The formula for a Hard festival isn't complicated. Have good music. Book both new artists and longtime favorites. Provide a dance floor. Get a good sound system. And you’ve got yourself a show.
“It sound pretty basic and simple, but it works,” says Gary Richards, the founder and CEO of Hard Events. “You just come there, you dance, you hear good shit, and you have a good time. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Unlike other music festivals, Hard fests focus specifically on the music. There are no paint guns or amusement park rides to distract festival-goers; no V.I.P. sections or oxygen bars. As Richards sees it, people come to his events to hear good Hard music and good Hard music is what they’ll get.
“If you're coming to ride the Ferris wheel, go to the carnival,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be about all this nonsense that people normally associate with these events.”
For roughly eight years, Hard has hosted electronic dance festivals around the globe. What started as a two-day musical event in Los Angeles has since evolved into almost a dozen offshoot festivals (and one music cruise) in places as far-flung as New York City and San Francisco, Australia and Japan. This year, Richards and his crew introduced their newest traveling party, GoHard, a five-city tour visiting Seattle, New Orleans, Miami, Dallas, and Toronto. It’s exactly like Hard Summer, the CEO says, just smaller and more streamlined. While the Los Angeles festival features about 50 artists across four stages, the GoHard Tour shows are set for eight or nine acts on only one stage. “We’re still giving them the Hard experience.”
At Miami stop, the headliners will include electro producer Dillon Francis, rap duo Rae Sremmurd, dance group What So Not, and others, which gives you another idea of what Hard fests are about: mixing it up. Even though Hard has always been immersed in electronic music, Richards says he picks artists based on his own personal taste.
“I started branching out and putting in hip-hop and other shit because I like all kinds of stuff, not just electronic. You need to break it up. When Rae Sremmurd comes on in between everything else that’s going on, it’s perfect. And by the time they’re done, everyone’s ready to hear electronic again.”
Richards views himself as sort of “a tastemaker guy in the world of music.” Not only is he trying to change the public perception of dance (“My goal is to show people that there’s good quality electronic music,” he says), but he’s constantly striving to book new acts. He is credited with helping bring stars like Basement Jaxx, Calvin Harris, and Deadmau5 into the spotlight through his events, and he recently continued this trend by booking Fetty Wap, the New Jersey rapper known for the hit song, “Trap Queen,” to play this year’s Hard Summer.
The CEO, who moonlights as DJ Destructo, started throwing Hard parties in Los Angeles around 2007 in response to the changing music industry. As the owner of two record labels, Nitrus Records and 1500 Records, he noticed that business was down and people were no longer as interested in buying music.
“I was putting out records, spending money, and working harder, but [I was] making less and less,” he explains. “And I kind of was like, 'What am I gonna do with my life, because this is all I know how to do.'”
As a last resort, he turned to his earlier pursuits of DJing and producing shows. The first Hard party, an outdoor event in the downtown arts district, was a flop. “I just didn’t really know how to run a show the right way,” Richards admits. But by his third show (a Halloween event at the Shrine Auditorium that featured Crystal Castles, Justice, and Deadmau5), he had gotten the formula right.
“I partnered with some people that knew how to produce shows a little better than me,” he says. “And for some reason, that one was just crazy.” About 15,000 tickets were sold and he knew “I got something here.”
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Since then, Richards has “just used my ears to keep booking people,” and so far, it’s worked. Festival-goers seem to appreciate the mix of artists, both new and established, and the event’s singular dedication to providing good music.
“People know what they’re gonna get,” Richards said. “The music is hard — it’s quality. That’s what we do.”
UPDATE The GoHard Festival Tour’s Miami show has just been moved to the Fillmore Miami Beach. Live Nation confirms that "all tickets purchased previously will be honored."
GoHard Festival Tour. With Dillon Francis, Mat Zo, Bro Safari, Rae Sremmurd, What So Not, Destructo, Griz, Tokimonsta, and Amtrac. 4 p.m. Saturday, May 16, at
Klipsch Amphitheater at Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd. Miami. Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; fillmoremb.com. The show starts at 4 p.m. and tickets cost $60.75 plus fees via livenation.com. Ages 18 and up. Visit gohardtour.com.