HARD Red Rocks. There is something magical about the rocks, there is an aura that surrounds them and even the artists notice with Destructo noting that he’d like his studio to be there with the crowd along for the ride.
When the lineup was first released I knew that I had to be in the Red Rocks crowd. Not only was I excited for Dogblood, since Skrillex and Boys Noize do not tour together often, but Porter, Destructo, Branchez and I was excited to see Glitch Mob for the first time.
It would turn into one of the most special nights I’ve ever had at Red Rocks.
It began with Branchez, whom I was very excited to see with his Alesso and What So Not remixes that have skyrocketed his familiarity with fans. I was a little confused by the stage setup but he was enjoying the time he had and got the crowd on their feet, at a time in the day where it is still hot and sitting down is preferred. With Destructo up next, we were going to be treated to the HARD boss’ style and since I had loved his set at Sunset Music Festival, I was sure I would here.
Playing everything from techno to deep house, to trap and tons of new music, Destructo had the crowd in the palm of his hand as the sun began to set behind the rocks. I saw almost everyone on their feet, dancing and shuffling to the g-house style of Destructo and his famous pineapples (more on this later). As his set came to a close, I wondered aloud what it would be like going from Destructo’s energetic, dance style music to the more emotional tone of Porter…
I didn’t have to wait long as Porter walked out to his live stage at Red Rocks, a sight I’m not sure I could match at any other festival I’ve been to. Not only are the visuals incredibly impressive thanks to Ghost Dad, but Porter has a presence when he is on stage. His quiet demeanor seems to underestimate his raw talent and his passion, though both are immediately apparent when the gorgeous music begins to play. If you have never seen his live show, I highly suggest you find a show and attend asap. There is something magical about Porter playing midi and keys while playing the drums and even doing vocals. A true live performance set to stunning visuals make for one of the best sets you’ll ever see. Hearing ‘Lionhearted’, ‘Fellow Feeling’, ‘Language’, and my personal favorite, ‘Divinity’, was something special. Standing amidst the crowd, eyes closed, listening to some of the most beautiful music at Red Rocks… It was absolutely perfect. I was scheduled to interview Destructo at 8:45 and thus had to head down and miss the end of Porter’s set, but to have an interview with the founder of HARD himself, I wasn’t mad at all.
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After a small security snaffuu we headed up to his dressing room where Destructo politely invited me to sit next to him. First impressions have a powerful impact and Destructo was leaving his, making me feel welcome and quelling any nerves I had. We discussed the music business of HARD and the differences between running HARD and performing as a musician. I was surprised to hear that there were many similarities in terms of how to present yourself and work with other artists or those who can help your business succeed. Destructo favored an approach where he would do everything possible to get people what they needed and in return positive business and musical relationships would develop. He wanted people to see him as, “hey that guy went out of his way to help us out, he’s a cool guy” and that in the end it would be much better overall. I couldn’t disagree as it made logical sense and everything I have heard about Destructo backs that up. We spoke about the attitude of everyone at HARD and how that shows with things like Holy Ship! or HARD events, all the way to their trailers for festivals. (I was wearing a Spoon Ü t-shirt) We then talked about the pineapples that have become a staple of his shows and how that came to be. Lacking a “good” story, I’m still unclear whether he made up the story you can hear in the interview, either way it makes for a great listen. Lastly we spoke about his connection with Beats4Tanner and how the documentary hit close to home as Destructo had lost his brother to brain cancer. Seeing the personal side of an artist is rare, but I could tell from his demeanor that supporting the Beats4Tanner documentary was an honor for him.
As it was 9pm then, and right before Dogblood was scheduled to go on, Destructo decided that we needed to go say hi and good luck and he quickly got up and started the journey to the stage, only pausing to ask if I was coming. Not one to pass up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I followed.
What happened for the rest of the night was both humbling and jaw-dropping. I saw many artists, Skrillex, Boys Noize, Destructo, Tommy Lee, Porter, DJ Aero, and The Glitch Mob talking and laughing backstage. I kept close to those with Destructo and after Dogblood started, we watched from the side of the stage in awe. My experience backstage was something beyond anything I could have expected. My favorite moment came when Porter noticed my Spoon Ü t-shirt and said, “Hey that’s an awesome shirt!”
I went on to explain that my girlfriend had bought the shirt for me, designing it herself rather than ordering one straight from a HARD affiliated website. Porter seemed genuinely intrigued and taken aback that she would go to such lengths to get me a t-shirt that poked fun at the Porter/Dillon skit in the HARD summer trailer (if you haven’t seen it, go follow that link). Considering Porter is one of my absolute favorite artists, this meant a great deal to me. I was able to get a picture with him and take some pictures of the crowd from a vantage point few ever have.
During my time there I witnessed a masterful performance by Dogblood that had Skrillex up on the decks waving either a Dogblood or Colorado flag during what seemed like most of the set. The music swept through a wide variety of genres, including a personal favorite by the Eurythmics, to which everyone could be heard singing along. The crowd was on its feet throughout the entire performance as a sold out Red Rocks made sure to let Skrillex and Boys Noize know they were welcome as if family to the majestic stage between the rocks. As their set came to a close I was able to speak with the father of Tanner Seebaum (Beats4Tanner) and hear about his experience with HARD and connecting with Skrillex to do music for the documentary. On the verge of tears, I listened to him recount the story of Destructo approaching his son and how this music brought them together. It was fitting that we spoke as Skrillex played right after the premiere of the trailer for the documentary Beats4Tanner. All too soon their set was over and the crowd chanted for more, hoping they could get just another song or two out of the duo.
Alas, it was not so as the stage crew worked diligently to convert the stage for The Glitch Mob who had brought their own setup “The Blade.” Boy was this set spectacular, while I did not see it directly from the front (side of the stage remember), I could see all three members of The Glitch Mob performing on their midi controllers and pounding on the drums that surrounded the platform. Not only was the music incredible, the crowd could not get enough. To see The Glitch Mob engage so readily with their huge following here in Colorado was truly something special. The characteristic glitchy sounds seemed endless as the crowd went wilder with each track.
I had never been to a HARD event before Red Rocks though I have followed the trailers and announcements for some time. I plan to take my brother to Holy Ship! as soon as he is 21 and able to go, having heard it is a life-changing experience. Through the beautiful and varied music that was put on display, to the humble and giving attitude that exuded from Destructo and having a conversation with my favorite artist Porter, I couldn’t be happier. The crowd was as varied as the music, but instead of problems, everyone who enjoyed a different artist was left to themselves so that the music was the focus, not differences. I am impressed Colorado, not only did we attract one of the funnest events I have ever attended, but everyone I met acted with class and respect towards the artists, staff, and even each other. No wonder there has been a tradition of HARD events in late July for the past several years. Let’s keep that up!
A special thanks to Electronic Colorado and Drew Carey for a few of the pictures you see above! (I had a small problem with my camera, and thus only had my phone!)