HARD Tour: 24 July 2010 – New York

The weather forecast for Saturday, July 24th, 2010, was predicted to be stark, with impending thunder storms and showers that could have potentially washed away any outdoor, live music. Luckily, the weather was favorable and storms managed to hold off until later in the evening. HARD NYC, unarguably the largest music event of the evening, took place on Governor’s Island, just minutes away from lower Manhattan.

Destination concerts seem to be a growing trend, especially as of late. In order to attend one of these outdoor festivals, it is required that one must take a ferry ride from any of the major seaports in New York City (or Brooklyn) – although it is a novelty, it is also a very time consuming ordeal. HARD NYC had approximately 15,000 attendees – the line queuing, transportation to and from via ferry and island amenities far surpassed anyone’s perceived expectations.

Although HARD NYC kicked off in mid-afternoon, the attendance was minimal until the early evening. Show-goers found refuge from the extreme heat under giant tents and maintained composure compliments of the $18 “all you can drink” Lemonade. The bass could be heard as the ferry pulled up to the dock and all one could think at that moment was “It’s game time.”

Rye Rye, the spirited and youthful hip-hop maven, had no regard for the heat as she opened the show. Filled with all sorts of energy, Rye Rye would rarely break from rapping, but when she did, she could be found dancing from one side of the stage to the other. As she dove deeper into her set, more and more people became attracted to the stage, jumping up and down, dancing, or just watching her run her mouth in awe. Equipped with a set of dancers (even a few from the crowd), Rye Rye closed her set with her very own rendition of “Party In The U.S.A.”.

Skream & Benga, seminal dub-step trendsetters from Croydon, England, brought the crowd to a whole new level. Playing an extended set of remixed classics and demoing new material, Skream & Benga upped the ante. The duo started just as the sun was setting and pushed on for an hour and a half into the twilight. With cameos from a few English hip-hop heads, the crowd wasn’t allowed to stand still – in fact, the crowd was letting loose left and right. With a grimy remix of La Roux’s “In For The Kill” and a nostalgic remix of “Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”, the crowd was left in anticipation for the remaining acts.

Sleigh Bells, hometown heroes from Brooklyn, took the stage to show off their unique combination of synth-pop, fuzzy guitar solos and infectious beats. Having past musical experiences in the teen pop group, RubyBlue and post-hardcore band, Poison The Well, the duo has created a sound that has neither been named or replicated. Opening the set with a series of very ‘metal’ riffs, the two had the audience scrambling for reactions. The set was short, but very intense – the seizure filled lighting and vibrant color combinations were the right conditions to slay through half a dozen songs.

Die Antwoord, the Cape Town, South African futuristic rap crew, made a highly anticipated appearances at the festival. The trio, consisting of Ninja (Watkin Tudor “Waddy” Jones), Yo-Landi Vi$$er, and DJ Hi-Tek, shocked the audience with their coordinated dress, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and their seemingly foreign sense of culture. One minute into their first song, “Enter The Ninja”, the DJ cut the music and Ninja made it a point to tell the sound technician that he couldn’t hear enough of himself in his monitor. All sound issues aside, the trio went through several outfit changes and even had the opportunity to teach the crowd a few hometown profanities.

M.I.A., the Sri Lankan electro dance queen, graphic artist and concert curator, took her time coming onto the stage late in the evening. Like Die Antwoord, M.I.A. was all set to deliver a controversial set to a very energetic and fully warmed up audience. The set started and a dozen dancers in burkas rushed out and grabbed neon power drills and began ‘firing’ at the audience. M.I.A., not in a burka, but rather in a romper, waltzed out. After several songs, the general consensus was that the performance was underwhelming – there was very minimal dancing on her part, indecipherable lyrics and an even more indecipherable beat. Although the performance was still high energy, Rye Rye, Die Antword, Skream & Benga, and Sleigh Bells upped the ante, one after the other, after the other.

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