A Family Affair: The Mad Decent Block Party Experience
Touching down upon the Empire state August 9th, Diplo and Friends took to the stage of MCU Park and unleashed the magic that is the Mad Decent Block Party upon a group of dedicated followers. While many traveling festivals do their best to stack their lineups and provide shows that can be replicated nowhere else, they tend to fail, as the loyalty and interest of artists to these events is rather low. However, with a ticket in hand and no kandi on arms, fans of the Mad Decent way landed in the baseball stadium turned concert venue to experience a truly special day.
The event’s production was remarkable: simple stages and lighting setups designed by RedBull stole attention on the main stage while the beautiful sound quality rung out clearly throughout the stadium. As I stood in the photo pit, I witnessed countless trays of free water bottles passed out by security guards to whoever requested them, keeping fans hydrated and energized, valuing safety over price gouging – though word says that beverage distribution was severely lacking towards the back of the floor. While many feared that the transplant of the “block party” into a stadium-sized venue would result in a loss of the event’s intended atmosphere, Diplo brought a sizable crew with him on stage that imitated the original block party camaraderie, and that same sizable group remained on stage for the rest of the performance.
When I sat down with Dillon Francis in April, his description of the Mad Decent Block Party was very family-centric. “Those are almost, to me, like they’re in LA. The camaraderie with the Mad Decent crew is a lot of fun, and also the fans are really responsive and happy that they’re part of the Mad Decent thing. It’s more of like a family-oriented type of – I mean it’s a block party, it’s not a festival.” From Big Gigantic to DJ Snake, every act that took the stage made a reference to that very family-related sentiment. “This is a family affair,” Josh from Flosstradamus yells into the microphone during the Dillstradamus closer, following up a short talk that Diplo gave earlier thanking fans for coming out. “I want to thank you for being so respectful to each other and being safe,” Diplo stated in a rare moment of seriousness from the superstar, “I want to do this every year.”
So do we. When all is said and done and technicalities are out of the way, it simply comes down to music – and that is where the Mad Decent Block Party excels. While the individual lineups differ from each other, the Mad Decent family is always at the center of the celebration. Invited out to join Diplo for the Brooklyn show were Dillon Francis, Flosstradamus, Big Gigantic, DJ Snake, Walshy Fire, and Grandtheft, with Vic Mensa playing a supporting role and getting the crowd going before the headliners took to the stage.
The majority of the crowd has worked its way past the long security line by the time DJ Snake took to the stage, loosening up the stiff party-goers to a collection of hip-hop and trap, with a fresh dose of big room dropped in to the mix. The set picked up and the crowd got involved when the Parisian 808 slinger dropped popular tracks like “Dirty Vibe” and “Turn Down for What” in the mix, giving early indication that the largest Mad Decent Block Party crowd to date was certainly well in tune with the mainstream offerings of Diplo’s associated acts. After hitting the show’s first climax with Dillon Francis collaboration “Get Low,” and the variation in production of the track often known to fans of Francis as “The Rebirth,” DJ Snake extended an offer to New York’s own French Montana to hop on stage and lay some bars to change the electro-dominated aesthetic.
Next up, Dillon Francis took to the stage and wasted no time picking up where DJ Snake left off, keeping the high-energy songs rolling. Dillon touched on his collaboration with Major Lazer entitled “Make it Bounce” and his collaboration with TJR “What’s That Spell,” which will both be on his forthcoming debut album, Money Sucks, Friends Rule.
As the crowd reached a new level of excitement, the crowd began to rush from the bowl to the floor, pushing floor ticket holders forward.. Quickly, Dillon reminded block party attendees “If we can keep calm and keep partying without rushing the stage, that would be fantastic and I would love you forever.” With these words, the crowd was able to take a breather, security guards eased up and let some of the bowl crowd spill onto the field, and the party continued without interruption.
Dillon continued his set with multiple tracks from his album, including “I Can’t Take It” and “Not Butter,” along with tunes from his Mothership Tour buddies with Milo & Otis’ “Ratchet Bitch,” Skrillex’s “Bangarang,” and Killagraham’s “Ice Cream Anthem VIP.” A day with Dillon wouldn’t be complete without references to his various social media characters, so Dillon gave a shoutout to the famously deep DJ Hansel during his set before playing out his collaboration with his best buds Jack U.
With a solid amount of womps, bleeps, and bloops piercing the ears of MCU Park attendees, the frantic stage change following Dillon’s set for Dom and Jeremy of Big Gigantic was a welcome shift in tempo. As a large drum kit was placed to the side of the decks, the Rowdy Town hosts turned Coney Island into Colorado’s Red Rocks for 50 minutes, gliding flawlessly through their own productions and favorite hits. Starting with 2012 jam “Let’s Go,” the set combined the best of Jeremy’s drum work and Dom’s sax skills to put instrumental talent on display at the generally electronic-dominated block party.
While Big Gigantic’s reign is inescapable in many areas of the country, New York has been slow to warm up to the implementation of such musical work into the mainstream electronic productions they adore. However, with a wonderful bootleg of What So Not’s productions “Jaguar” and RL Grime collaboration “Tell Me,” Dom and Jeremy grabbed the crowd and did not let go until the completion of their performance. Knife Party’s “Bonfire” with the saxophone harmonies sent the crowd into a frenzy, and the collective excitement contained within MCU Park burst through as Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us” closed out the set, accompanied by the boys of Big G.
Coming out with Jack U vocal drops blasting through the stadium, Diplo appeared excited to translate the theme of the concert to the extended Mad Decent family – concert attendees. It became clear as all billed world-class DJs stood in direct eyesight on stage: it’s not a festival, it’s a party. With Diplo appeared a large group of friends, ready to watch the man that put the whole event together provide a boss-level set.
Jumping immediately into his very own famed “Earthquake,” Diplo cleared the high priority tunes out of the way early. The artist proceeded to hop on the microphone and share “whole Major Lazer crew on stage right now” as Walshy Fire appeared rocking a custom FC Barcelona jersey. (Walshy, I need that jersey) As recently revealed in his AMA, Major Lazer includes a wide and eclectic variety of people, but the party was mainly lead by Walshy and Wes.
Jumping into “Bumaye” and declaring his presence, Walshy served as hype man as Diplo drove the decks in the direction the party craved. Proceeding into the Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike remix of the same tune, the two DJs found the crowd with a big room sound, and dipped into recent Botnek and 3LAU collaboration “Vikings.” With a surprise Kiesza appearance, Diplo announced they’d be performing the new Jack U song, and the crowd erupted with raw energy. With every mention of the pair, the Mad Decent followers found a dream: new Jack U with Major Lazer on stage. It’s the Mad Decent heaven Diplo wants you to have.
With a short glance at each other, Diplo and Walshy affirmed that it was time to proceed and take their performance to new heights. Two bootlegs, with Martin Garrix’s “Animals” and GTA’s “The Crowd,” and one that sent Miami into a frenzy during Jack U’s Ultra set, “Revolution” into “I Can’t Stop,” had the ground shaking – literally – as the two performers stood proudly on stage. Getting back to the 808 roots of his sound, Pentz took the mood towards the hip-hop side of the electronic span, hitting on Kendrick Lamar’s “M.A.A.D City” and paying homage to New York’s latest rapper to break, Bobby Shmurda. The tone was set for what was next.
As the lights dropped and a warning sign appeared on screen, two black and white American flags with the same sign appearing in place of stars cross paths in front of the DJ booth. A short intro played with summer smash “We Dem Boys,” which dropped briliantly into Flosstradamus’ own “Drop Top” once Curt takes the CDJs. Josh hyped the crowd as an exceptionally urban-focused set hit on the most hip-hop elements of their sound, including an appearance from friends MikeWiLLMadeIt on stage for “Move That Dough” and rapping duo Rae Sremmurd for a wild “No Flex Zone.”
Classic Floss staples were scattered amongst productions by fellow urban producers, highlighted by a variation in production of their breakout “Original Don” remix between Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love” and a tune from partner-in-crime Jay. The Flosstradamus warning symbol plays a major part in their performances, from the concert visuals to fans sporting it in all forms, and it created a unique and memorable brand. Flosstradamus’ appeal is immediately noticeable from the moment they take the stage, and their live show is nothing short of incredibly fun. Electric in the truest sense of the word.
An unannounced performance was to close the show, and Dillon Francis didn’t skip a beat to get up on stage to reveal that the Brooklyn attendees would get a rare show from Dillstradamus. Curt continued to control the CDJs while Dillon and Josh stirred up energy from a tired yet persistent crowd.
The performance’s shining moments all compiled towards the set’s finish, as “Mosh Pit” flawlessly worked into Jay Z’s “Tom Ford.” “Rebound” a brand new release from the duo, closed the set on a soft and soothing note. That is before the three artists retook the stage for an encore, “Roll Up” began, and Dillon declared that the song was for his dad. Can you get more Mad Decent?
If your ideal night out involves a room with 49 other people and a DJ spinning abstract noises, keep your money – this isn’t your spot. If you want to kick back, meet up with a few friends, and party to the sounds of the hottest DJs in the world, the cheap ticket price is worth every penny. The Mad Decent Block Party is simply fun. Go.