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Skrillex, A-Trak, ZEDD Among Standouts at HARD Summer Music Festival

It was all for one and one for all at the fifth annual dance music festival which showcased an international lineup (Sweden's Miike Snow and Little Dragon, Germany's Boys Noize, the UK's Bloc Party) and a mix of genres.

Skrillex HARD Summer Performance - H 2012
Drew Ressler/Rukes.com

For the inhabitants of Los Angeles State Historic Park, real world rules did not apply between the hours of 5 p.m. and 2 a.m. on August 3 and 4. That’s when the fifth annual electronic dance music festival HARD Summer touched down in all its neon spandex, fuzzy booted glory.

But even though the genre known collectively as EDM is (still) currently exploding, and the festival’s roster was ripe with producers, HARD featured plenty of non-dance acts on the bill, including the female-fronted Little Dragon, indie stalwarts Bloc Party, funk master Bootsy Collins and Swedish duo Miike Snow, whose tracks “Animal” (2009) and “The Wave” (2011) have been remixed by multiple DJs in the scene.

In fact, the melding of genres looked to be universally welcome, by the 50,000 in attendance certainly, and particularly by the more pop-inclined bands on what turned out to be an international showcase. “I think it’s cool that it’s not just focusing on the EDM part,” said Miike Snow’s Christian Karlsson.

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His Scandinavian brothers -- or, in Little Dragon’s case, sister -- seemed to relish in the all-for-one-ness of the festival as well. Hitting the main stage early on Friday, the electro-funk band’s rainbow colored drum pad fit right in, while singer Yukimi Nagano’s delivery was as sharp as her bluntly cut bangs, her velvety voice poured over bubbly disco dance beats that prompted spastic dance moves from the crowd -- a sight to behold both onstage and off.

Bloc Party’s Friday night headlining set also had fans packed tight up front and their electrically charged performance did not disappoint. Not only did the British indie rockers dole out classics like “Mercury,” the band also debuted new material from their forthcoming fourth album, aptly titled Four, and due out Aug. 20.  

Montreal-born Alain Macklovitch, better known as DJ A-Trak, was the only artist who played both days of HARD Summer. And deservedly so -- as half of the duo Duck Sauce and co-founder of Brooklyn-based record label Fool’s Gold, he’s an EDM powerhouse. But as the producer-DJ told THR, the sets could have been more different in vibe. “Friday night was in a tent, so it was more of a pressure cooker,” he said. “And it was at midnight so people were ragging. Saturday on the main stage had that feel-good, euphoric festival vibe.”

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You could say the same of Boys Noize’s bone-rattling bass heavy and house-flavored set Friday. German producer and DJ Alexander Ridha promised that his 60 minutes on stage would be a rave 20-000 strong, but just as impactful was 22-year-old German Anton Zaslavski, who goes by the name ZEDD. A standout among the smaller stages, the electro-house newcomer was recently signed to Interscope and spent several weeks touring with Lady Gaga as her support act.

Los Angeles-based Skrillex, born Sonny Moore, started his Saturday headlining set with a five-minute countdown at the end of which he appeared as the main attraction in a giant LED light up tower that resembled a Star Wars X-wing fighter. Moving from heavy dubstep to trance and infusing a dose of hip-hop mixes, the Grammy winner proved in short order why he topped the bill on the festival’s closing night.

Next up for HARD, which was recently acquired by concert giant Live Nation: the Day of the Dead Party on November 3, which will feature Justice, Knife Party and Major Lazer.

Twitter: @THRMusic