HARD Day of the Dead in Pomona, California [Nov. 1-2, 2014]

Despite the fact that I spent my actual Halloween night picking outfits and packing clothes for the weekend to come, the next two days were the best Halloween experience of my life. Yeah, I stayed home while my friends and roommates went out to all their costume parties, but hell, my weekend DEFinitely made up for it. I was lucky enough to get to go to this year’s HARD Day of the Dead music festival at the Fairplex in Pomona, California. The lineup was stacked, the stages and decorations were on point, and the festival attendees had some of the best Halloween costumes I’d ever seen. There were fair-worthy thrill rides, a ferris wheel, even a zip-line with people flying across the field at the back of the main stage. On top of that, I was reunited with some of my best friends from my hometown, and I got to share the whole experience with the love of my life. What more could I ask for?

Day 1

The first set I saw was Zhu, an up-and-coming deep house artist with one of the most unique musical styles in the world of EDM. It was his first ever performance in North America, and man, did he kill it! Since his face and identity is shrouded in mystery, he had a translucent screen hung up in front of his DJ table at the HARDer Stage, which got projected over with his futuristic, minimalistic, and sensual visuals that matched his unique deep house sound. His set made me want to groove to the beat, yet dirty dance like a stripper trying to make rent, which I did. (God bless I had a date to get hot and steamy with.)

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Next I saw Gessafelstein, a techno artist from France. He was at the Pink Stage, which was only pink because of the pink lights illuminating its exterior. This stage was inside of a warehouse-looking building. When I walked in, it was pitch black except for other people’s glowsticks, flashing bracelets, etc. I almost crapped myself when Gessafelstein started his set, because it was SO loud! For his visuals, he mainly used spotlights and white strobelights. It felt like a haunted house in there. I’d describe his music as a loud, terrifying monster that just wants to dance–while eating you. Just kidding. Sorta. But I honestly was pretty scared to be in there despite the fact that I was totally dancing and having fun. My date told me afterwards about how I kept checking to make sure they were still standing right by me. Yeah, I’m a scaredy-cat.

Gessafelstein at Hard Day of the Dead 2014. Fairplex, Pomona, California. By Jasmine Ho

Gessafelstein at Hard Day of the Dead 2014 (Day 1). Fairplex, Pomona, California.
By Jasmine Ho

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I left the fun-filled horror chamber that was Gessafelstein’s stage to catch the first half of Deadmau5 and Eric Prydz‘s 2-hour back-to-back set. It was a dream come true to see Deadmau5, one of the first electronic artists I became a fan of when I was a wee-little munchkin. And the fact that he was switching off every few minutes with the master of trance Prydz was even more amazing. The Mau5’s signature progressing synth chords layered over a steady electro beat would transform into Prydz’s cascading trance melodies seamlessly. You’d better believe I was shuffling like a maniac over there.

Deadmau5 at Hard Day of the Dead 2014 (Day 1). Fairplex, Pomona, California. By Jasmine Ho

Deadmau5 at Hard Day of the Dead 2014 (Day 1). Fairplex, Pomona, California.
By Jasmine Ho

Strobe by Deadmau5:

 

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Finishing day 1 with Odesza was phenomenal. The American duo played inside the 7Up stage, which was decorated with green 7Up-branded LED panels on the walls, raised standing areas to the sides of the building, and changing lights on the ceiling. The stage itself had white screens that were projected onto from the visual team’s gated-off hub in the center of the audience. Their music was chill and relaxing, yet powerful and uplifting. They feature songs with vocals that don’t really sound like any words, but more like echo-ey sing-song chants. Their songs that do have recognizable lyrics are poetic and full of passion and imagination. Their beautiful psychedelic visuals had dazzling color schemes and beautiful sceneries. The audience inside was enjoying the music so much, it was endless fun to be part of the crowd.

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Day 2

Another day, another lineup, is what I always say (only when I’m at a music festival). The first act we saw was the duo known as Galantis. Their visuals featured colorful cat faces and cat eyes, and their progressive house set was energetic. They dropped their two most famous songs, “You” and “Runaway (U & I)”, and then as if we didn’t know those songs well enough, they dropped both of them again! Yayyy…..but their performance was still fun and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still love those two songs.

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It was back to the Pink Stage to check out Rustie! This young Scottish DJ uses futuristic sounds and hip-hoppy beats in a fashion that you just can’t quite place in a widely-known genre. He’s somewhere in between trap, hip-hop, future bass, laser beams, and teleportation portals.

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Next we moved on to catch trap-master RL Grime‘s set at the HARD Stage (main stage). His bass-heavy trap songs and remixed rap tracks got the whole crowd hyphy–arms up, elbows popped out, wrists twisting, torso rocking, shoulders bouncing, and so on. It was Twerk City up in there, ratchetivity galore! You could even see RL Grime himself jumping and head-banging like crazy to his own set. The pyramid of LED panels that made up the Hard Stage displayed bold visuals, including the flying spaceships from RL Grime’s VOID album art.

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After RL Grime, I took the liberty to wander around and visit multiple artists’ sets for short durations. I first stopped by Zeds Dead, who were playing some head-banging dubstep at the HARDer Stage when I got there. I’ve seen Zeds Dead live 4 times now, and my favorite thing about them is that they mix it up so much during their sets! They incorporate a wide variety of genres, from drum-and-bass to dubstep to trap to house, meshed together tastefully in a way that you can’t resist dancing to. Next, I danced my way over to Cashmere Cat at the Pink Stage for his gentle melodies and pounding Jersey Club beats, before ending up back at the HARD Stage for Zedd. His set was quite a throwback for me, since it’s been a while since I’ve heard so many of his original songs live. His visuals were absolutely astonishing. Full of high-definition visual details, and fireworks too!

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And as a finale to an amazing music festival, I saw Calvin Harris. His set featured his world-famous originals, and he also wowed the crowd with heart-pumping electro house drops. By the end of day 2 of this festival, my feet and legs were in pain and I was exhausted…yet Calvin Harris was so good, the pain disappeared and his drops energized me enough to dance and shuffle as hard as I ever could. This is going to get a bit sappy, but you’ll have to bear with me. When he played “Thinking About You”, one of my favorite songs, I had been sitting on the grass a good distance away from the stage–far enough to have space to sit and have a good view, but close enough to hear the music loud and clear. Hearing him play this song and being able to share this precious moment with the one I love, filled me with so much happiness… “I feel like crying right now,” I said. And then tears filled my eyes and ran down my cheeks to be wiped away with a smile and a warm hug. Once the song finished and Calvin moved onto playing some juicy house tracks, I couldn’t hold in my desire to dance, so I got up on my feet and danced my heart out, with my tears still in my eyes. Whenever I got tired from dancing I sat back down again, only to be brought back to my feet with every great song. And at one point, the music died down…and the first chord of “Feel So Close” played and I instantly started crying again. I didn’t expect to be so touched by his set, I don’t even know how that happened. But I’m glad it did. Calvin Harris has gained my respect as the best electro house DJ I’ve ever seen live, and I hope you get to see him some time too.

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Thinking About You by Calvin Harris:

Feel So Close by Calvin Harris:

 

Ahh, what a wonderful weekend, and what a great first impression from my first HARD event! The lineup failed to disappoint, I cried like a baby for the first time during a live performance, and the Day of the Dead/Halloween theme was a fun, edgy experience that I’ll have to come back for next year.

 

Best Halloween weekend EVER!

Best Halloween weekend EVER!

Jasmine Ho

Graphic Design major at SDSU. DJ for KCR College Radio. Raver and music enthusiast. Always spreading chill vibes. Always looking for adventure.