HARD Showcases M.I.A., N.E.R.D., and Food Trucks [Updated]

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Gary "Destructo" Richards | Photo courtesy Biz3 / used with permission

[Update: Since this interview went live, HARD has been canceled. Read the latest update here and read the interview below to see how organizers were approaching this festival from a safety point of view.]

Since 2007, longtime electronic dance music DJ Gary “Destructo” Richards has been throwing electro house-heavy dance music festivals called HARD. These parties have put a host of dance acts on the national map, convinced rock kids to dance, and have recently popped up in New York and other cities.

This Saturday, July 17th, HARD will take a less ravey turn, and feature a two-stage bill headlined by M.I.A. and Pharrell Williams’ band N.E.R.D. Should you get hungry, ten serious food trucks will be there for you at the Chinatown-adjacent Los Angeles State Historic Park.

The Metro-friendly location (Gold Line: Chinatown stop, also very walkable from Union Station) is a 36-acre property that rests in the shadows of Dodger Stadium. The event also features Metro-friendly hours; the runs 4 p.m to midnight and trains shut around 12:30 a.m.

Musical highlights include South Africa's Die Antwoord, Flying Lotus, Rye Rye, Switch, Joker, Sleigh Bells, KCRW’s Jason Bentley, Destructo himself and more. Food trucks within the grounds are to include Border Grill, Ludo Bites,The Slice Truck, Frysmith, Munchie Machine, King Kone, Louks To Go, and World Fare.

LAist recently had a chance to talk to Richards about Saturday's event, and life for an event promoter post-Electronic Daisy Carnival 2010 (which wasn't his event.) Richards declined to comment on the one blemish on his good record -- HARD Summer 2009 -- due to his involvement in a lawsuit surrounding the event which was shut down by the authorities.

LAist: What drew you to booking headliners MIA and NERD?

Gary “Destructo” Richards: Since we started doing HARD in 2007, I’ve always tried to book MIA. I feel like she’s one of the few artists that leads the charge in the electronic music front. Her new album’s awesome. I really feel that of all the female performers of our world, she is the top dog. She finally became available on that date so we booked her and we put a bill around it.

Then we booked N.E.R.D. They played HARD Summer 2008. They’re an amazing live band, and I think Pharrell Williams is one of the best producers of our time. He brings a party, and I think he draws a good, fun crowd. The two of them together along with the rest of the bill should make a good fun event.

How did you fill in the rest of the lineup?

For me, I just book what I like. I feel like this show has a theme to it -- trying to be ahead of the curve, trying to be what’s coming up next. These are groups that I think will be exploding on the scene and we wanted to be first on them. It also gives us a little bit of a different look, so everything’s not so DJ-oriented. We have more rappers and rock bands on the bill as well.

What newer acts should people make sure not to miss?

Die Antwoord, that’s definitely one not to miss. They’re going to be coming strong I think this year, next year. Sleigh Bells too. I think they’ve got a really interesting sound for a two-piece. They’ve got a track on MIA’s new record that they do with her that’s really cool. Hopefully they’ll come out and play with her live on the main stage for this event.

This event runs from 4 p.m. to midnight. Why go earlier than your typical HARD events?

We’re trying to make it more like a music festival and less like a four-in-the-morning party. We’re shifting focus a little bit -- this is more about daytime, we’ve got ten different food trucks, and more fun daytime activities. I think that at four in the morning nothing really good comes about except trouble. We typically like to end things at two, but right now the park curfew is midnight. Eight hours is plenty.

What is special about the Los Angeles State Historic Park?

It’s definitely, in my opinion, the best place in Downtown to do an event like this. It’s 36 acres of flat ground and we’re only using a portion of the park. We can definitely get more people then what we’re shooting for in there legally and safely but we’re trying to grow the park in stages. The capacity the fire department is giving us is 25,000.

Ultimately, two years down the road, three years own the road, the park can fit closer to 50,000-plus. You can get a lot of people into the park. We’re not trying to jam in as many as we can, we’re trying to make it comfortable and safe. We want to make this the home for HARD Summer for years to come.

Does the Electronic Daisy Carnival (EDC) aftermath put more pressure on your events?

It’s definitely putting a lot more heat from fire, police, and the City. Our plan has not changed from before EDC, and I think everyone is in line with our plan. We may beef up a few things here or there, but for the most part everyone seems to be comfortable with it. I think our team is ready and we’re prepared to execute.

Do HARD events draw a different crowd than EDC?

I think this event will definitely draw a way different crowd. I think M.I.A. and N.E.R.D. is as far as you can get from a rave. A lot of people don’t understand that but I think they’ll see when they come to the event that we have a completely different type of people coming to our show.

Why is this an all ages event?

We view it as a concert, so when you go to a concert you don’t have an age limit. Every concert that Live Nation or AEG produces, they don’t have an age limit, so we felt that we didn’t want to have one as well. If you want to bring your kids, come on down. It’s a park. I have two kids. My daughter is four, she’ll be there, hanging out, checking out the music and stuff.

We have our Halloween event and we may impose an age limit on that thing. We haven’t really decided yet.

How strong a part do drugs play in dance music culture?

I enjoy music -- I like Pink Floyd, I love Led Zeppelin, and I love techno music. To me, I listen to music completely sober and it sounds great to me.

I would imagine any concert atmosphere, or any type of music atmosphere -- whether it’s electronic or rock or metal -- there’s always some type of partying going on. My goal as an event producer is to keep it safe and secure, make sure that people don’t get hurt or injured, and that everything runs smooth. What we do is try to keep as much of that element out as we can and just try to run a safe event. Like I said, I listen to this music completely sober and it sounds great to me.

EDC had some notable gatecrashing. Are gatecrashers a problem at HARD events?

We had gatecrahers trying to hit us all day long on Halloween and I think we thwarted them off pretty well. I don’t really want to give up what we do because that might not help us down the road, but we have special teams to deal with that.

We’re just hoping that people come and enjoy the music in the park and don’t create problems.

What’s in the future for HARD?

I guess there’s only one other group to book from our side of the fence and it’s Daft Punk. I think we’ve gotten everybody else we’ve wanted to get.

Follow Caleb Bacon on Twitter @thecalebbacon.

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