The music festival, post-depression-ambience hit the attendees heavily after this years HARD Summer Music Festival. The monumental lineup and subtle, yet major improvements made by Insomniac, made this year’s festivities thrilling for its 80,000 attendees. However, with all the hyped advertisement, there were some aspects of the festival that fell short among the excitement of what was promised.
After multiple complaints about entrance lines for HARD Summer years prior, this year, they had four separate entrances for general admission and VIP guests. The addition of the extra entrances made getting through security and ticket scanning a breeze compared to previous years. Once inside, there were long rows of tents that covered strips of the raceway to cool off guests called “Shady Ave.” The tents were equipped with flashing lights and misters to keep guests cool as they travelled from stage to stage. While walking through Shady Ave, guests could hear music coming and going from each stage as they walked from one end to the other. Guests were also given the option to buy drinks and food along the way from all the vendor stands that lined Shady Ave. Shady Ave was an easy place to stop, refill and relax, or just pass through to the next set.
The VIP package was also advertised as what would be new and improved this year at HARD Summer. Not only did VIP guests get a seperate entrance to the festival, but they also had access to everything general admission guests did, but in sectioned off and designated areas of each stage. Do it yourself (DIY) water refill stations, hookah bars, and private and less-crowded bars and bathrooms were all available in the VIP section at the Hard and Harder stages. This year they brought back the pool to the VIP section at the Hard stage, which was a huge hit. VIP members could spend all hours of the festival relaxing and dancing in the pool with their drinks and friends, while still being close to the stage to see their favorite artists, and in a less-crowded environment. There were VIP sections placed at the front-left and front-right of the green, pink, and purple tents which made guests practically front row for each set. General admission attendees also had a considerable amount of water refill stations, merch tents, and bars and bathrooms, which were easily accessible for everyone.
Aside from VIP and general admission improvements made by Insomniac, this years production aspect was significantly a different experience than years prior. No matter where you were in the crowd or the venue, you could hear the music fading in and out from each stage arena without any difficulty; guests knew exactly what songs and energy they were walking or dancing into. The sound quality was not the only thing that enhanced HARD Summer; the bass could be felt anywhere you stood at the stages or inside the venue. To go along with the impressive sound system, production teams hardly experienced any technological difficulties; set transitions were virtually seamless. Each stage was also paired with multiple and enormous LED screens, CO2 cannons, and elaborate pyrotechnics and fireworks.
As with every festival, there were a few hiccups that occured. At the last minute and on the morning of day one, Insomniac retracted photography passes from a significant number of media review analysts, and limited the festival allotment to only 26 media passes. This caused a lot of confusion and issues for professionals that were promised access to work and shoot the festival. The email was sent out at 10:30 AM on day one, which was three hours before opening acts. Insomniac’s media teams reached out to photographers whom they previously hired and revoked their shooting privileges, which resulted in the cancellation of some interviews, set reviews, and photo and video recaps. There was no clear explanation why Insomniac retracted promised media access as abruptly as they did, and no official statement has been released.
Just like previous years and any festival in the history of festivals, leaving HARD Summer was absolute chaos. Ordering an UBER or LYFT was nearly impossible because of how clustered the designated pick up zones were. Additionally, if guests chose to forego the designated pick up areas, they had to walk all the way around the speedway to access the pedestrian exits; some having to walk up to 3 miles to meet their ride. The only way to avoid the crowd was to leave the festival early, which very few wanted to do, especially after paying impressive amounts of money to see some of their favorite artists and headliners.
Overall, Insomniac did improve HARD Summer and made it an experience to never forget. Multiple entrances, VIP percs, and an abundance of shade were all great additions, but there will always be room for improvement. Surely, guests can’t wait to see what they come up with next year.