The Chemical Brothers melt faces at The Armory for the premiere of HARD SF

HARD SF - The Chemical BrothersPhotos by Justin Yee // Written by Molly Kish //

HARD SF featuring The Chemical Brothers, Claude VonStroke & J.Phlip //
The Armory – San Francisco
July 30th, 2015 //

During this time of the year, Bay Area residents are inundated with opportunities to catch some of the best musical talent filtering through their local venues, awarding those fortunate to acquire tickets the chance to see some of the circuit’s top headliners as they pass through town amid their summer festival appearances.

However, one of the most anticipated artists playing on the main stage at several top EDM festivals throughout Europe, Asia and the United States wasn’t slated to perform anywhere near the Bay Area — that is until HARD Presents decided to book an extremely rare, quintessentially “San Francisco” performance by The Chemical Brothers at The Armory last Thursday for its Northern California debut.

HARD SF - Claude VonStroke

Claude VonStroke

The original lineup also consisted of local female DJ J.Phlip and French producer Brodinski, but due to a last-minute schedule change, the Bromance Records owner was swapped out for Dirtybird Records founder Claude VonStroke. Enthusiastic about the late addition, crowds filled the historic venue early, if not to simply get a glimpse at the 100-year-old “Porn Palace”, then at least to catch a bass-thumping, back-to-back throw down by two of the Bay Area’s finest.

Eagerly awaiting the first of only two Chemical Brothers appearances on the West Coast this summer, the audience was able to traverse the National Guard Arsenal-turned-S&M fortress. HARD, the Los Angeles-based event company founded by music executive, concert promoter and DJ Gary Richards (aka Destructo), couldn’t have picked a more ominous, fetishistic and tongue-in-cheek venue to have allured in the massive swarm of locals, either familiar or intrigued by the residence. While the dungeons were closed off and private tours were suspended for the evening, the dense aura of the Moorish castle ran deep. Especially noticeable was the lack of air conditioning and ventilation, forcing the bustling crowds to hit the amply-stocked bars before the dance-floor temperatures peaked during the sauna stages of the night.

HARD SF - The Chemical Brothers

The Chemical Brothers

After what many crowd members referred to as the “DJ Change Over” in reference to the show’s flyer image, The Chemical Brothers hit the stage full force. While the opening acts most likely kept their set to a bare minimum as far as design and lighting to not detract from the main performance, The Chemical Brothers lived up to their live-show theatrics well beyond anyone’s expectations. Known for their incredible arena-style stage shows, the electronic archetypes blew away the crowd with mind-melting imagery, hypnotic light sequencing and yes, two giant mechanical robots with laser beams shooting out of their eyes.

Directly following their dramatic entrance to a recording of Junior Parker’s epic “Tomorrow Never Knows”, the duo kicked off their career-spanning set with crowd favorite “Hey Boy, Hey Girl” from 1999’s Surrender. They launched into a full-blown frenzy from that moment on, and the UK dance legends went hard (no pun intended) throughout the rest of their two-hour performance, debuting live remixes of new material from their 2015 release Born in the Echoes while interspersing nostalgia-inducing EDM classics off their seven previous albums.

The crowd, although 18-and-over, was absent of the stereotypical amateur-level ravers who often frequent HARD events. Everyone who was there that evening came solely to immerse themselves in the overwhelming euphoria that only a veteran electronic act like The Chemical Brothers could produce, and plenty of sweaty, ecstatic dance enthusiasts had to ultimately feel like they got their money’s worth. Because in the end, amongst elated peers, adult entertainers and electronic music purists, SF most definitely went HARD on this night.

Intro: Tomorrow Never Knows (Junior Parker song)
1. Hey Boy Hey Girl
2. EML Ritual
3. Do It Again (With acapella of “Get Yourself High”)
4. Go (“Edge of Control” version)
5. Swoon
6. Star Guitar
7. Sometimes I Feel So Deserted / Chemical Beats
8. Acid Children / Setting Sun
9. Setting Sun / Out of Control / It Doesn’t Matter
10. Saturate
11. Elektrobank
12. I’ll See You There
13. Believe
14. The Sunshine Underground
15. Escape Velocity (contains snippet of “The Golden Path”)
16. Don’t Think
17. The Golden Path
18. Under the Influence
19. Galvanize (contains snippet of “Music: Response”)
20. Block Rockin’ Beats

21. The Private Psychedelic Reel (with “Sympathy for the Devil” breakdown)

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