Mad Decent Block Party is Diplo’s travelling music festival that takes place in parking lots across the country, with Major Lazer headlining a changing roster of openers. It’s basically Warped Tour on Molly. I went to the Detroit date, conveniently located across the street from Crofoot, where I wrote my last article on how much teenagers annoy me. With a stacked lineup including Baauer, Danny Brown, and Dillon Francis, I was excited to rage in the hot September sun. And then the teenagers happened.
As soon as we arrived, I knew it was going to be an interesting day. We arrived several hours after the opener, and the festival was in full swing. While circling Pontiac’s three inhabited blocks, we almost ran down four different groups of teenagers attempting to navigate traffic. It looked like school had just gotten out, if kids wore brightly colored tank tops to school and took drugs as soon as the final bell rang (which may be the case nowadays, I’ve been out of high school for longer than I’d care to admit). After finding surprisingly close free parking we packed our essentials (a camelback full of water and whiskey) and wandered into the festival.
My first thought entering the festival centered on how cute most of the girls were, and my second thought centered around the fact that I might not be allowed to think that half of these girls were cute. Mad Decent was an all-ages event, and that certainly seemed to be the case. For an event with the average age of maybe 19, three huge beer tents and numerous Heineken banners seemed to be a bit excessive. However, The Partysquad was on the stage and the music was thumping, so I pushed away my initial hesitations and immersed myself into the crowded parking lot.
We camped ourselves on the far end of the parking lot, in small area of shade full of already exhausted ravers. The teenagers were already in full on rage mode. One kid was running around near us in a V for Vendetta mask, quite possibly the most unoriginal of all unoriginal EDM accessories. Two girls and a guy, all of whom looked 17, were sloppily making out in front of us. Mad Decent was quickly turning into one of my favorite people watching events. However, after several shots of whiskey in the porta-potties between sets, Keys N Krates took the stage, and it was time to dance.
Keys N Krates put on an excellent show as the sun descended on Pontiac, with an energetic performance that included a live drummer and an great rendition of their hit “Treat Me Right”. After a brief break between sets, it was almost dark when Baauer stepped behind the turntables and stole the night. The young phenom put on one the best live DJ sets I’ve seen, working original material in with plenty of other EDM hits. I was dancing so hard I almost forgot I was surrounded by annoying children, until my favorite moment of the festival happened. The hour-long energetic set had exhausted a lot of the crowd, and I started to notice that most of the teens were milling about impatiently. And then I realized that everyone was saving their energy for thirty seconds of internet phame, also known as the goddamn Harlem Shake. Baauer has stated in interviews that he hates the aforementioned track, and is trying to phase it out of his sets, so I was curious if he was going to play it. Then the track started, and everyone perked up. I felt pangs of disappointment as the track built up, and then just before the vocal sample instructed the crowd of excited teens to “do the harlem shake” (aka start thrashing around uncontrollably), Baauer shut off the music and walked off the stage. The teenagers stood in shocked silence. It was one of the greatest moments in EDM history.
Following Baauer’s perfectly executed trolling of the Mad Decent crowd, Danny Brown and his posse took the stage. I don’t know if everyone was still reeling from the lack of Harlem Shaking, or if teenagers just didn’t get Danny Brown, but unfortunately one of my favorite performers received very little crowd support in a somewhat lackluster set. The outdoor festival atmosphere doesn’t mash well with his stage presence, which is incredible in tightly packed venues. Dillon Francis followed his performance with a great set that included brand new material, and a kid in front of me dancing his overly-stimulated little heart out in a long sleeve button-up shirt that looked like it borrowed it’s patterns from my grandma’s bathroom wallpaper.
I’ve heard a lot about Major Lazer’s live shows, both bad and good. At Electric Forest I missed their set due to what I’ll call having too much fun, which resulted in me calling it an early night, so I was excited to redeem myself, even if it was in a parking lot with teenagers rather than a forest with my friends. The stage was shrouded in mystery as they set up behind a curtain. Finally, the curtain lifted, confetti blasted into the crowd, Diplo threw whistles into the screaming throng, and the show began.
Everything I’ve heard about their live shows was accurate. Diplo loves performing, and walks all over everything, including the crowd. The dancers are beautiful, and don’t stop dancing throughout the entire set. The MC is terribly annoying and yells at the crowd way too much. The crowd is insane. There is excessive twerking.
By this time, the teenagers were completely obliterated by one substance or another, and loving the show. When they were instructed to take of their shirts and whip them around their heads, hundreds obliged. When they were further instructed to throw their shirts onto the stage, many of them agreed to that as well, although very few shirts actually made it to the stage. Everyone was going crazy over Major Lazer, from the guy on crutches waving a giant flag to the girl behind me who politely asked if she could touch my butt and then proceeded to twerk on me while Pon De Floor blasted out of the speakers.
After a blistering set lasting nearly an hour-and-a-half, the music finally died. Diplo and friends had successfully turned a normally decrepit parking lot in one of Detroit’s poorer suburbs into an all-day party full of teenagers carted in from all corners of Michigan’s more privileged neighborhoods. The setting was trashy, the crowd was obnoxious, and the party was amazing. I’m sure most of Mad Decent’s roster is better suited for a 21+ venue, but I would see most of those acts wherever they played, because they know how to bring the party, wherever it may be.
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