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Many flavors of hip feed the Hard fest

Los Angeles Times
July 17, 2008
By -- Dennis Romero

ON NEW YEAR'S Day of 1993, fans of cutting-edge music could have done worse than hanging out with Gary Richards on his 22nd birthday as he rode a roller coaster high above Knott's Berry Farm. Richards was throwing a party for himself, but more important, he was pulling rave culture and techno music out of illicit warehouses and injecting it into the concert-going mainstream, drawing a crowd 17,000 strong to his K-Rave '93 at the Orange County amusement park.

Of course, the rest is history: Rave grew up, DJs such as Paul Oakenfold went on to score Hollywood movies, and fans of the music would one day be sipping wine at the Hollywood Bowl as Underworld performed.

Some of the gentrified dance music events in town now are downright geezerly, which brings up the questions: Where are all the new kids? And what are they listening to?

Enter a familiar face, Richards, now 37, who says he's as thrilled as ever about new music and the promise of the night. Richards thinks he has tapped into a new generation of dance music fans with his Hard Summer Festival, Saturday's seven-hour party that features a mini-skate park and a wide array of hipster, hip-hop and nu-electro acts. It's an entertainment formula aimed directly at those neon punks in American Apparel.

"I went to Venice Beach recently and I was promoting, passing out fliers," says Richards, owner of Nitrus Records. "I'm just scanning and I see the one kid with the purple hat and white pants, and I go, that's my guy! It's a whole new batch. These are not rave kids. I think we're at the beginning of something that's just getting started."

That something is hard to define, except to say that, at least at the Hard Summer Festival, it includes skater hip-hop (N.E.R.D.); electro-tinged spinners (MSTRKRFT); mischievous electro-rap (Spank Rock, Kid Sister); and eclectic DJs (A-Trak, Steve Aoki). "Younger crowds seem to demand -- and appreciate -- a little bit of everything," says DJ Paul V., host of Saturday night's "Neon Noise" on Indie 103.1 (KDLD-FM). "We're witnessing the zeitgeist of the iPod generation."

"The lines between genres and scenes have been blurred so much," adds veteran concert promoter Phil Blaine of Goldenvoice. "I love it."

The event, part of a series of Hard festivals that includes Halloween and New Year's Eve parties, is expected to be the epicenter of L.A.'s burgeoning neon punk community, where acts such as L.A. Riots, Guns 'N' Bombs, Ima Robot and Casxio are mixing turntables, guitars and synthesizers and making this the nation's capital of cool kids.

Still, it's not all shiny and new. Richards finds himself enlisting friends from the rave era, such as KCRW-FM tastemaker Jason Bentley, who's also on the bill. "If I was some new guy on the scene, I would never be able to do it," Richards says. "I'm able to do this because I laid down all these roots."

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Dennis Romero

Dennis Romero is a Southern California journalist who has covered popular culture, youth culture, raves, ecstasy, marijuana, electronic dance music, surfing, the housing crisis, wealth disparity, crime and other topics extensively in the span of 25 years. He participated in the Los Angeles Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the L.A. riots.

Before joining NBCNews.com in 2018 as daily contributor he worked as a 40-stories-per-month staffer at LA Weekly. He's also been a recent contributor to the op-ed pages of the Los Angeles Times. His work as also appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and the Guardian. He's been on the feature writing staffs of the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Emmis Publishing's Ciudad magazine. He's appeared on CNN, Investigation Discovery and Reelz multiple times to speak about stories he's covered. He's participated in panel discussions organized by Zocalo Public Square, the National Hispanic Media Coa…

Gangster's Paradise Lost

LA CityBeat
Nov. 6, 2003
By Dennis Romero
Cover photo by Steve Appleford Losing the mural, it seems, was a sign of the times. In 2002, when the city renovated the recreation center at Stoner Park in West L.A., the last remnants of the Westside's Latino gang culture were told that the building's big Chicano-era mural would be temporarily removed to accommodate construction, but then returned. The big tableaux from the side of the building was an homage to the Mexican flavor of the neighborhood, and a point of homeboy pride.
But when Mayor James K. Hahn presided over ribbon-cutting ceremonies celebrating the completed makeover last summer, the mural was absent, and the homies still haven't seen it. (A council district field deputy who keeps his eye on parks in the area said he has no idea what happened to the artwork.) Today, a few survivors of the Sotel 13 gang, which has claimed the park since the early 1950s, still congregate at the rec center each weekday at 3 p.m. – lik…

News & Features

Journalism for NBC News, the Washington Post and more:
Elon Musk doubles down on a subterranean dream (NBC News, Nov. 29, 2018)
Migrants met with fear, disdain in Tijuana, Mexico (NBC News, Nov. 17, 2018)
A Chicano renaissance? (NBC News, July 15, 2018)
A comedian’s Cholofit videos spoof gentrification (Washington Post, April 6, 2018)
Visiting Friendship Park in the Trump era (California Sunday Magazine, March 29, 2018)
Will Marijuana Legalization Benefit People of Color? (LA Weekly cover, Oct., 2016)
Strider Wasilewski is the Dogtown Surf Hero You've Never Heard Of (LA Weekly cover, July, 2015)
How Hollywood Keeps Minorities Out (LA Weekly cover, Feb., 2015)
How Pasquale Rotella Built His Rave Empire (LA Weekly cover, Sept., 2013)
Koreatown: America's Hippest Neighborhood (LA Weekly cover, Nov., 2012).

Pop music coverage:
Gary Richards Splits With Live Nation (LA Weekly, Aug., 2017)
Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper and Co. Raise Dead (Rolling Stone, Sept. 2015)
Steve Aoki: The Neon Punk of EDM (L…