Mad Decent Block Party 2013 – A Comprehensive Review

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what can nearly one thousand pictures say in one festival review? Hopefully, a lot.

We set out to cover this year’s Mad Decent Block Party, a festival by Diplo’s record label that recently expanded its touring cities and countries to include D.C. and Canadian stops, among others. Your photojournalists, Lotanna and Helen, recap #MDBP2013 for you, in all its audio-visual and literary glory, here and in pictures on our Facebook. Expectations and excitement ran high during our drive up to Merriweather Post Pavilion. For Helen, this show would be her third MDBP having previously attended ‘12 and ‘11 in NYC, and she was curious to see how the Mad Decent crew could top their previous tours. For Lotanna, she was just excited to be involved with anything that had Diplo’s name on it while getting to see some of her favorite performers “turn up,” as the cool kids say these days. Read on after the jump to find out more about our day of 808s, hypemen & twerk teams.

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HELEN: Rumbling bass greeted us as we rolled up, catching Lunice halfway through his set. This time around, his set was heavier and the crowd moved vigorously with his drops, dancing to TNGHT classics like “Higher Ground” and oldies from his “Stacker Upper” EP. Yet his production capabilities could not be denied, especially after growing with the LuckyMe label that Baauer reps, too. Melodic drum and bass looped while he mixed in experimental samples, and layered the whole damn thing with extended bass that coursed through the body. Lunice was able to keep the energy at a high throughout most of his set with a minimal amount of lyrics that’s impressive for an artist who usually produces hip hop.

Taking a break from the blasting speakers that would invariably leave our ears with a few less hearing hairs by the end of the night, we ambled around Merriweather, taking in all the goodies Mad Decent had to offer. We spotted, and later sampled, the much-hyped about Hardy’s Smokinlicious BBQ truck that elicited an energetic chow-down reminiscent of Scooby to his Scooby Snacks. On our circuit we puddle-hopped the iHome shower stand before stopping by the Puma Playground where we each snagged a custom tee- thank you, Yung Puma. Whilst (can we get ye Olde English for a min) surveying the grounds, we couldn’t help but notice the bawdy outfits of women bedecked with kandi, glitter, and pacifiers. Our Facebook album contains some festival do’s and don’ts that we won’t get into here, but in short, no one should ever be caught with an adult-sized, CDC-alerting pacifier slung around their neck. Under any circumstances. For the eleven pacifiers we counted up, bless your immune systems.

I digress, but there were definitely some who defied the masses and wore their style fearlessly, embodying the Mad Decent mantra of I.D.G.A.F.O.S.

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LOTANNA: I will admit, prior to his performance, I had never heard a song by Riff Raff and had only a vague idea of what he looked like. If I’m being completely honest, I initially thought that “Versace Versace” song that’s been everywhere as of late was by him (oh, how wrong I was). Judging by the crowd that had gathered in the pavilion when his set began, I seemed to have been the only one who was so out of the loop. Understandably, I did not know what to expect. I definitely was not expecting his set to include a blow-up walrus, inflatable rings, a Slip-n-Slide, and neon water guns (I was half expecting an inflatable kiddie pool to be brought on stage as well). At first glance, it looked like the makings of a typical children’s birthday party, if it were EDM themed and held for an actual kid raver. Then the gold chained and gold grilled Riff Raff himself came on stage and the crowd (literally) went wild. The fervor of the audience members was tangible, so much so that one lucky fan who was practically begging to be brought on stage was eventually lifted up over the barricades to dance with the assemblage of hypemen and Super-Soaker armed crew mates. Mr. Raff played a notably short but frenzied set, seemingly gone as soon as he had begun.

HELEN: A lull cued the transition as excited chatter and screaming took over in place of the speakers. And then there I was, screaming as well because Skream just walked on stage. He opened with a funky synth tune that only Skream could pull off. Smirking slightly, he got down to business, flipping switches, jerking knobs, and jabbing buttons. Essentially, him just being in America, in front of me, was more than I could handle so I let my camera do the talking, and started composing photographs. He lights up and continues to churn out beats, keeping the crowd rocking in step. Although he didn’t play any of my favorites, I enjoyed hearing more of his musical evolution away from the drum & bass scene and now into his own niche. All was well with the world.

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LOTANNA: Let me just take a moment to say that I am (unabashedly) SBTRKT’s number one fan. Fun fact: I may or may not know his entire discography by heart and have 6 different versions of one of his songs in my iTunes library. That aside, seeing the Young Turks signee on the Mad Decent roster initially seemed like a bit of an outlier to me. Having seen him perform his minimal R&B-infused post-dubsteppy jams live before, I was not quite sure what he would DJ to a crowd that probably expected a bigger, more “in your face” sound. As soon as I heard the introductory bass notes to his set begin to play I frantically ran down to the stage to get a closer look, listen, and start snapping away.

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SBTRKT’s set did not disappoint at all, as he masterfully mixed everything from his own originals, even throwing it way back with his song “Step In Shadows,” to tracks by Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and a personal favorite, Disclosure. Sadly, it was when he slowed down the pace and dropped James Blake’s “Retrograde” that all of the baby ravers began to leave, despite the stage-wobbling synths and bass. For those that stayed, SBTRKT upped the tempo once more and closed out his killer set with some more beats that simply reminded me why he is one of the hottest names out there right now.

HELEN:

Twas the set before Major Lazer, when all through the venue

Not a person wasn’t PLURNT, not even the clouds.

The kandi was adorned on the arms with care,

in hopes that Maj. Lazer soon would be on stage.

Despite the allusion, Flosstradamus was everything but quiet or innocent. Half-way through Flosstradamus’ set, Lotanna and I found ourselves prowling the lawn for crowd shots when the unmistakable chorus of Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg’s “The Next Episode” came on. iPhones and lighters shot into the sky, turning the covered pavilion into a mesmerizing sight of flickering light. “La da dada dah…” blasted as Floss picked up the mic to dub over the original “D-R-E” with a shout-out to the DMV, before sliding in a bubbling pipe sample and then going immediately into their acclaimed remix of Baauer’s “Roll Up.” Some more of the craziness that was Flosstradamus HERE, I would apologize for the 95% bass-ed out audio but that is a pretty accurate breakdown of the time your heart wouldn’t be vibrating.

LOTANNA: Zeds Dead sure knows how to get a crowd moving. With a whole lot of dub and even more wub, I found myself head banging and rocking to the beat as I snapped away. A highlight of the set was when they dropped a punchy remix of Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” which reminded me of a certain episode of Girls (yes, you all know which one I’m talking about) which wouldn’t be out of place at the Block Party. Seeing the concert goers, me included, throw up their Z’s while screaming “I DON’T CARE, I LOVE IT” with abandon at the top of their lungs is a mantra that summarized the MDBP experience as a whole. Zeds brought the energy, slinging tracks from their repertoire, old and new. Zeds Dead, baby. Zeds Dead.

And then, the last set to rule them all.

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LOTANNA & HELEN: There was a twerk team girl with a knee-brace on one leg and an Einstein tat on the her other leg. There were Holi powder explosions. There was a “Bubble Butt feat. WRGW alumna” #EXPRESSYOURSELF moment. All of this happened while the Lazers Never Die flag flew high and proud.

Major Lazer put on one of the craziest and most engaging sets we’ve ever experienced, churning out one helluva Jamaican dancehall mini-marathon, complete with melt-your-face-off bass and a thumping sped-up, reggae beat. Cult favorites, such as “Pon de Floor” and “Jah No Partial,” in addition to a yet to be released track were dropped to waves of cheering and chanting. The trio took turns throwing buckets of goodies into the crowd, that included paper cutouts of Diplo’s face, long streams of rainbow confetti, and bags containing smaller packets of Holi powder that cumulated into a spectacular skyline of red, green, and yellow plumes, with Diplos speckling the sea of people. Shenanigans beside, Major Lazer even took the time to pause the show to get the crowd- the biggest yet for the Mad Decent tour, to sing Happy Birthday to their manager. Other highlights, if there could possibly be anymore, was a coordinated shirt-removal incited by Diplo taking off his button down. We repeat, Diplo taking his shirt off and shouting for everyone to take off their shirts was obediently carried out by the thousands-strong crowd in a simultaneous shedding and shirt-throwing move. After a little over an hour of precariously raging in the pit with seven cameras, we called it a night, and what a night it was.

Oh, did we also mention Diplo rolled over us in a gigantic hamster ball? Don’t believe us? We’ll be right here to catch your jaw.

Flick through our Mad Decent Block Party album HERE to see what you missed!

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