Article by: Corey Fox
2021 was a year on the mend, and also it was a year of intense spiritual healing. But mostly it was the year that I found myself muttering “wtf,” as I glared back at my disheveled appearance in the mirror with a months-late, unkempt haircut and a charmingly indifferent, semi-permanent, grimace resting mischievously behind my mask-covered face. It was a time where everyone on the planet was in recovery mode, albeit not from a long weekend of dancing and headbanging, but from the traumas induced by our archenemy, the infectious “Covid 19,” which unfortunately has affected us all in one way or another.
We saw people online spend time arguing about vaccinations, and we also saw a large percentage of the workforce go home for good – either banished to their home offices as they transitioned from an onsite workflow to a remote position, or even worse; exiled to the unemployment line to find a new occupation. On the upside, we also got to see our esteemed EDM community bounce back from the gulag with a fervor!
Gone the way of extinction are the Twitch livestreams and the superbly ambitious rave-a-thons of yesteryear, and honestly, let's give a huge shout out to the organizers for bringing a taste of festival life into our living rooms. But as time went on, and those temporary closings soon became grand re-openings, the industry struggled to find its footing in America, state to state, as DJs and artists navigated their way through the choppy swells of stay at home orders, indefinitely closed theaters, and widely canceled club appearances spanning across the globe in 2020.
This year, however, became our industry’s rally cry, a fight to the death if you will, and nothing short of a Herculean task to keep the live music industry alive and thriving during a time when we were mandated to stay six feet apart. And then miraculously, after a multitude of cancellations and event postponements, American venues reopened and we were finally reunited together under the electric sky. Although sadly, I had to push my EDC appearance back to 2022 due to some scheduling conflicts, I was able to hastily drag my ramshackled remains to a bevy of festivals, day trip events, and assorted club appearances across the Southern Los Angeles area. We are back, baby! Let’s dive in.
Nocturnal Wonderland: A weekend of art, camping, and music. A magical countryside event which takes place at the one-of-a-kind Glen Helen Regional Park. Practically overnight, it’s become my favorite venue for a festival, not to mention, it’s one of the most beautiful locations I’ve seen since my big move to California. The weather was perfect, the vibes were “ayy lmao” and the sets were extraordinary. The mountainous range behind the stages provided a story-book backdrop to some of the most epic performances this side of the Mississippi. It was a line up to remember with the likes of Matroda, Dr. Fresch, AC Slater, and Malaa – all contributing to the concerted effort of captivating the audience with resounding brilliance.
Next up were some of the assorted club appearances that will always hold a special place in my heart. There is nothing quite like catching one of your favorite artists in a small space with a crowded collective of like-minded individuals and fellow fanatics. And if you happen to be in the Hollywood neighborhood, Academy is surely one of the best spots to go. Over the years, it has become one of my favorite spots in LA to see some of the biggest DJs in the industry.
This year, to open arms and a thunderous applause, Academy reopened to packed crowds with no shortage of spectacularly wavy tunes. Just this past season alone, I was able to catch Bijou, DJ DIESEL aka Shaq, Volac, Marten Horger, and again, Malaa himself, for one of the most memorable nights I’ve attended at Academy thus far. I was also able to catch Matroda during his Day Trip set on the patio of the club and indulge myself in some of their world famous fishbowl margaritas. Besides the night club Academy, I was also able to see Ghastly, and of course Matroda, just “one more time,” at the club Time in Costa Mesa, as he wrapped up the American stops on his Jack the House Tour.
And now, onward to HARD Summer!
HARD ‘21 was my first time being amongst a crowd of thousands since the pre-pandemic Audiotistic festival back in December 2019. Naturally, there were some reservations, and some slight water related issues as you can see here, but I did make sure to bring plenty of hand sanitizer. Overall, I must say the experience was borderline religious. The last year-and-a-half prior to this event was overwhelming to everyone: from the constant fears, the never-ending assault of “breaking news” banners flashing across our screens, to the rapidly rising death rates with no end in sight, it was truly a situation that no one on the planet was prepared to deal with. But being there, lost amongst a crowd of thousands, on a warm sunny evening with the bass music blasting, was exactly where I needed to be.
I got to see some stellar artists at HARD; some were familiar faces and others were up-and-coming DJs thrown into the mix. My personal favorite artist, Malaa, went b2b with fellow Frenchman DJ Snake for another once-in-a-lifetime performance that shook the surface of Earth. But the coup de grâce, the pièce de résistance, and my favorite moment of this year thus far, was when Dillon Francis, (the man, the myth, the unicorn himself), mid-way through his set, cut to silence and faded stoically into a familiar riff. A piercing, piano string-plucking anthem besieged our nostalgia with a crescendo of keystrokes. And then, a familiar voice echoed throughout the valley:
The entire crowd began singing along, and might I add, there was no excuse for a lack of participation since the words were projected onto the monitors behind him. Even the unhip and the conservatively unfamiliar were stricken down by the melancholy-epicness of it all. With one press of a button, Dillon entranced an entire crowd of thousands with an emo stadium-anthem that could make even the coldest of hearts shed a thug’s tear. And it was here that we found ourselves, somewhere in the desert between Los Angeles and Barstow, screaming back at the main stage that we would “carry on.” A liberated group of formerly sheltered “quarantiners” experienced a simultaneous release of emotion in group therapy that we may never experience again in our entire lives. It was a treasured sight to behold.
And that just about wraps up my 2021. There were ups, and of course downs, and there were highs, and last but not least lows, but most importantly of all, there was a grandiose revitalization of the industry that I love, which thrusted us into a familiar sense of normalcy. A staggered return to form that at one point in the past, almost felt like an unreachable pipe dream, as we watched some of our favorite local venues go out-of-business for good. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, like seeing a live performance, and I think now we can appreciate that more than ever. Our journey back from the dark side of the moon was a turbulent one, and I hope to see you all someday soon, perhaps at the main stage, or at the very least, raging in 2022 and beyond! Peace and love.