It was chaos for some Halloween themed music festivals this past month. With Something Wicked and the last day of Voodoo Experience canceled due to unearthly weather, HARD Day Of The Dead needed to make up for the loss in Halloween spirit. So after compromising with the California government over whether to keep the festival going by instating limits on attendance and age, Live Nation Entertainment was able to keep the spooky tradition from disappearing. But the two monstrous days weren’t without grievances.
Many Day of the Dead goers complained about the heightened security upon arrival. For me it took about 45 minutes on Saturday afternoon to get inside. Why? Because they forced all attendees to walk through multiple checkpoints, in which it was necessary to take off shoes for further inspection during one of them. However, on Sunday afternoon, it only took a few minutes. Perhaps I got there sooner or the security finally figured out how to quickly move the line (even though the same inspection ensued). This was all after the security drilled safety measures by handing out leaflets and playing the dangers of MDMA use on a TV screen at the front gate. The safety lecture didn’t stop there. Skrillex vocalized his concerns about getting home safe not once but twice during his headlining Sunday set.
Once inside, the ‘Scareplex’ was all about convenience. It was incredibly easy to move from one stage to another. Unlike HARD Summer when GA fans had to walk around the outdoor amphitheater to get inside, Day of the Dead’s main stage dubbed the ‘Haunted Mansion’ was the first enclosed space upon entry and the rest of the stages were just down the road. The straightforward walk-around was mostly due to lower attendance, since HARD had to reduce their admittance from 65,000 to 40,000 people and raise the age limit to 21. But honestly, it was far from a complaint. The crowd was well divided across all 5 stages for the most part, giving everyone a chance to move around. Not to mention being able to drink anywhere you please. The main stage might not have been as elaborate as the outdoor Summer light show; but the powerful air conditioning was a welcome addition to the incredibly warm weather outside.
Day of the Dead’s first day featured early sets from Alison Wonderland and Jauz. Alison stuck to her tracks and distortion while Jauz played to the crowd, mixing popular tunes like “Lean On” and “Burial.” Then, Hot Chip filled the Mansion with instruments and a killer version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark”. Nero quite possibly had the best entrance by popping out of the screen after outlines of their likenesses teased the crowd. Lastly, deadmau5 was beyond phenomenal, as usual. Definitely the comedic relief of the whole festival, trolling us with a computing error and shouting “what are the odds of two iPods dying in the same night?”
The second day of Day of The Dead had Skrillex on the mind, with a bunch of OWSLA label mates and friends on the roster. TroyBoi played a solid array of hip-hop spinning and surprised us with a dance-off with The Kinjaz, a Los Angeles-based performance group. The king of the jungle, Wiwek, had everyone jumping after taking electronic dance music once again to the forefront after Keith Ape‘s set.
Marshmello had one of the largest turn-outs of Day of the Dead, with doors having to be closed during the beginning of his set due to overcrowding. Make sense since this was his first time dawning the marshmallow-shaped head wear on the west coast. For me, Valentino Khan was not to be missed. He intensified the smaller stage with a genre-bending set. Kill The Noise continued where Khan left off, and blew his madness all over the extremely energetic crowd. Boys Noize, which was the secret performer up until a few days before, opened to HARD’s signature headliner, Skrillex. The creepy graveyard set had virtually everyone there, filling the ridiculously long hall to the brim. The streamers hanging from the ceiling after discharging from cannons gave the set an extra eeriness, like vines hanging from above. Skrillex broke out many of his more familiar tracks, opening with his remix of GTA’s “Red Lips”. The performance included the new Bieber-assisted single “Sorry” and a surprise (not so surprising) appearance from Diplo, ending Day of the Dead on a Jack Ü high.
It was the ultimate Halloween electronic music festival, marred by a record more than 300 arrests over the course. 184 police officers took caution to the next level, evacuating drug smugglers and users, as well as people using fake identification. Around 20,000 attendees showed-up on Saturday. Sunday’s numbers have yet to be released.