On the day after Halloween our team headed to the Pomona Fairplex to checkout this year’s Day of the Dead Music Festival hosted by HARD. Having rained earlier that day, the weather was perfect for this massive event that was about to take place. Upon our first walk-through of the festival it was easy to see that Hard made the right choice in the new venue. Last year the event was thrown at the LA Historic Park and although it worked out for Hard Summer, it seemed way too small for Day of the Dead. Although the Pomona Fairplex has been used for other music festivals such as the Vans Warped Tour, it has remained absent from hosting any EDM events until now. After checking out the entire festival grounds it was clear that this was the perfect choice.
Our favorite part of the setup was the main stage layout. It was conveniently located in the center of the festival making it easy to access from any stage. Aside from the main stage there were also two outdoor side stages and two smaller indoor stages. Each one had a unique vibe that hosted some awesome sets throughout the weekend.
Upon heading to our Anna Lunoe interview we were able to catch part of Seven Lions‘s set. We arrived while he was dropping Queen’s legendary Bohemian Rhapsody, a now classic festival anthem. His set showcased the dirty dubstep drops that he’s known for while keeping balance with beautiful melodic breakdowns and trance-like synths. It was almost twisted how he was able to flip these two ideas back and forth throughout his set.
After the sun set on the festival we made sure to catch Pretty Lights as he took over the main stage with a unique style of record sampling glitch hop beats. This set was an awesome change in pace from all the banging sets that took place on the main stage so far. His live performance included an array of digital controllers as well as a live drummer and keyboardist. The result was something that took his expressive beats to another level.
He opened up his set with Let’s Get Busy and not too long after he took us back in time with the track Finally Moving from his 2006 album Taking Up Your Precious Time. This song symbolized a great moment in the festival with its use of the familiar James Etta sample from Good Feeling. Avicii popularized this sample in his track Levels but Pretty Lights had originally used it for this electro-soul masterpiece. The sample is a main stage worthy crowd pleaser but the way Pretty Lights used it proved that EDM can be just as catchy while creating a strange unique sensation in the listener. Pretty Lights is easily one of the most unique producers in the game and seeing him get weird on the main stage to thousands of people was truly one of the best moments of this festival.
Later we stopped by Diplo to catch him completely wrecking the main stage with one of the most hyped up sets of the night. As the poppa of Mad Decent, we could tell that he had plenty of unreleased material from his artists to spin keeping the set interesting and full of surprises.
Speaking of interesting sets, the ever so mysterious Zhu made his North American premiere on day 1, taking the Harder stage to another level of excitement. The entire time he was immersed in darkness with only an occasional glimpse of his shadow during certain moments of the show. When his set was coming to a close, a strange, deep voice murmered “Los Angeles….this was amazing….” and then he proceeded to end his set with his smash hit Faded. It was a truly mysterious and amazing experience, which left us all waiting for the next time Zhu would return.
Later we headed to one of the most anticipated sets of the night, the epic collaborative set between house legends Eric Prydz and Deadmau5. It was almost surreal seeing these guys up on the same stage for this festival. Their two-hour set united elements from their records in a hypnotic way that kept the entire floor in an uplifting groove. With Prydz’s deep minimal drums and Deadmau5’s fat dirty basslines, this set was bound to be one of the most exhilarating sets of the night. Our highlight moment was when they unexpectedly dropped Dillon Francis’s remix of Deadmau5’s Some Chords.
After awhile we took a break from their set to catch Knife Party‘s headlining set on the main stage. Rob Swire was absent from the set leaving the decks to Gareth McGrillen. He began the show with some heavy minimal house that started what was soon to be a journey in the vicious genres of EDM. The set went from deep to grimey electro within the first 15 minutes and the crowd was absolutely loving the change of style from their normally dubstep driven sounds. At some point he mixed in Markus Schulz’s Remember This, a beautiful anthemic trance song along with their remix of Swedish House Mafia’s Save The World that somehow went into a trap drop. Plenty of unreleased music from their upcoming Abandon Ship album was dropped adding to their new change of style. Overall it seemed like Knife Party wanted to annihilate the competition and prove that they were worthy of their headlining spot. The amount of energy from the crowd proved that they had done just that leaving everyone exhausted and ready for the next day.
We began day two with Tchami on the main stage, which was arguably one of the best ways to begin any event. At around 4PM he was already proving to be worthy of the big stage by getting the afternoon crowd to turn up as if this was the final set of the festival. The cloudy weather also added to the atmosphere getting everyone in that deep dancing mood.
We left the set a bit early to catch up with Big Gigantic for an exclusive interview. After completely killing it at the Summersalt festival last month in San Francisco, it was great seeing them again here in SoCal. This time around they brought some 100 bpm twerk tracks to the table as well as some funky moombahton. Our favorite part of the set was when they dropped their mashup of Disclosure’s You And Me (Flume Remix) with Touch The Sky, their original trap banger.
Finally we headed over to Galantis to catch one of our most anticipated sets of the night. Galantis made their performance debut at Coachella this Spring and has been getting thrown on bills across the country ever since then. They’re still a fairly new act and we were curious to see what they would throw down in a rave environment. Knowing that they had an anthemic house sound we were definitely expecting to be blown away with positive waves of emotion similar to a Kaskade show. And to our satisfaction… we got just that. They played all of their tracks and had the entire crowd singing in harmony for certain moments. The parts that really impressed us were in between their originals when they showcased their taste in music and mixing skills. They threw down Autoerotique’s new track Badman as well as a big room remix of Gent & Jawns’s Turn Up. We got hints of disco house, big room, trap, and electro keeping the crowd dancing through the hour. The highlight had to have been their premier of Dillon Francis’s remix of their latest single Runaway. Although we didn’t know at the time that it was Dillon’s remix, it was pretty obvious that this track punched harder than any other remix around.
Once everyone was well into the vibes of the night we headed over to catch the end of Destructo‘s set. Being the creator of Hard and Day of the Dead, he obviously deserved a solid spot on the main stage. He dropped a bunch of G-House tracks in promotion for his upcoming West Coast EP and to the crowd’s surprise brought out E-40 and Problem. The deep vibes and ghetto style beats felt like he was opening for the end of Day of the Dead.
Finally RL Grime was next and we couldn’t have been anymore excited about it. Earlier this Summer Mr. Grimes dropped the lead single Core off his debut album VOID with a jaw-dropping music video of an ominous helicopter soaring through geometric landscapes. With the album due at the end of this month and a theme that sends chills down our spines, we could only expect the best from his set on the main stage. Our expectations were high but what we got was something far beyond what we could have imagined. To say his set was the best of the weekend might be an understatement.
RL Grime easily threw down one of the most turnt up festival sets we’ve seen all year.
The intro gave the audience chills as he premiered a new track from his album. It was ghostly and dramatic with his signature snares that cut through the waves of gloom like a knife. After getting us all in the right Halloween spirit he proceeded to drop his latest single Scylla. The moment that this track dropped we knew it was on. RL Grime hit star power mode and kept the entire crowd jumping for his entire set. He gave us some Clockwork influence with ridiculous mashups bringing in the genres of electro house. Aside from that he stuck to trap for the majority of the set. He dropped a ton of hip hop from underground tracks to popular ones and he always had an interesting way to mix in and out of them. He transitioned so quickly that it was almost funny how clean he was able to hop from one track to another. Some DJs embrace the party going crowd pleasures while others enjoy diving into mind bending EDM. Somehow RL Grime took both of these concepts and threw down something that was kept the crowd dancing while keeping the critics puzzled.
By the time we could comprehend what was going on he was already teasing us with the next drop. On top of his killer mixing abilities what really made the performance was the tracks from his new album as well as the visuals that went along with them. Whether we were looking at flames rising, digital maps, or glass shattering in slow motion, you could tell that these visuals fit the dark minimal yet grimey theme that RL was to tell on his debut record. By far the best moment was when he dropped his single Core. It was as though he was able to freeze time to allow the entire festival to step into his world and experience the dark madness that is Void.
RL Grime knew he had a job to accomplish on the main stage and he brought the house down better than any other trap DJ we’ve seen to date. With this performance under his belt and a new album on the way we have no doubt that world will soon realize how much of a mastermind RL Grime really is.
Overall we were extremely impressed by this year’s Day of the Dead and we look forward to venturing back out next Halloween.
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