With the unfortunate deaths that occurred at Veld Music Festival in Toronto earlier this month and at several other Electronic music festivals, including the Merriweather Mad Decent Block Party, promoters of these types of parties have come under heavy public scrutiny about the safety, and lack thereof, at Electronic Dance Music (EDM) events.
In an effort to reduce the number of party drugs being smuggled in, Mad Decent organizers banned the wearing of the popular brightly-coloured beaded jewelry called Kandi at all future Block Parties. And despite a very vocal outcry from many in the EDM community who felt the ban was a form of censorship, and restricted attendees from expressing themselves through the display of the jewelry, Mad Decent’s top EDM artist Diplo, supported the action on the basis that he would rather lose fans who opposed the action and have a safe event, than risk the loss of another young person.
Friday’s Mad Decent Block Party at Fort York was testament that the promoters were taking safety very seriously. Security staff at the gate thoroughly checked bags, had attendees remove their hats, and even their shoes before being admitted into the open area.
Once inside, the ratio of security, police and medical teams to fans was visibly higher than many festivals and messaging on the stage screens encouraged everyone to stay hydrated and ask for help if someone appeared to need it. Rather than creating a feeling of over protectiveness, the added care actually had a relaxing effect on the crowd who enjoyed themselves thoroughly but with a noticeably higher degree of maturity.
But enough about security and safety; what happened on stage was the real measure for success at Mad Decent Block Party. Starting things off were Toronto DJs Pat Drastik and Tom Wrecks, better known as Thugli, who spun a solid warm up set in front of an impressively large group of partiers despite their early set time, proving the duo has a loyal local following.
Next up, Chicago’s Vic Mensa changed up the musical vibe with a hip-hop set that was highly energized and crowd interactive yet delivered an important message about human rights. Targeted specifically to the Mike Brown shooting by police in Missouri and the need for people to “Film The Police”, Mensa delivered the message meaningfully but without hostility.
Grandtheft took control after Mensa’s set. The Canadian DJ/Producer elevated the beats per minute and punched up the speaker boom with a great mix of dance music to an ever growing crowd. By now, the fan count was expanding as far back as the sound board cage and the over 19 areas were bustling.
Following the event’s stacked offering of local talent, Keys ‘N Krates were up next. With Adam Tune on drums, David Matisse on the synth and Jr. Flo on the turntables, Keys ‘N Krates were the only act to perform with an array of more traditional instruments. The Toronto electronic trio has been constantly growing in popularity and their live show is definitely a major reason for this.
The hugely popular J2K and Autobot, the Chicago duo better known as Flosstradamus, pushed the atmosphere of the crowd to a new high featuring a mix of electronic and house greats new, old and remixed. By now, the field at Fort York was packed with partiers who were raring to go all night.
With the final rays of sunshine fading into darkness, Diplo accompanied by Major Lazer collaborator Walshy Fire stormed the stage to thunderous applause. With Diplo working mainly behind the podium delivering a relentless mix of dance greats, Walshy Fire acted as crowd pleaser on the mic and within minutes of the show starting, had the stage full of eager girls who volunteered to get up and dance. The duo fed off each others energy displaying their collaborative power to deliver an unforgettable set before making way for the day’s final act.
Headlining MDBP was yet another Toronto duo that has been taking the electronic charts by storm. Dylan Mamind and Zach Rapp-Rovan are Zeds Dead, a twosome that dabble with multiple genres including drum and bass, hip-hop, house and electro to create beautifully complex melodies that rapidly change pace and musical style yet remain cohesive and uniquely identifiable. Their live set on Friday night encapsulated these elements perfectly and took on an even more organic feel when pushed through the big stage speakers. And although the two mainly appeared as mere silhouettes against the flashing coloured background of the LED screen, they were still enthralling to watch. The closing set of Zeds Dead made for an ideal closer to a very full afternoon of music and arguably the best EDM festivals the city has hosted this year.
For more photos of this event and many more, click HERE