This past Thursday saw the return of California based HARD to Denver for a third consecutive year of HARD Red Rocks, bringing with it a massive lineup many festival goers could only dream of. With the combined talent of Skrillex and Boys Noize performing as the rarely seen Dog Blood, plus the revolutionary sounds of headliners The Glitch Mob, the sold out event guaranteed to be a night myself and the rest of the CO crowd would never forget! Unfortunately due to traffic delays I was unable to witness the very start of HARD Red Rocks, specifically Option4‘s set. I hope to catch this Denver based artist soon at another event.
Upon arrival to the world class venue I was greeted by the sounds of melodic trap producer/DJ Branchez, a well respected artist who has received support from many world famous artists. He welcomed the early slot time by turning the sunny Red Rocks afternoon into one of the rowdiest crowds I have ever seen during the day. Throwing down hard hitting bass-lines from GTA, Zeds Dead and many other popular artists, Branchez was able to keep the party going as the crowd bounced in time with the beat. He wrapped it all up by playing what is arguably his biggest (and best) song, the “Heroes” remix he did for the Alesso. Being one of the opening acts for an event like this can be a daunting task as it is your job to set the stage for the artists to follow, and I’d really like to thank Branchez for doing a fantastic job getting the crowd hyped for the sets to come!
Now the night really picked up for me around 6:30 when Destructo (Gary Richards) came on. Unfortunately I had to miss the start of the HARD founder’s set as I dashed backstage to grab a interview with The Glitch Mob on all of their upcoming plans (to be released soon). However, upon emerging from the behind the scenes of Red Rocks I was greeted by the deep house sounds that could only mean the Pineapple Man was still at work with the Red Rocks crowd!
Over the next hour I was blown away by the amount of times Destructo announced new tracks that had never before been played, and at one point even going as far as to request someone send him vocals for an unfinished track he previewed. The level of engagement between Gary and the mass amounts of fans there to see one of the events he has dedicated his life to, really surprised me in the best sort of way. As the sun began to set behind the walls of Red Rocks, Destructo perfectly helped set the tone for the following performance, the one and only Porter Robinson.
Now Porter’s set can not be just considered as a chain of songs and visuals synced together. No, it’s much more than that. seeing Porter Robinson perform is an entire experience that creates a connection between Porter, his music, and the crowd. Coming out to an earth shattering applause the almost timid looking Porter took his spot, surrounded by drum machines and launchers, ready to give Colorado the live performance it had been waiting for. And a live performance is just what we got!The beautiful voice of Mr. Robinson spilled over the Rocks as he worked his way through tracks like “Sad Machine” and “Lionhearted”, surrounded by exploding C02 cannons and visuals inspired by his interest in the Japanese kawaii culture. It was just as Porter began to get to the climax of his song, “Fellow Feeling“, that the crowd and I gained a massive amount of respect for the young artist. Just seconds before Porter went in to heavy beat chorus of this song, all audio suddenly cut. We watched as he scrambled to get his instruments back online and resume his set, which he did in a matter of seconds. While obviously frustrated with himself, Porter continued his set with more vigor and emotion than before and not a single audience member was upset about his mistake. I and everyone else packing the tiers of Red Rocks had just witnessed first hand that no matter if you’re some kid performing in his bedroom or a world class producer in front of over 9,000 people, it’s OK to make mistakes. With a smile on his face Porter wrapped up what had been an journey of a set for both the audience and performer and headed off the stage to make way for the famous duo of Dog Blood.
Dog Blood, the mega duo consisting of Skrillex and Boys Noize, packs a bark just as big as its bite. Separately these two artist are some of the biggest names in the electronic world, packing clubs and festival stages around the globe on an almost daily basis. But, bring them together and it is a experience on a whole new level. From the start of their set it was apparent that this would be a completely music focused affair as the wild alien visuals of Skrillex’s sets were replaced by a simple “Dog Blood” logo on a black screen. The lasers lit up the air as the game changing duo dropped one exclusive beat after another, even throwing down an upcoming Dog Blood remix of Valentino Khan‘s hit track “Deep Down Low” that got the crowds at Red Rocks jumping so high it looked like a tidal wave of people were about to crash down on the artists.
It was towards the end of the set that the Boys Noize side of the group began to shine as the music began to take a techno turn as songs like Boys Noize and Pilo’s track “Cerebral” was dropped, as well as several other songs off his latest EP “Strictly Raw Vol. 1“. In my opinion it was this diversity in style that really brought the entire set together as Dog Blood dropped both old Skrillex, new JackÜ, as well as Boys Noize classics, and several other tracks from his record label, BNR. In the end the set turned into an extremely satisfying display of musical talent that was not overloaded with ridiculous and distracting visuals but complimented well by the dark and mysterious images displayed during the set. While this incredible duo could have easily headlined the entire night, they did a spectacular job bringing the crowd together and preparing everyone for the wildness of The Glitch Mob.
Straight out of some science fiction scene and surrounded in smoke and flashing lights, The Blade (The Glitch Mob’s instrument parading as a stage) emerged from beneath the towering walls of Red Rocks. Covered in metal and dark clothing the trio of The Mob took their spots at their battle-stations ready to hammer out another incredible set of their glitch-hop sound. From the first pounding of their spaceship like drums, to the last synth note pressed on their crowd facing control panels, The Glitch Mob took the crowd on an interstellar journey through space and sound with amazing visuals synced with their spectacular live performance. The Colorado crowd seemed to feed off the hammering beats of The Mob as they worked their way through their latest albums, “Love Death Immortality” and “Pieces of the Indestructible“.
The energy produced by not only the music but the movements of the three members jumping from drum to synth and back brought such ferocity to the set that you thought The Glitch Mob was battling the music as they created it. In no time, the set was drawing to a close and with a throwback to “Fortune Days” the night came to an end. The shear movement and action brought by The Glitch Mob was enough to make anyone move, but paired with their revolutionary sound and stage they set the bar high for any future Red Rocks acts and were the perfect way to bring HARD Red Rocks 2015 to a close.
This year’s HARD event should be used by all as a goal for what festivals and concerts should strive to be. With so many artist focusing on their own musical talents rather the “popular mainstream” music heard everyday, HARD brought together a combination of acts that truly epitomize what any musical event should be. With the incredible DJ talents of both Branchez and Destructo, setting the stage and preparing the crowd perfectly, while the musical genius and expression created by Porter Robinson brought a personal experience shared with all in attendance. Combined with Dog Blood’s diversity in sound and focus on the music, coupled with the energy and fight shown in The Glitch Mob as they appeared to battle their stage, The Blade, into creating the music they have put so much effort into. All these pieces ended up in creating a night that neither I nor Colorado will soon forget. We thank the entire team at HARD for putting together this spectacular event and look forward to seeing what they bring to Colorado in the coming years!