Day Of The Dead 2015: Safer, Smaller, Louder
November 4, 2015 at 1:46 PM (PT)
A noticeably downsized 2015 HARD DAY OF THE DEAD took place last HALLOWEEN weekend at the FAIRPLEX in POMONA, downsized in response to the death of two teenagers at the HARD SUMMER Fest last AUGUST. Despite that and visibly proactive police supervision, a slew of EDM and hip-hop artists put on a bevy of magnetic performances on the five stages.
Last AUGUST, about 65,000 people converged on the site of the L.A. COUNTY FAIR for each of the two nights, witnessing an wide array of eye-popping performances led by the likes of JACK U, DILLON FRANCIS and the fest's show-stopper, THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, who overwhelmed the performance of THE WEEKND, who preceded them. Unfortunately, on top of the fatal drug overdoses, there were more than a few arrests, with 49 concert goers being taken to local hospitals and a litany of noise and parking complaints from those living in nearby neighborhoods.
Afterwards, local officials demanded changes to DAY OF THE DEAD. LIVE NATION, which owns HARD EVENTS, consented to several modifications: All the live performances would be held in indoor exhibition halls; tickets would only be sold to those over 21; attendance would be limited to 40,000 a day; and that the police and the concert promoters would be more proactive in discouraging drug usage (especially ecstasy) and/or underage drinking.
The changes had a double-edged effect on the music. Without the outdoor settings, the over-the-top visuals and fireworks were missing. But having all the stages housed in exhibition halls made it easy to quickly flit from one hall to the other to catch more acts -- and the less populated performances enabled one to literally walk right up to the front of the stage.
While the stark acoustics of the exhibition halls are better suited for selling stain removers, food appliances and beef jerky to County Fair attendees,the concrete-floored halls dramatically magnified the beat and sound -- especially the bass, which was so Richter Scale loud and hard-hitting, it could practically loosen fillings in your teeth. And the festively attired throng seemed to love every thundering beat.
To be sure, there was a lot to like for fans of these genres. On the hip-hop side were compelling performances by A$AP FERG and the tag team of METHOD MAN & REDMAN, while FRENCH DJ GESAFFELSTEIN showed off talents that he previously used with KANYE WEST. In an EDM mode, iHEARTRADIO mixer PETE TONG had a hall onto himself, which he headlined along with LUCIANO and ARMAND VAN HELDEN.
The best singing of the weekend undoubtedly came from ALANA WATSON, vocalist for the trio NERO. HARD Founder GARY RICHARDS impressed with his own set as DESTRUCTO, while producer MARSHMELLO performed while wearing, you guessed it, a marshmallow headpiece. Other sets of note: VALENTINO KHAN, ALISON WONDERLAND and MOTEZ.
Not all the acts' sets went smoothly, DEADMAU5 had to overcome a couple of technical difficulties (which he certainly did), but HOT CHIP weren't so lucky. Most of the audience didn't seem to get them at all.
The weekend ended with probably the two most tumultuous sets -- SUNDAY's surprise guest BOYS NOIZE (GERMAN producer/DJ ALEXANDER RIDHA) and festival closer and HARD favorite SKRILLEX, who practically blew up the house with an ultra-energetic set enhanced with the visual graphics of WEDIDIT’s SUS BOY and capped off with a surprise appearance by DIPLO, which led to some JACK U work.
The Day After Day Of The Dead
The downsizing had the impact the authorities and neighborhood were hoping for: According to the DAILY BULLETIN and the L.A. TIMES, only four people were sent to hospitals, just two of whom were drug-related; the indoor shows cut down on noise complaints; and the lowered attendance (around 20,000 for each night) alleviated parking issues in the surrounding neighborhood. The police arrested around 300 for alcoholic or drug intoxication, as well as underaged drinking and/or possessing a fake ID.
The action evidently pleased L.A. County Supervisor HILDA SOLIS, who demanded tighter festival rules. Calling the weekend a "great improvement," SOLIS said, "Even though you had the arrests, you didn't find people losing their lives. We had a reduction in people going to emergency medical services."
And just as important, if not more so: For those in attendance, the music still reigned supreme.