I would first like to make a disclaimer that the music played at this tour is not the kind of music I frequently listen to. I usually stick to the genres of alternative and hip hop, and I am used to watching concerts where everyone on stage is playing an instrument or singing/rapping. Before going to this concert, my interpretation of an electronic artist’s concert was the artist playing their songs in front of a big group of people behind a turn table that may or may not actually be turned on, lacking any kind of instrument and just kinda being like, “Hey! Look what I made!”
Mad Decent is a record label originally founded in Philadelphia by Diplo in 2005. Since then, the label has grown significantly with the popularization of trap and electronic music. Now in 2016, the label’s own Mad Decent Block Party visited Colorado this weekend at Red Rock Amphitheater.
The lineup for this particular tour varies from location to location. One Saturday night, the sounds of Ape Drums, 4B, D.R.A.M., Mija, Alison Wonderland, Juaz, Diplo and Gilantis made the ground shake for miles.
Although the doors open at 2 p.m., the party didn’t truly seem to start until around 5 p.m. This was my first time at Red Rocks Amphitheater, and honestly no one was lying to me when they said it was the most beautiful venue in the world. But was it the best venue for a day-time electronic music festival? I would say no. I didn’t get into the venue in time to see Ape Drums (no one told me about the giant hill you have to climb to get into the amphitheater…thanks friends…my lungs are dead), but the openings artists 4B, D.R.A.M. and Mija seemed very out of place in the sunny side of the mountains. The small audience seemed to still enjoy their performances through the awkwardness, especially D.R.A.M. who not only stood out because of his hip-hop genre, but his infamous happy, loving-life attitude and dancing. I could listen to him call me cute in his song “Cute” all day long. I would also love to cha cha with him. 4B kept the crowd on their feet with his frequent drops and personal energy, and Mija fell a little flat, throwing off the audience with her alternative rock mixes with bands like A Day to Remember.
Alex Sholler aka Alison Wonderland was anticipated by the audience early on and rightfully so. Her visuals displayed on the projector screen on the stage alone had the crowd going wild. A man circled around her as she performed, projecting her on the screen in real-life time in different colors and editing perspectives.
She opened up her set and introduced herself, telling the crowd, “This feels like church to me, really.” The audience screamed in approval back at her, both excited to be there and excited about her Australian accent.
Her set was short, but as the sun was beginning to set behind the rocks, the crowd went wild. Sholler’s skill was apparent, with her well-timed drops and music mixing choices that catered to the young crowd. She displayed genuine happiness to be there and dance moves that connected her to the people who were there to see her.
By the time Juaz (Juan Gabriel) made his grand entrance onto the stage, Red Rocks Amphitheater was completely filled to the top with fans. His visuals were equally as captivating as Sholller’s, but completely different, with a colorful, almost robotic shark coming towards the audience on the giant screen with his stage name “Juaz” between its teeth. This artist spoke to me the most. His mixes were the most diverse of the night in general, including songs from Drake, Twenty-One Pilots, Cascada’s “Everytime We Touch” and the Pokemon theme song.
Juaz earned the most booty-shaking points for the night from his audience, and he was just as appreciative to be there as the audience was to have him. “You guys are what keeps bass alive,” he told the Colorado crowd. By the end of the night I was definitely apart of the #sharksquad.
Diplo and Galantis were the headliners of the night. Diplo, or Thomas Wesley Pentz, asserted himself as the founder of the party, mixing his set with some of his most popular songs and the most popular songs on the radio right now. Some highlights included his own mix of the Chainsmoker’s “Don’t Let Me Down,” who performed at Red Rocks Amphitheater the previous Thursday, his own “Where Are U Now,” lacking the presence of Justin Bieber, and Major Lazer and DJ Snake’s “Lean On.” Like Juaz, Diplo catered to the hip-hop lovers of the audience, throwing some hip-hop songs into his set before going back to the womp womp womps. Red Rocks Amphitheater screamed to ScHoolboy Q’s “THat Part” and popped, locked and dropped it to the middle school throw back “Pop Lock It Drop It”.
Rain started to pour down on the audience of the Mad Decent Block Party in the middle of Diplo’s set, creating a crazy visuals with Diplo’s smoke and lights, and the crowd screamed and reached their hands out to it in approval. Diplo commented on the rain before telling the crowd “This is by far the best Block Party we’ve had so far.”
The only real flop of Diplo’s performance was his attempt to make everyone in the crowd do jumping jacks. No one in the crowd (especially those with their eyes a little glazed and their dance moves already a little scrambled) was up for exercising like this, so the crowd just crossed their arms back and forth to make him happy.
Galantis closed out the night, and was put on perhaps the most stimulating performance I’ve ever experienced. Their visuals were out of this world, with not only their crazy, colorful, moving, owl-esque logo staring at the crowd with giant, almost terrifying eyes, but splashes of colors and designs that coordinated with the music’s beat flawlessly. They also played their music videos up on the big screen, including the light-hearted “Peanut Butter Jelly,” which gave the concert a whole new feel entirely, spreading a new energy across the audience that contrasted with the energy felt from hard, violent drops.
I didn’t know beforehand, but Galantis is actually a Swedish duo featuring Christian “Bloodshy” Karlsson and Linus Eklo. They do bring instruments onstage with them, specifically a set of five or six drums that they bang to the beat of their songs. The two men played most of their original music including “Runaway (U & I),” “You” and “Firebird.” Out of all the performances of the night, this one seemed the most rehearsed and not in a way where it felt stiff, but in a way where it felt the most whole.
Overall, Mad Decent Block Party was an event worth going to, even if electronic music isn’t your go to. It is, though, an overly long event I think for anyone with any kind of music taste. While the wait between sets was short, which is usually a positive thing, the audience rarely got any time to sit after moving around so vigorously. This was especially hard for anyone who attended any other events of the weekend, including the aforementioned Chainsmokers concert, Tour de fat and the Rocky Mountain Showdown. If I were to go again, I would skip the first few acts to not only avoid watching anyone perform while the sun is still up, but also avoid feeling like a grandpa when I have to leave the concert early because the lower half of my body feels like it’s going to give out.