This past weekend marked the first time in the history of the festival that HARD Summer 2022 took place over three days. For the second straight year, it took place at the NOS Events Center as opposed to the Auto Club Speedway. This year’s festival was headlined by Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Uzi Vert, and Porter Robinson, with a variety of EDM, hip-hop, and pop names up and down the bill.
As someone who drove in and out from LA each day for the festival, I have to admit that three days was a bit much for me personally. But most people I talked to that are considerably younger and more of the target demographic for HARD Summer 2022 really enjoyed it being three days, so who am I to say otherwise?
The layout of the festival is pretty damn good — there are some sound bleed problems at a few of them, but the beauty of HARD Summer 2022 is that it was fairly easy to get towards the front of the crowd at any of the stages, allowing you to immerse yourself in what was happening in front of you rather than being distracted by what’s going on nearby.
Highlights from the first day of the festival included rising electronic act Moore Kismet, Valentino Khan, JOYRYDE, GRiZ, and Megan Thee Stallion closing the night out. Megan’s set was particularly earthshaking, and she brought people up from the crowd to shake their ass towards the end of the set. It was definitely the most singalong set of the whole weekend that I can recall. I also got into the pool at the VIP of the HARD Stage for a bit at the end of the night when it wasn’t so busy and it was nice as the temperature was still in the 80s. HARD Summer towels could be purchased for $15. The VIP amenities are worth the extra cost — you never had any problem getting right to the front and I like that it doesn’t cut into the center of the crowd the way most VIPS do — it’s fair to everybody.
On Saturday, Alison Wonderland and Sub Focus b2b Zeds Dead were my highlights of the night. Zeds Dead had headlined the previous night in a b2b with Subtronics that I heard was amazing. TOKiMONSTA killed it as well as LSDREAM. I tried catching the Flosstradamus set at the Corona Stage but he was too big of a name for that tiny stage and I couldn’t get past the sound bleed.
I don’t really like pointing out sets that didn’t land because it’s all subjective based on taste, but Marc Rebillet’s set Saturday night was a huge misfire. It didn’t make sense from a booking standpoint and Rebillet even said as much as he played to a very sparse crowd. He got famous during the pandemic for his one-man loop-station shows in his robe, but it’s very gimmicky and schticky and doesn’t really translate to a live show in my opinion. Marc Rebillet is electronic music for people who don’t like electronic music.
Sunday may have been the most jam-packed day of the weekend, with Porter Robinson, Chris Lake, Tchami, Svdden Death b2b Marauda, Wax Motif, and Justin Martin among people’s favorites. You could sense that some people were flagging from going “too HARD” on Friday and Saturday, and some people chose to take it easy Sunday since the work week loomed large.
Nobody does live event production like Insomniac — with so much emphasis put on how great the stage and lighting rigs look. There were tons of cool art installations that people chose to take their IG photos in front of. The stages lit up from miles away.
Overall, HARD Summer has become a can’t miss staple that attracts people not just from southern California but from all over the U.S. It would be nice if they could figure out a way to get working wifi or cell service since it’s in a town and not the middle of nowhere, but that is a small gripe compared to the logistical nightmare that most festivals have dealt with since returning from the pandemic. Getting into the festival each day was seamless and leaving took some time because of there only being one exit, but overall things ran smoothly. There was plenty of security, and plenty of Ground Control people checking in on everyone who looked like they might be having a hard time. It being an 18-and-over festival really helps limit the amount of dumb stuff that happens and makes it a festival I’d continue to support as I’m into my mid thirties.
Looking forward to seeing what HARD Summer 2023 brings!