There are many reasons to look forward to this time of year: The weather’s nicer, the days are shorter, and both the nightlife and music scenes get way livelier. Big concerts and even bigger music festivals are headed our way, including the annual Mad Decent Block Party.
One of more popular and high-profile electronic dance music events in the world, this touring spectacle – which showcases tastemaking DJs, artists, and producers associated with the iconic Mad Decent label – lights up more than a dozen cities across the country.
And when it’s landed in the Valley the last two years, it's brought thousands of EDM fans to Rawhide in Chandler, for one of the biggest and most colorful ragers of the year with a blockbuster lineup curated by Mad Decent founder Diplo. It also makes for a memorable experience.
Such is likely to be the case when the Block Party returns to Rawhide this weekend, albeit with a few changes; namely, the fact that this year’s event will take place over two nights with twice as many artists in the lineup – including such artists and acts as Brillz, Diplo, FKI IST, Jackal, RL Grime, Snakehips, Tchami, and What So Not — as before.
Like many fans of electronic dance music, we eagerly anticipate attending the event every year, and not just because of all the artists and DJs that will be performing. The experience itself and overall vibe is also pretty rad. Here are 10 things we’re looking forward to, both artist- and experience-wise, at this year’s Mad Decent Block Party.
You’ll see more than just ravers and club kids populating the throng of thousands that gather at Rawhide for the block party. In fact, the event tends to attract a diverse crowd from across multiple realms of music fandom, ranging from hip-hop heads and indie electronica fans to ragamuffin artists, hippie types, and the college-age crowd. The only common denominator between all these disparate groups is their mutual love of dance music, which is celebrated in grand fashion. It also makes for some interesting people watching during the event, to be sure.
As you may have heard, kandi isn’t allowed at Mad Decent Block Party. Ditto for pacifiers, furry backpacks, or LED gloves. Despite all these limitations, however, the event will still be a pretty vibrant place thanks to all the colorful clothing worn by attendees. Neon gear and strange T-shirts will, of course, be in abundance, as will furry ears, goggles, and head wear of every description. Then there are those who bust out with actual costumes, whether it's Dada Life fans dressed as bananas, dudes in duck suits, or even those who become EDM superheroes using flags as capes. It makes for an evening-long fashion show that’s nothing if not interesting.
The Two-Day Format
A one-day EDM festival loaded up with talented DJs and producers can be quite fantastic – spectacular even. But when you make it two days, the whole thing gets even better. It allows a bigger lineup, longer sets, and – let's face it – another chance to rage. Such will be the case at this year’s block party, as it's split between Friday and Saturday. It offers double the performances and twice the fun, but only if you’ve got the stamina. Better be sure to hit up the vendors for some energy drinks at regular intervals.
Ever heard of twonk? No? You're probably not a fan of the colorfully freaky electro-house/trap music producer Brillz, who uses the term abundantly and event titled one of his albums using it. As for what the it actually means, Brillz stated in an online interview from last year that it depends on what you think it means. “Everyone is like obsessed with all these buzz words and slang words, online like trill and twerk and all this stuff. I just kind of wanted to create a performance art with text, you know? It means different things to different people,” he says. Ultimately, he adds, that being twonk is “about being weird, having fun and being creative,” which are the hallmarks of a typical gig by Brillz. including his performance at the MDBP.
Mad Decent Block Party isn’t strictly an EDM event. As a matter of fact, it’s as much about hip-hop and trap as it is about four-on-the-four genres. And you can look no further than the participation of hip-hop artist Lil Dicky as proof of that assertion. The Pennsylvania-born artist is the only rapper in the game who will devote entire verses to another man's impressive genitals or feature a PowerPoint presentation, and if that doesn't pique your interest, well, we can't help you.
Considering that the operative word in EDM is "dance," it shouldn't come as any surprise that there’s a helluva lot of movement at your average stop of the Mad Decent Block Party whenever the beats start flowing. Thousands are induced to dance by the sounds being laid down, whether they’re shuffling, shaking, jumping, bumping, or (of course) just pumping their fists in the air. Our favorites are the cats who shake a tail feather in unusual or eye-catching ways, the b-boys and b-girls who get down in the middle of impromptu cyphers or the people who are a dervish of movement as they flail about randomly and follow their own kooky muses.
If the only Baauer song you've ever heard is "Harlem Shake," you have lots of explaining to do, and a need to check out his extensive discography of great tracks. This Mad Decent member's got a ton of material, and it's all quite fantastic. Dude is one of the most innovative artists on the trap-house scene. He's pushing the limits of that Dirty South sound, even if he is an NYC guy. You can't listen to a trap set without hearing at least two Baauer tracks. Like, seriously, we dare you to find one. We'll wait.
There’s a certain exhilaration that’s inherent to electronic dance music that becomes even more apparent at festivals, especially at the Mad Decent Block Party. Maybe it’s just us, but it’s always felt like there’s a palpable aura of celebration to the event. Perhaps it’s due to the event occurring at the tail end of summer, when the heat’s tapered off a bit and it's actually tolerable to be outdoors, and you feel like feting the fact you’ve survived another year of living in the summer. Or maybe it’s the chance to let loose and enjoy a massive beat buffet while surrounded by friends. Whatever the case, it's certainly a potent experience.
A typical set by the Swedish-born DJ duo Dada Life is, in a word, insane. It’s also quite inane, usually involving bananas, champagne, more bananas, and a trip to the mythical and fantastical realm known as “Dada Land.” Olle Cornéer and Stefan Eng have a habit of showstopping performances at festivals and EDM with their banana-related antics and killer sets of electro-house. We expect a similar situation to unfold when the Mad Decent Block Party rolls into the Valley. The crowd will certainly be going bananas when they hit the stage, at the very least.
Thomas Wesley Pentz, better known as Diplo, created the Mad Decent Block Party, oversees the event, and even handpicks its lineups each year. He’s also put on some of its most memorable sets, at least here in Phoenix. Two years ago, the dude brought dozens of women onstage for a massive twerking contest. Last year, he crowd-surfed in an inflatable hamster ball during a spectacular performance by his side project Major Lazer. What’s Diplo got planned for 2016? We’ll find out on Friday night. One thing’s for certain: The ultra-talented producer and EDM god is likely to drop any number of hit tracks he’s helped produce in recent years, ranging from MIA’s “Paper Planes” to Major Lazer’s “Lean On.”
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.