In 2010 I attended my first Mad Decent Block Party, and it was exactly that, a block party. Outside the once label hotbed on 12th street the Philadelphia-based label took the local sounds of club music and then bubbling American dubstep sound to a home crowd in the middle of the street. There were no lights, no $12 beers, no one in dressed like a Spencer’s glow in the dark section vomited on them, just a collection of music fans there for a day of free music. If we flashback to this time last year I started a review of the 2012 block party with the same story. It’s not for a lack of new things to talk about, but the same perspective is just as relevant, if not more, to grasp how much the Mad Decent Block parties have changed.
Coming out of the Philadelphia stop last year it felt like the event had finally matured. The free concert was in a venue large enough to support the newfound popularity and the day went off without a hitch barring an especially RiFF RAFF performance from RiFF RAFF that involved a shoe getting thrown at him. Things didn’t go smoothly elsewhere, as the next weekend Chicago experienced a police shutdown from overcrowding. If the label continued to grow like it had in previous years they had to somehow start keeping track of attendance. What’s the logical business solution? Charge admission.
2013 was the year MDBP went from a few free parties in major cities around the states to a touring behemoth hitting 13 different stops over the course of three months. If “Harlem Shake” was the track that saved the financially struggling label, then this summer would undoubtedly take it to a position of complete financial stability. So what’s a Mad Decent Block Party like in the post-“Harlem Shake” landscape? All this buildup sounds negative but luckily they haven’t lost their heart, it’s still the rowdiest show of the summer.
Last Friday, the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md. was graced with one of the summer’s best lineups including SBTRKT, Lunice, Skream, Flosstradamus, and Major Lazer. It’s easy to look at the downsides here; the invasion of rave kids is more than a done deal, a pavilion is possibly the worst place to hear any electronic music, and the day runs you a minimum of about $40. I stashed my high expectations and did my best to look past it all, what ended up happening was undoubtedly worth all the hassle.
Lunice was the first performer notable performer, and between his recent TNGHT affiliation and Kanye West bump, he’s taken his live shows to another level. No one managed to put a set together quite at that quality for the rest of the day, but between SBTRKT, Skream, and another extra RiFF RAFF set from RiFF RAFF, there wasn’t a shortage of good music. Zeds Dead and Major Lazer rounded out the day with two crowd-pleasing sets heavy on the glitzy and colorful rave music, but considering the other electro packed bills in other cities, it could have been worse.
As far as the party growing into 2014, I anticipate this model sticking. The tour sold out a respectable number of venues and considering Merriweather as one of the larger, there was a fair amount of space left for more ticket sales. All good things eventually change, and even though the days of free BYOB street shows are in the past, Mad Decent is still putting on an event worth your time and money. It’s difficult to screw something up when the foundation of your label is so heavily rooted in having a good time. Through the changes in sound, from Philly Club, to dubstep, moombahton, and hip-hop, Mad Decent is still one of the most fun labels out. Go to a block party next year, listen to good music, enjoy the summer, have some drinks, don’t have some drinks, whatever happens, I still posit it’s next to impossible to get no enjoyment out of a Mad Decent Block Party.