If you enjoy speaking to complete strangers, dancing like a madman and wearing eccentric and enigmatic costumes, HARD Haunted Mansion at the Shrine Auditorium was the place for you. As one of the most anticipated and best-known electronic dance music events of Halloween weekend, HARD, an event where nearly anything went, took place Friday and Saturday.
Friday night’s headliners attracted the crowd with the skills of some venerable electronic music artists.
Each act added its own flavor to the Shrine, but the best indicator of a good performance was the crowd’s energy.
When Laidback Luke took the HARD stage, he managed to amp up the audience, throwing out crowd favorites and receiving shouts and wild dancing in return.
His remixes of various popular songs, such as Avicii’s “Levels,” Michael Jackson’s classic “Thriller” and Alice Deejay’s “Better Off Alone,” showcased the best moments in the songs while throwing in some ground-shaking, body-quaking dubstep beats and tinny, fast-tempoed electronic sounds. Luke also showcased his own works with tracks such as “Turbulence,” which sound even better live.
The set lulled at times, but Luke understood his audience’s needs, focusing on beats long enough to get everyone grooving, but not so long that they got bored.
Fans were in for a treat once Fatboy Slim hit the stage. The electronic music veteran first sat cross-legged with a Guy Fawkes mask, mischievously rubbing his hands together, while mind-boggling images flickered behind him. Slim was in the Halloween spirit, with yellow face-paint in the style of the Joker and a stellar use of visual effects.
Throughout the set, Slim showed off his experience, especially when he blasted a remix of his 2001 track “Ya Mama” that was impressively complex and fast-paced. His remix of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” didn’t have the best payoff, but his rendition of LMFAO’s “I’m in L.A. Bitch,” was exciting and aggressive, with a smattering of sounds that made good use of the repeated lines. The 75-minute set featured an excited Slim pushing the tempo and showing how he got his name in the electronic music world.
Rusko’s set was not able to top Slim’s act. Though some of the deep dubstep sounds did get the crowd riled up, most of the tracks had trouble holding a stable rhythm or beat. The tracks felt amateur in their setup, with too much happening at the same time. What’s more, the stage only featured lit-up letters that spelled out “Rusko,” failing to take advantage of the visual space to wow the crowd and add to the musical experience.
The banana costumes, glitter, glow sticks, furry boots and the dancing nun with a “Jesus Raves” sign ramped up Saturday night, maintaining the mayhem and madness of the night before.
Smaller acts, such as Oliver, Jackmaster, Goose and The Magician, warmed up the two stages for larger acts, including Fake Blood, Paul Chambers, Skrillex, Major Lazer, Skream & Benga and Soulwax — the perfect setup for a wonderfully eclectic and energized evening of sound.
Especially noteworthy was Fake Blood, who played with the audience’s rhythmic and stylistic expectations as he created massive musical climaxes that integrated an assortment of samples from other works while transitioning with ease between each base-thumping beat.
Fake Blood’s remix of his own “I Think I Like It” energized the crowd both by its notoriety and the accompanying remixed video, creating a total sensory experience that would make the slim percentage of non-intoxicated audience members feel as if they were experiencing complete euphoria.
The infamous Skrillex kept the energy going as he opened with deep, slow yet dynamic beats in typical Skrillex fashion — dubstep at its finest. The mix-master included tracks from the likes of La Roux and even went for a throwback reference with the one and only Notorious B.I.G.
Periodically, Skrillex mixed in his infamous “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites,” which served as a crowd pleaser. While Skrillex’s set kept the crowd going, there was a certain air of predictability: Progressively build up the tension, drop it with huge booming beats and repeat. The ecstatic crowd was pleased nonetheless.
Major Lazer, in contrast, became the highlight with its dynamism and diverse style. The duo, Diplo and Switch, was pure energy and charisma with its enticing assortment of dubstep, reggae and energetic remixes of Swedish House Mafia’s “One Killabit Dubstep,” Benny Benassi’s “Satisfaction” and Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters,” to name a few.
Though there were moments that lacked this specific zest, when Major Lazer was on, it was on fire. “Jump Up” had the entire crowd on its feet, leaping in mid-air and “Bruk Out” created chaos with its rapid rhythm and contagious vivacity.
Words can hardly describe the mayhem of HARD Haunted Mansion. Here’s looking to Halloween 2012.