When I arrived at the first annual summer Hardfest--last Saturday's electrorockin' all-night dance party taking over two carney-crafted stages in downtown Los Angeles--I felt like I'd stepped onto the set of an American Apparel ad shoot. A set I was unable to escape.
All around me were sweaty hotties and taut teenage bodies, all sheathed in "Let's Get Physical" danceteria wear (superfluous across-the-forehead sweatbands, liquid-lamé leggings, Kanye-inspired shuttershades, Lycra short-shorts, lobe-slitting bamboo earrings, etc.), all trying to look very, very fierce. I'm talking Christian Siriano-fierce.
Many of these trying-hard Hardfesters were succeeding in their survival-of-the-fiercest mission, too...although that aggressive groupie gaggle of neon-attired, rhinestone-Sidekick-thumbing MySpace cadets who repeatedly, futilely, and super-annoyingly attempted to convince hardheaded Hardfest security guards that they "like, totally knew" someone in participating acts the Bloody Beetroots or MSTRKRFT--and therefore, like, should totally be granted some sort of all-access pass--apparently weren't fierce enough to get past the barricade.
Come to think of it, Hardfest also looked like the set of N.E.R.D.'s coke-dusted "Everyone Nose" video (watch it HERE), minus the Lindsay Lohan cameo. Lindsay is probably bummed she missed out, though. (Maybe she was standing in the line for the bathroom? Oh, just kidding, I don't think L.Lo was really there; it was just a bunch of L.Lo clonettes.) Because Hardfest headliners N.E.R.D. ("the best band on the planet" according to, um, one of the guys in N.E.R.D.) put on an awesomely intense show.
The fluorescent festival throng absolutely erupted when N.E.R.D. hit the main stage about a half-hour past midnight (and about a half-hour past their advertised set time...but so what, this was an all-night dancefest; no one had anywhere else to go or anywhere else they would've rather been). And the band definitely lived up to their "Rock Star" song title.
Pharrell Williams waggled his crotch like a seasoned lapdancer during "Lapdance"; simulated car-coitus moves during "Backseat Love"; yanked a bunch of bootyshorted babes onstage for "She Wants To Move" (all of whom rumpshaked so skillfully, I suspected they were professional pole-dancing plants); and even did a little "She Wants To Move" mashup featuring the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" to please what he called the "N.E.R.D Army" this evening.
And the N.E.R.D. Army certainly heeded their charismatic, stage-stomping leader's almost dictator-like command during "Spaz"--for which they did just that, spazzing out in an insta-moshpit that Pharrell suggested they create on cue.
It was a supersexed-up show (the band convinced the crowd to chant, "I wanna f**k tonight," for instance), so even though Hardfest Summer was already pretty steamy before N.E.R.D. played, it was a flat-out sweatfest by the time N.E.R.D. left the perspiration-slicked stage.
But N.E.R.D.'s warmup act, filthy-mouthed smut-peddler Spank Rock, certainly heated things up enough for Pharrell and his posse. Spank Rock was dorkily attired like Dwayne Wayne from A Different World (with a little bit of Erkel mixed in), but this dude hit the Hardfest hard, with all the loverman swagger of a pre-religious-conversion Prince or an "Untitled"-era D'Angelo, spitting out genital-obsessed rhymes so raunchy they'd make Luke from 2 Live Crew blanch (and rhymes waaaay too X-rated to reprint on a nice, family-friendly site like Yahoo! Music, of course).
The Spankman was also joined for several songs by equally oversexed miss rap supreme Amanda Blank (of Philly performance-art collective Sweatheart; best known for her cameo on Britney Spears's "Gimme More" remix) and a Grace Jones-coiffed, Phantom-masked dancer introduced only as "Natalie"--both dripping in metallic gold silk, chainmail, and Mardi Gras beadage like dancers from Prince's "Diamonds & Pearls"/"Cream" era, and both shimmying Tina Turner-style on legs so impossibly toned and coltish, it was obvious to me that these Hardfest hotties actually put their Flashdance-wear to good use on a regular basis. As in, these laydeez had the gams of compulsive jazzercisers who work out 18 hours a day. And they gave that stage a real workout, for sure.
It should be noted that Amanda's cover of LL Cool J's "I Need Love" was one of the coolest moments of night--and an unexpected respite from all the porno-pop of the rest of the fest.
Toronto tecnhoheads MSTRKRFT (pronounced "Mastercraft"), aka Jesse F. Keeler of Death From Above 1979 and Al-P of Girlsareshort, kept the wee-hour party going with a galvanizing DJ set that was basically like a shot of audio Red Bull, Hi-NRG and high-BPM enough to amp up even those all-night-ravers who hadn't partaken of the fine-milled substance ever-so-subtly referred to in N.E.R.D.'s aforementioned partystarter "Everyone Nose." And so the Hardfesters raged hard into that good summer night, glowing brightly until the last drop of neon mystery fluid in their glowsticks had burned out.