tent posted in the middle of this chaos. The booth was an organization with the name Project #OpenTalk, whose members make it their mission to educate festival-goers on the safe ways to have fun.

The booth provides pamphlets to wanderers about different forms of safety, including drug and safe sex education. Co-founder Stefanie Jones, of the nonprofit the Drug Policy Alliance, works closely with the festival’s Maren Steiner. They have a vision for providing a nonjudgmental space for people to open up about problems they are experiencing in the festival.

“We’re not telling you yes or no, we’re just trying to give you information so you can make a smart choice that will be the safest choice and the healthiest choice for you. So that’s what we’re all about, no matter what the topic is, no matter what we’re doing,” Jones said.

Project #OpenTalk has appeared at Insomniac’s prior festivals such as Electric Daisy Carnival and Escape From Wonderland. But this was the first time Open Talk was featured in Hard Summer.

“We’ve got a lot of people that are coming up asking info questions. So we get to do a lot of education about what this is. That’s very exciting because it’s a new community to who this is a new idea. Once you explain harm reduction to someone, they’re like, ‘Oh that makes sense.’ So it’s nice to see that light bulb go on.”

Saweetie at Hard Summer.
Saweetie at Hard Summer. (Diego Medrano / Los Angeles Times)

Saweetie’s growing process

The crowd on Sunday sang along joyfully to Saweetie’s hit song “Icy Girl,” which has more than 53 million views on YouTube, but the artist, whose real name is Diamonté Harper, said she was excited to see them just as familiar with “Good Good,” a cut from her “High Maintenance” EP.

“I’m just honored to be here,” Saweetie said after the performance in her artist trailer. “I love that I’m able to see other artists do their thing too cause I get inspired. Cause it’s like you learn from other people, so I like interacting and just seeing my peers.”

In addition to her debut album, Saweetie is now working on a lip gloss line and merchandise. “We’re making sure everything sounds cohesive,” Saweetie said of the album process. “I have growth, so [the songs] are better, obviously, so I’m excited to share them.”


Tokimonsta is a fan

Los Angeles native Jennifer Lee, who performs as Tokimonsta, created an ethereal presence on Sunday night.

Lee, who grew up in Torrance, said she was humbled to know that she was able to represent the locale at the fest. “I would say that when you’re from Torrance or somewhere in the South Bay it’s a very quiet area. There’s not a lot of people to look up to that come out of that zone and I feel like right now it’s a great time to see people coming out of that area.”

Lee wore bunny ears, which alluded to the fairy-tale atmosphere of her album “Desiderium,” and many a fan showed up to her set with the rabbit-like accessories.

But maybe don’t call them “fans.”

Lee stated that while she has an active following of listeners, it “always feels weird using the word ‘fans’ because I feel like it creates so much separation. I guess to the people who listen to my music and appreciate me, I just want them to know that I appreciate them and if they’re a fan of me, I’m a fan of them at the end of the day.”

Porter Robinson explains Virtual Self

For Porter Robinson, his Virtual Self project is homage to the “ethereal, cyber futuristic aesthetic” of the late ’90s and the early 2000s, a video game-like vision of future days. Robinson explained his new venture as “the way that artists sort of express nostalgia for a certain time period ultimately defines how we see it in the future.

“So,” Robinson added, “I’m trying to help define the way that the early 2000s are remembered through my nostalgia and my childhood with Virtual Self.”

His show on Sunday night consisted of magic-like spheres surrounding Robinson while sky-piercing lasers hovered above the crowd. The audience could feel Porter’s nostalgia for the early 2000s when he mixed in Utada Hikaru’s theme song from “Kingdom Hearts” into his set.