California dance music and hip-hop music festival HARD Summer has announced its return for 2017. As shared yesterday on social media, the weekender returns August 5–6 to its most recent stomping grounds at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. The event will mark the HARD festival brand's tenth anniversary. The line-up has yet to be revealed.
The festival has come a long way from its humble 2007 beginnings as a one-day event in Los Angeles, nearly 50 miles away from its current home. Even from the start, though, the HARD brand was a tastemaker, bringing up dance acts such as Dillon Francis, Dusky, Tourist, and Gesaffelstein before they exploded on the national circuit.
However, a string of drug-related deaths at the festival in recent years have plagued the brand. In 2014, 19-year-old Emily Tran died from acute intoxication of ecstasy after attending the festival, which was being held at Whittier Narrows Recreation Area. The next year, when HARD Summer moved to the Pomona Fairplex, two teens died on the first day of the festival of drug intoxication. The incident spurred local lawmakers to propose a temporary ban on "raves" on county property, resulting in the formation of a regulatory committee, the Electronic Music Task Force. The Fairplex also stated that it would not allow dance-music events in 2016. Currently, lawsuits from two parents of the deceased are pending against HARD owner Live Nation.
Last year's festival counted three total deaths, all of which were confirmed by the coroner as being MDMA-related. It sparked another attempt to ban raves; soon after, HARD announced that it would not be holding its annual Halloween-themed event, Day of the Dead, in 2016 due to "production reasons."
As a result of these tragedies, HARD has in the last few years taken precautions to stop drug-related deaths at festivals. Working alongside the Electronic Music Task force, they implemented measures including scaling back attendance, raising the minimum attendee age from 18 to 21, adding cooling stations, increasing law enforcement and security presence, and distribution of materials warning against drug use. However, implementing measures such as drug-testing booths are nearly impossible in the US due to the R.A.V.E. Act, a 2003 bill that allows promoters to be prosecuted for "knowingly opening, maintaining,... making available for use, or profiting from any place for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance," as the presence of such services are seen as condoning illegal drug use.
Last year fellow Southern California events brand Insomniac offered on-site drug education at their Halloween festival. The booth, a partnership with harm reduction group Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), provided attendees unbiased information about drugs and mental health from trained educators.