HARD Fest on M.I.A.’s Free New York Show: “We Don’t Really Want to Be Involved”


M.I.A.’s July HARD Fest imbroglio has now been well documented: the rain and poor sound that torpedoed her set; the ensuing argument over who had failed who; M.I.A.’s subsequent promise to make it up to all those who had been there with a free show in New York; a recent tour announcement that included no such free show; another assurance that it would happen; and, finally, a bewildering caveat — the United States would have to let her mother back in the country before it did. Throughout the whole back and forth, her partners in the original endeavor — the organizers of HARD Fest — had been oddly quiet. That changed last week, as they began retweeting a steady stream of vitriol directed at M.I.A. What’s going on between the two camps? We called up HARD Fest owner and organizer Gary Richards and asked.

Had you guys been consulted when M.I.A. announced her make up show?

No. I read about it online. It was kind of interesting to me — it would’ve been nice if someone mentioned something about it to me. But no, I didn’t really know much about it.

Any word since?

Nothing. I’ve heard a lot from fans that were pissed off about the show, and who were unhappy with her performance or lack of performance or whatever you want to call it — I didn’t really see too much of it because I was doing a lot of work. But we did an eight-hour event, and for seven hours of the event, we ran it — our sound, our lights, our video, everything that we do, and the show was awesome. And then that last hour, we turned it over to her and whatever unfolded unfolded. So then I heard a lot of rumblings about what had happened with her thing, and then the next thing I know, she’s saying she’s going to do a free show for everyone who went to HARD. So I was like, “Well, eventually someone will tell me about it,” since I was the guy who sold all the tickets to everybody. That’s pretty much as much as I’d known about it until what’s happened in the last few days.

And would you try to make the show happen with her at this point, if she actually was willing and actually did reach out?

I mean, you know, I’m a good guy, I’m always willing to help out. I just kind of — for me personally, and for my company — we’ve moved on from the whole M.I.A. deal. We have our big Halloween show with Underworld and Boys Noize and Bloody Beetroots coming up. And you know, the M.I.A. thing was kind of a weird thing for us — we’ve always loved M.I.A., and I’ve never promoted anything harder in my life than her event, in L.A. and New York, and it just didn’t really turn out the way I had hoped it to. We’ve just kind of moved on. And I don’t know how many more events we really want to be doing with her.

I noticed that late last week you guys started retweeting some pretty angry things people were saying about M.I.A. on the HARD Twitter account.

Well what happened was that I’ve been getting a lot of people that want their money back from the HARD NYC event, you know, there’s a whole big problem with the HARD L.A. event, people want their money — and I’m just trying my best to keep my fans happy. And then I started seeing all these things on Twitter about her booking a New York show. So all these people were twittering at HARD Fest, hitting us up asking, “What is up with M.I.A.’s free show?” Because now she’s playing New York again, and she’s charging money. So then I guess someone retweeted what someone had said, and she wrote back about her mom coming into the country. I have no idea what one has to do with the other. I don’t really want to get into beef with her over this. I just don’t want to have any more of my customers, or people that are fans of HARD, be disappointed or get sent the wrong message because of something that M.I.A. is doing. We’ve never had a problem like this with anyone that we’ve ever worked with. You know? Every artist that we’ve ever booked has delivered the goods, they’ve come through on everything, and they’ve been nothing but a pleasure to work with. And this whole thing has just been crazy.

So it sounds like even if she were to try and have that free show at this point you guys would want nothing to do with it.

Yeah, I mean, if she wants to have a free show, go have a free show — have fun. If she wants the names of the people who bought tickets so they can get in free, I’ll give her a list, and she can let all those people in for free — it was over 10,000 people — and have at it, you know? But yeah, we don’t really want to be involved.

I mean, we just did a tour of the whole country with Crystal Castles and Rusko and me and Sinden. Like I said — since I started HARD, we’ve never had a problem with any artist we’ve ever worked with. Everyone we’ve worked with has been amazing. We’ve never had a poor performance or anything like that. And of all people, you would think, M.I.A. — she’s supposed to be the top of our kind of music, you know? And to have all this craziness, I don’t understand. I’m just trying to be a good soldier and move electronic music forward in 2010, and I thought she’d be helping, you know?

It certainly seems like it’s been a rough year for her.

It’s just sad, because she has so much potential. And if she put it all together the right way, it could be a home run. But it seems like she just keeps hitting foul balls.