Mad Decent graduates from Block Party to the big leagues in a two-day showcase in Brooklyn
Earlier this month, the Mad Decent family took over the Big Apple’s Brooklyn-based minor league baseball stadium for their yearly Block Party, a traveling festival that hits most of the major US electronic music markets as it makes its way across the country every summer. The Mad Decent Block Party is one of the rare few elements left in electronic music that has seen purely organic growth. Beginning as a free, local celebration outside of Diplo’s studio in Philadelphia, the label and brand heads foresaw a need to take this phenomenon outside the bounds of the City of Brotherly Love and reimagined the event as a traveling show.
Fast-forward to today, and the Mad Decent Block Party has become a quintessential music event for fans across the continent. By incorporating a wide variety of artists that reach outside the bounds of the typical Mad Decent roster, the Block Party gives many major US festivals a run for their money – figuratively and literally, seeing how low the face value of a ticket has remained.
Last year, the Block Party moved their New York location to MCU Park and issues were abundant; most notably, fans assigned “stadium” seating rushed the floor, and security essentially gave up efforts to control the massive crowd. Learning from their lesson, this year, the staff were prepared – the entire stadium was general admission, and fans could travel around the park as they pleased. Medics and security were in record number attendance with few incidents to report when asked.
The talent at the Mad Decent Block party is undeniable. Each stop packs a unique punch in its lineup, and you’d be hard pressed to find a single disappointment across the 20+ festival shows. Unfortunately, this also means that attendees can’t see every artist on the roster, and for New York that meant a lineup without Mad Decent faces we know and love like Dillon Francis, DJ Snake, and Flosstradamus.
For the New York show, Diplo brought out the likes of Gents & Jawns, 4B, Party Favor, Lunice, and Grandtheft – and that was just to get the party started. By the time the crowd reached full force on day one, Vic Mensa was stepping down from the stage following a rowdy hip-hop set. In his place, Trippy Turtle (Lido, for the uninitiated) and Cashmere Cat took the stage for what was likely to be the most sonically challenging set for the crowd to connect with. It may have taken a few minutes for the music to really hit with a trap and big-room oriented audience, but the future bass sounds of the two experimental artists grabbed the attention of stereotypically stubborn New Yorkers shockingly quickly.
Day one hit its climax with Yellow Claw climbing on stage for a set that cranked the energy up to unfathomable levels following their future bass stage predecessors, and never let up until Major Lazer stepped off the stage. Between the two acts, Tommy Trash threw down a memorable set including a “troll” for the crowd with “Turn Down For What.” Die Antwoord did exactly what Die Antwoord does best — confused everyone, and even scared some along the way.
Of course, the Mad Decent Block Party wouldn’t be what it is without the Mad Decent messiah, Diplo. Major Lazer, the closing act for the night, were up to their usual antics as they hopped in hamster balls across the crowd and dominated the stage with their impressive presence. And as if a Major Lazer performance wasn’t satisfying enough, the group brought out MØ for a live rendition of “Lean On.”
Day two started off with intensity as the early artists brought a heavy dose of trap to the stage once again. The most highly anticipated of the day-time artists, What So Not, ruled the stage with a handful of fan favorite tracks, though his set lacked a bit of flavor from the forthcoming Gemini EP, which has been advertised and toured endlessly, but has been given no release date as of yet. Gorgon City, the next scheduled act, had to cancel due to travel issues, so Vic Mensa played another set before Tyler, The Creator bombarded the stage with a wild crew of fellow Odd Future members. Though the crowd seemed to be there for the electro flavor, the neon-sporting fans might as well have been OFWGKTA diehards – the stadium went absolutely insane for the weirdo rapper.
To close the day, Knife Party took the stage with just Gareth in attendance, leaving fans wondering where legend Rob Swire could be, but the set continued with flying colors and a heavy bass assault on a crowd that endlessly begged for more. The rough and rugged synths of the tongue-in-cheek Knife Party style had what felt like the entire city praying for a Skrillex and Diplo signature Jack U set.
Skrillex and Diplo’s set was exactly what would be expected, plus a bunch of ‘surprise’ appearances. Touching on just about every track from their LP, a handful of productions from each artist’s solo catalogue, and a few edits that the two artists have long played out together, the artists played a set that spoke to their performance chemistry and knowledge of their mainstream-oriented audience. While special guest rapper CL was announced well before the show began, fans did not expect Vic Mensa (for the third time today), Kiesza, and Silento to climb upon the stage, but each did with their own swagger and handled the sizable crowd with fluency. In the end, the artists relied more heavily on star-power than musical curation to succeed, but their formula is undoubtedly effective.
The single element that Mad Decent Block Party missed was… the Block Party element. Last year in Brooklyn, the festival felt more family-and-friend oriented: masses of individuals hung back behind the DJ booth, creating a social, laid-back atmosphere. This year, the artists and their teams were nowhere to be found. Where fans hung out last year to get a word in with Diplo, Flosstradamus, Dillon Francis, and other performers, there was little to see this year, with nothing but a late-day fly-by from Mac Miller to check out the closers for day two. The unusual separation between the performers and the fans was more reminiscent of a festival than a block party.
Mad Decent Block Party is a great show, and undeniably an incredible bang for your buck. While missing some elements that helped make the traveling festival so great in the past, Mad Decent has done a great job at maintaining the grass-roots foundation of the party, even while most of their signature acts have risen to astronomical heights.