LA’s Hard Summer Fest could have been a great night of music this past Saturday—if it hadn’t been shut down due to irresponsible partygoers and poor planning. Saturday night’s mishaps demonstrated that the rave scene culture could be attractive enough to become an actual happening again, but only if it becomes less dysfunctional.
The marketability of electronic music is good right now, and the all-ages festival lineup had sold more than 12,000 tickets as of last week. Crystal Castles, Underworld, Chromeo, Crookers and Tiga were among the musicians to perform. Instead, the Inglewood Fire Department sent everyone home around 11 pm.
The first problem of the night happened before I even got into the venue. I, along with about a dozen other members of the press, had to plead with several workers before finally, after about an hour, we were ushered into the Forum. This mishap seemed to signify poor planning, and it got even worse inside.
I rushed through the waves of teenage ravers and was shocked to see many hallmarks of the original rave scene: pacifiers, beaded “candy” jewelry, glow sticks, cartoon character iconography. Most notably missing were the pants. No Jnco’s, no UFO’s. In fact, a lot of people weren’t wearing pants.
Of course what ensues with this amount of (presumable) inebriated underage kids is the looming threat of sexual assault, and I wasn’t in the venue five minutes before I witnessed a girl sobbing to a staff member that someone had grabbed her breast. One of her friends, a boy, said, “She was abused by a close relative as a child!”
In fact, the shady legality of the whole situation seems incompatible with the festival circuit, which relies on publicity and main stream acceptance. Wasn’t this the purpose of secret flyers and underground locations? I left the bewildered security guard to deal with the sobbing girl, and went into the auditorium.
What I saw next wasn’t entirely unusual. Who hasn’t been to a festival where the crowd relies on its horde status to break through a barrier or climb a fence? As I walked into the nearly-full auditorium, a number of people jumped from the balcony onto the main floor, which had been apparently closed. It looked dangerous.
I couldn’t completely blame them—nobody wants to watch a rave from a seat. Confusing though was that the promoters had decided to throw a rave at a venue that would demand half of its participants sit down in balcony seats. Dancing and wandering around are two activities essential to the restless experience of going to an electronic festival.
The security guards began covering the first five rows with tarps in an attempt to stop anyone else from jumping off. Meanwhile, the person with the loudspeaker tried to get the crowds in the balcony to sit down, claiming that Chromoe wouldn't go on until they did. “You with the furry boots, you’re holding up the show,” he said to a deafening wave of boo’s. Someone started a Justice chant to the tune of “We are your friends/ You’ll never be alone again,” and this got loud before petering out.
“At what point did it go from the Party Monster scene to the underwear scene?” commented Karen Hernandez, a woman in her 20s who sat backstage. Meanwhile, a very young woman in pink eyelashes jumped the barrier between main stage and the backstage area, where she began walking up to officials and press members, claiming she had lost her wrist band and needed another. Someone escorted her out.
After about two hours of waiting, several dozen cops came through the backstage. The fire and police department had apparently had enough of Hard Summer. Those in the front held pepper spray guns. They pushed into the crowd, and began to evacuate.
“I didn’t know there were so many cops in this town,” a girl said.
Someone else said, “Don’t they have real jobs?”
We were walking to the car, and I was speaking to the Prefix photographer Rachel Carr (who shot the event) about the situation as we passed an impromptu afterparty happening in the Sizzler parking lot. “Is the rave scene genuinely back,” I asked, “Or did everyone just dress up for tonight?”
A shirtless boy turned to me. “It’s real,” he exclaimed. “It’s a culture.”
The promoters of Hard Summer are offering a refund to everyone who bought tickets, and they claim that no one was seriously injured. But while no serious tragedy happened, this debacle does draw into serious question whether a resurgence of the rave scene will be funcitonal enough to happen. If that's even possible, it might need to take place not in the festival circuit but underground.
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