The second day of HARD Summer 2015 started on sobering note, with news breaking overnight that two young female festival-goers died of suspected drug overdoses after attending opening night.
Early into the second day, fans trickled in at a slower pace, with an abundance of signs that many had indeed partied hard on Saturday. The festival felt like it was nursing a collective hangover.
3:37 pm: An unconscious young woman is sprawled out on a gurney and is being wheeled towards the exits. Over on the HARDer stage, Bakermat is doing his best to lift spirits with a set full of upbeat house, although the irony of the DJ dropping Zhu’s “Faded” into his mix is not lost.
3:54 pm: The chants for Fetty Wap begin almost immediately at the end of Bakermat’s set.
4:01 pm: Fetty Wap hits the stage to the strains of “My Way,” and a massive headliner-sized crowd under the sweltering hot sun sings along to every word. Charging through a brief set of hits including “Again” and “A Couple Bandz,” the rapper makes it clear that his voice is voice is hoarse and almost gone, but he carries on with the set. He jumps down into the crowd and makes it rain cash money on the front row. “Trap Queen” is one of the biggest moments of the whole festival, with the crowd more than making up for the rapper’s faltering vocals.
4:36 pm: DJ Mustard sets the party off straight away with Kid Ink’s “Be Real.” Rifling through a set of party jams ranging from Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” to the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” the main stage crowd is lapping it up.
4:45 pm: Well, not the entire crowd. “This is stuff you can hear in any club,” gripes an unimpressed young woman about Mustard’s set as she takes off to see what else she can check out.
5:14 pm: Billed as DJ Mustard and Friends, the show sets off a flurry of rumors about supposed surprise guests. Kid Ink eventually comes out for a quick performance of “Show Me.”
5:36 pm: Jamie xx is digging deep for an eclectic DJ set on the Pink Stage, mixing classic New York vocal house with Chicago acid and more experimental sounds before wrapping up with his own solo track, “Loud Places,” featuring his band-mate in the xx, Romy Madley Croft.
6:06 pm: Manic rave-rap outfit Die Antwoord is bounding around the stage in brightly colored furry costumes to start their show, before rapper Ninja strips down to a pair of Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon trunks and his partner Yolandi Visser goes through as many costume changes as a brand-name pop star. The show’s highlight comes when actor/comedian Jack Black joins the band onstage in a powder blue velour tracksuit to show off some nifty dance moves and leap off the DJ platform right in sync with the music. “Ninja couldn’t get me the backstage pass,” Black joked from the stage. “So I had to climb the mother f---ing fence.”
6:49 pm: Canadian Dan Snaith (AKA Caribou) and his band churn out a dense, sprawling live techno sound that could be categorized as Underworld meets Carl Craig. It hits even harder than the outfit’s well-received 2014 full-length, Our Love. An audience of chin-stroking listeners and flailing dancers alike revel in the heady mix.
7:24 pm: Hudson Mohawke pummels the Purple Stage with dark and brutal beats. No matter how hard or punishing, his fans scream for more, resulting in a dark-lit dance party.
7:51 pm: Chromeo has evolved into a well-oiled electro-funk machine that could rock a festival crowd while asleep. Band members Dave 1 and P-Thugg are fully engaged for the HARD Summer crowd, cruising through hit tunes like “Bonafied Lovin’ (Tough Guys)” and “Sexy Socialite” as the sun sets over the HARDer Stage.
8:02 pm: Detroit house pioneer MK is rolling out his signature mix of rumbling bass lines and percolating melodies on the Pink Stage. It’s no wonder why he’s one of Disclosure’s favorite DJs.
8:26 pm: ILoveMakonnen is a brave artist, not only playing his biggest hit, “Tuesday,” towards the front of his set but also cutting it short to launch into “I Don’t Sell Molly No More.” The risk pays off, as the crowd packed at the front of the Purple Stage is apparently made up of far more than casual fans. Turning up as much for Drink More Water 5 mixtape tracks like “Whip It” as they do for “Tuesday,” their rapturous response inspire the L.A. native to call his HARD Summer set “a dream come true.”
9:49 pm: Diplo and Skrillex’s DJ super-group Jack U hit the stage like they have something to prove, despite being two of dance music’s most recognizable and successful producers working today. Blazing through remixes (Drake’s “Energy” and Beyonce’s “7/11”), original tracks (Major Lazer’s “Lean On”) and a guest spot from 2 Chainz, they kicked things up to an even more frenzied level with the surprise appearance of Justin Bieber, who joined the dynamic duo for the Jack U hit, “Where Are U Now,” to really put their stamp on the festival.
There’s definitely a level of irony that one of the country’s biggest underground-powered music festivals (this year’s sold-out event sold 130,000 tickets over two days) would be highlighted by a mega-star of Bieber’s magnitude. It’s a testament to the current state of popular music, where mixtape heroes and DJs and old-fashioned pop stars are on equal footing in the eyes of fans.
“Nowadays, people have a really open mind. Radio is really friendly to people who don’t have as much of a history there right now,” Diplo told me during a recent interview. “There are hits coming out of everywhere. I feel like our music is in that world, and we’re getting better at it.”
(Originally published on Billboard.com 8/3/2015)
(Chromeo Photo: Chelsea Lauren/WireImage)