Saturday in New Orleans could not have been a better day for stop #2 of HARD’s travelling series, which leads up to HARD Summer Music Fest on August 1-2 in Pomona, CA. The day-long festival took place in Champions Square outside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Situated in the heart of New Orleans’ financial district, Champions Square a unique and ideal venue for an outdoor show.
Dancing the night away under the lights of the dome and larger-than-life banners of Saints hero Drew Brees was a picture-perfect setting for any local electronic fan. The perimeter of the grounds were lined with typical beer and drink stands, but the highlight of “amenities” at this venue was a large, air-conditioned lounge with free access for all. As New Orleans has few festivals of this sort, it was quick to draw references to the 2-day BUKU Music and Arts Festival. While HARD is clearly a smaller event, it packed a punch in terms of lineup and venue. Unlike Buku, as demonstrated by the “banned items” list, HARD was decidedly less rave-like, a tone that as set HARD Events productions aside from other shows for years now. There was a face-painting tent and a few banned “LED” items made their way in, but the creativity was a bit stifled for better or for worse pending your personal party preference.
The day got off to a slow start, with local acts Unicorn Fukr and Quickie Mart warming up the stage- side crowd of 10-20 fans.
While providing a great view and place to rest, the large stairway leading from the venue’s ground level up to the Superdome plaza separated the crowd from the stage in the earlier part of the day. HARD overlapped with one-day of New Orleans’ largest festival, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which may have taken away a handful of otherwise electronic fans. We did however benefit from some sky-writing in the clouds above that provided some amusement as the words “LOVE” and “HOPE” were spelled in sky above.
The pace started picking up as Wax Motif took the stage, with Destructo breaking in to encourage the stair-dwellers to join the stage crowd and support Wax who’d just come “all the way from Sydney” to play the festival.
The crowd continued to grow as HARD Events founder Gary Richards, aka Destructo, played on. Next on deck was GTA, whose final tune was former local favorite Big Tymer’s “Still Fly,” transitioning well into what may have been the most engaging of the night, Rae Sremmurd. The duo is composed of brother’s Khalif “Swae Lee” Brown and Aaquil “Slim Jimmy” Brown. These two turned up the energy with a high-intensity performance, working the stage and reaching out to fans. A change of pace from the DJ-only starting lineup, Rae Sremmurd packed an entourage of 8 additional friends/DJs/hype-men to fill the stage. Fans sang along to favorites “No Flex Zone” and “No Type,” bringing the crowd to its largest capacity of the night that would stay strong till the end.
Big Gigantic was up next. Two guys on saxophone and drums were quite the change from a crew of rappers, but they transitioned perfectly and kept energy high. By the time Big G took the stage, it was officially night time in New Orleans. The stage lights paired with the Superdome and city skyline rendered a remarkable backdrop for the evening.
The trademark live sax of Big G was complemented my members of funk band Lettuce, who took the stage to join the duo. Big G has played in New Orleans a number of times in the last few years, and they have the fan base to go with them– Big G t-shirts were the most frequently seen artist shirt on Saturday.
Zeds Dead and DJ Snake were the final acts of the night. Zeds Dead was perhaps the most bass-heavy of the final acts, and DJ Snake delivered beats that brought the crowd to the floor, literally getting down as cued by his hit collaboration with Dillon Francis, “Get Low.”
Overall HARD NOLA was a great experience. The venue was excellent along with a diverse and well-known lineup. The crowd was much smaller than expected, perhaps due to Jazz Fest and final exam schedules of local college students who flocked to BUKU for spring break. The smaller size however did allow for easy access to front row views. At an under $50 ticket price, HARD NOLA was a great value, and I look forward to its return and growth in future years. There’s still time to catch HARD’s summer series in Miami (5/16), Dallas (5/29), Toronto (5/30), and Denver (7/30), and the main 2-day HARD Summer Music Festival in Pomona, CA August 1st and 2nd.