HARD FEST HITS THE ROAD

8 Apr

An electronic music festival pushed to the edge of financial calamity is doubling down with a 12-city tour through the U.S. Canadian electronic act Crystal Castles is headlining the tour in support of their new album.

“I’ve been trying to figure out how to take this thing on the road and this is our first jump in that direction,” said the former electronic music A&R executive, turned Rick Rubin protégé, turned DJ, turned promoter.

Created in 2007, the Hard Music Festival series enjoyed an impressive run as a premier destination for the world’s top electronic music performers. Hard’s first event was on New Year’s Eve in 2007, drawing over 10,000 fans to downtown LA.

“It wasn’t that well organized because I had no idea what I was doing. It was baptism by fire,” he said. “Trying to shut down four city streets in LA with 10,000 people is actually very difficult. That’s where I learned to start small and build up bigger. For the first one, I think I was a little over ambitious.”

Through 2008 and most of 2009, Hard began to build a name for itself with its over-the-top raves/dance parties and premier electronic dance artists, including a sellout event in 2008 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Not all events have been a success. The Los Angeles Police Department shut down Hard’s biggest event, an Aug. 9 concert at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., over concerns about poor security and potential safety hazards. Guests were apparently jumping from the upper bowl into the lower bowl in an attempt to circumvent security, and some fans reportedly booed and threw bottles as they were forced to leave. Richards said he lost nearly $1 million on that event, after he refunded the 16,500 ticket holders while still having to fork over the artist’s costs.

“I could have had the bands come to my house to play and gotten more out of it,” he said.

Richards was able to mount a recovery by late October for his annual Hard Haunted Mansion at the Shrine in Los Angeles. In March, Hard held a lowkey test run at Club Nokia in downtown L.A. for a new club-level event. The event sold out 2,355 seats with a low-priced ticket at $13 and a high priced ticket at $35, netting a modest $70,015.

For the upcoming 12-city tour, Richards said he’s booking clubs like the Ogden Theater in Denver; Stubbs in Austin, Texas; the House of Blues in Boston; and the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. Tom Windish from the Windish Agency is booking agent for the tour, and Richards said he’s working with a number of national and regional promoters to four-wall and co-promote the show. Tickets will sell between $25-$60 at venues fluctuating between 1,500-5,000 capacity.

The tour opens at Oakland’s Fox Theater, but quickly moves to Los Angeles for an all day, outdoor festival at the Los Angeles State Historic Park. The tour’s Aug. 21 date at Terminal 5 is expected to be the second biggest draw and is being promoted with the help of NYC independents The Bowery Presents.

Richards also has plans for an LA and a New York show with Sri Lankin rapper M.I.A., an indie superstar who has been largely absent from live music since her headlining appearance at Coachella in Indio, Calif. In October, Richards said he will once again host the Hard Haunted Mansion in Los Angeles, although the talent or location has yet to be announced.

“I decided to take Hard on tour because I was getting a lot of response on the Internet and from my recent visit to South by Southwest that other markets were interested in the show,” he said. “And I plan to solely promote the tour over the Internet, and through Facebook and Twitter. That’s where my audience gets all of its information on live music.” — Dave Brooks

Interviewed for this article: Gary Richards, (323) 308-1818

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