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Hard Summer concert in downtown L.A. on Saturday night: The safest place on Earth?

August 9, 2010 | 12:04 pm

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There was perhaps no more secure place to be on Earth on Saturday night than at L.A. State Historic Park in downtown Los Angeles. The 32-acre plot was occupied by Hard Summer, an electronic music festival that gathered two dozen acts over the course of 12 hours, from noon to midnight.

Even before arriving at the location, at 1245 N. Spring St., just east of Chinatown, the police presence was impressive. As party-goers -- many of whom had unloaded from the Chinatown stop of the Metro Gold Line a few hundred yards away -- approached along Spring, security guards and police officers checked each pedestrian for a ticket. Police cars and motorcycle patrolers were parked along Spring, as well as at each intersection in a four-block succession, watching the line of attendees slowly creeping toward the front gate, where security guards were performing full-body pat downs. On North Broadway to the west, cruisers perched above on a hill protected the park's western periphery.

Hard promoter Gary Richards confirmed a heavy security presence, saying that officers from the LAPD, the California Highway Patrol and the L.A. County Sheriff's Office, plus state rangers and hired security were represented. Combined, Richards estimated that approximately 450 officers and security personnel were on hand. Initial attendance figures, added Richards, were "over 10,000."

According to the LAPD, four arrests were made over the course of the festival; all were for narcotics violations.

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The low arrest tally stands to reason. The park was bordered by two rows of what looked to be eight-foot fencing, with a gap of perhaps 10 yards between each row. In this sort of demilitarized zone patrolled yellow-shirted security guards; their job was to intercept would-be gatecrashers who'd scaled the first row of fencing and catch him (or her, but mostly him) before he could scale the second line of defense. (It was a little like the neighborhood game capture the flag.)

The main gate felt like airport security in the months after 9/11. Attendees had to remove their shoes, hats and jackets, and purses were thoroughly examined. No backpacks, open water bottles or cigarette packs were allowed.

Once cleared for take-off (finally!), party-goers entered the state park and finally got an opportunity to actually see the greenery, the stages and the food trucks. Two stages lined back-to-back pumped out beats while party-goers danced, lounged on one of the many small hills that offered unfettered views of the main stage. Overhead, a police helicopter flew by once every 15 minutes or so to make sure that festival-goers hadn't splintered into factions to begin battle. Officers with German shepherds patrolled the grounds, as did foot police, medics, the occasional park ranger and Hard-hired security.

But rioting and looting, of course, were the farthest thing from attendees' minds. Rather, this was a dance party, and over the course of the day and night the most violent thing that seemed to occur was the body movements propelled by the heavy duty bass and four-on-the-floor stomp. Chicago house producer Green Velvet rolled through his hits -- including "La La Land" and "Percolator," as well as a remix of Plastikman's classic snare breakdown "Spastik." On the other stage, British dubstep innovators Benga and Skream rumbled with heavy stutter-step rhythms. Producer Diplo offered a beefy-thick mix of Brazilian baile funk and bass-heavy hip-hop mash-ups. Later, he took the stage with his Jamaica-inspired funk outfit Major Lazer. (I actually left just prior to Major Lazer's set.)

As we were leaving, the police presence was even more defined. Though most festival-goers were safe inside, authorities continued to be parked along Spring; near the Chinatown Gold Line stop, a massive SWAT armored vehicle protected late-comers from any potential threat, and a row of officers prohibited anyone headed north on Spring from passing through without a ticket.

On Monday morning, promoter Richards, who was headed to Denver for a sold-out Hard event, was happy with the way things went, and said he felt like "an 800-pound weight had been lifted off my shoulders," adding that the success and lack of problems proved that the L.A. State Historic Park is a good location for his events. "This proves that we can do these types of events at this park and be safe about it. Thanks to the LAPD and our security team, we did this event without any problems."

-- Randall Roberts

Top photo: Four concertgoers are escorted to the end of the line after attempting to sneak to the front. Bottom photo: LAPD officers parked along Spring Street during Hard Summer. Credits: Randall Roberts / Los Angeles Times

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