The Mad Decent Block Party Through the Eyes of A Cynic and A Student: Reviews and Photos
Editor: We sent two writers to this weekend's Mad Decent Block Party. Vanessa Quilantan was mostly worried about the kids asking her for drugs and pissed about Action Bronson canceling. Carmina Tiscareno is a college student and therefore much more a member of the Block Party's target demographic. She had a better time. Here are their reports, starting with Vanessa's.
There are plenty of reasons why you wouldn't want to go to an EDM festival. There are drugs, devastating temperatures, infinitely long drink lines, glow sticks and, in the case of the Mad Decent Block Party, 6,500 people. Mostly youths. There are youths in underwear and fur boots on drugs. There are youths who ask you frantically at the start of Dillon Francis' set if you have drugs, or know who can give them drugs. They make you worry about them and where they may end up at the end of the night.
But there was one shining reason to go to this weekend's party. There is a singular live music experience so specific to this particular moment in pop culture, so universally likable, that it's worth braving the elements. That experience is Major Lazer.
I arrived around quarter to six in hopes to keep my time in the unbearable heat as minimal as possible. Below the Interstate 35 overpass, across the street from Zouk, a teeming cesspool of jailbait ass, bad decisions and day-glo everything radiated with sweat and body glitter. I would spend the next three hours in a state of bitchy resting face, trying to find a redeemable and enjoyable experience in an otherwise really trashy atmosphere.
The first redeemable moment would come at the end of Flosstradamus' set, when he abruptly cut his audio altogether after a buildup that had the crowd tranced out and ready for a heavy dance break to rave out to, and hit play on Lana Del Ray's "Video Games." It was a pretty solid troll move, and it made me giggle in relief that this scene does indeed have a somewhat self-aware sense of humor.
It was a short-lived high note, spoiled when I heard the news that Queens rapper Action Bronson (who was set to perform next) had pulled a last-minute cancellation. I had to wonder if the more rap-slanted portion of the audience felt as baited and switched as I did, or if Bronson's exclusion from the bill would have made a difference in the turnout numbers at all.
I spent some time in the thick of the crowd for most of Baauer and some of Dillon Francis' sets, if for no other reason than for the irresistible people-watching opportunities. I spent a short time talking to a shirtless young man in Beetlejuice-striped hotpants who had the words "Miley Cyrus" painted in neon bubble letters on his back. He seemed relatively sober, and happy to be there.
This is not the kind of audience that can smell fear. The air is far too thick with vodka sweat.
As I sat on the far outskirts of the crowd, chugging water, I waited for Major Lazer to start and the sun to set. I worried about my ability to understand youth culture anymore. At only 24 years of age, have I outgrown the Mad Decent crowd?
Finally, full redemption came with the headlining set. The always theatric Major Lazer came strong, and held the crowd in a state of elation that didn't seem totally drug-induced. Their well-balanced mix of reggae, Jamaican dancehall and mainstream rap bangers kept energy high and was considerably easier for me to dance to than the blippy and trance-y Dillon Francis set. Confetti cannons, crowd participation and Diplo walking over the crowd in a giant plastic bubble brought an element of showmanship usually lost in live EDM. As my hips shook and jerked to Pon De Floor, I was relieved to realize that I'm not yet a total curmudgeon. I can still kind of keep up with the youths, I just have a higher standard for live entertainment, and I'm not apologetic about that. I'm not that easy DJs, you gotta put in some work to wipe this reviewer's bitch face off. And that's exactly what Diplo and company were able to do.
By Vanessa Quilantan. Carmina's report is on the next page.