Mad Decent Block Party
With Kaskade, GRiZ, D.R.A.M. and more
Victory Park, Dallas
Aug. 26, 2016
Electronic dance music ricocheted off the underbelly of Woodall Rogers Freeway and down the streets of Victory Park, bathing the area in pulsating electronic beats on Friday. By 7 p.m., about a thousand people were huddled in front of a massive stage in an empty parking lot under the freeway. Some had been there since the festival began at 3, shielded from the intermittent rain by the concrete canopy above, and they kept dancing until the night ended fairly early at 10.
What could have been an outright rave was, by all accounts, a pretty tame festival. Keeping it controlled was the name of the game, including restrictive policies about what could be brought into the event, ending the night early and keeping the volume lower than at other concerts.
Relaxed looking police on foot lined the perimeter of the festival grounds – several said they signed up to work the event because they like EDM, and they got to enjoy the show since they weren’t busy with rowdy audience members.
“Everything's been going pretty smooth,” said Officer L.G. Sanchez of the Dallas Police Department. “They said that the crowds are significantly smaller this year.”
“This is a very cool night, nobody's passing out,” added Officer Michael Lee, who volunteered to work the event because he likes the music. He compared this concert to other EDM festivals he’s worked. “At Lights All Night we have a lot of overdoses. It’s like that crowd times four.”
Mad Decent has tried to distance itself from the rave mentality because of the rampant drug use and overdoses at large-scale EDM events. The festival prohibited items associated with rave culture like Kandi bracelets and necklaces, pacifiers and stuffed animals. Yet the typical garb of ravers — tutus, fishnet stockings and ass-bearing underwear — abounded.
For females, there seemed to be only two options for clothing. If it wasn’t rave attire, then they looked like they just walked out of Urban Outfitters with 500 of their closest friends: lace bralettes, crop tops and high-waisted cut-off shorts were ubiquitous. Guys were no more imaginative; a sea of bro tanks was in full force.
Kaskade headlined the event and played a bevy of his hits for his one-hour set, pointing at the crowd and bobbing his head to the beat. Remixes of popular songs like Lana Del Rey’s “Young & Beautiful” were highlights and drew the most enthusiasm from the audience.
Kaskade’s set made use of all kinds of stimulation, aural and visual. Canons of steam and confetti were shot into the air at regular intervals that got people even more turned up. Inside the pit, the crowd was boisterous, hyped on $6 Red Bulls and $13 beers.
Longtime EDM fans Kaya Dodson, 25, and Sateer Khatib, 23, drove up from Austin because Mad Decent discontinued shows in the Austin and New Braunfels areas. They said Austin’s turnout last year was weak, and speculated that that’s why Mad Decent didn’t return there this year. The New Braunfels shows in 2013 and 2014 were amazing, according to the pair, but they were still pleasantly impressed by the turnout and the location of the Dallas show, especially considering the weather. They got to the festival at 4 p.m. and said the day started “rough” because of the rain.
Attendees kept pointing to the location, enveloped under the bridges, as one of the main selling points of the show. “This venue is dope as shit. You got the whole downtown view and whatnot. It's a really great atmosphere,” said Juan, 21, a Dallas resident who didn’t want to give his last name for the story.
Juan is a festival frequenter, having been to Bonaroo, Euphoria and Electronic Daisy Carnival. He’s seen GRiZ, who performed right before Kaskade, three times.“GRiZ is a pretty cool guy. He's good to warm you up, kind of get you in the mood and get you loose,” Juan said.
He added that this was the best GRiZ has ever been and attributed the improvement to the venue. “It’s such a game changer. … It had a block party vibe,” Juan added.
UTA students Marco Khaliv, 25, and Rachel Smith, 22, were disappointed that they weren’t able to bring candy into the event. “It's tied to rave culture. They wanted to make it more of a concert that people go to,” said Smith. “But it's part of it,” countered Khaliv.
Khaliv was celebrating his birthday and remarked that the early hours were also a drawback. “Now I have to go somewhere else,” he lamented, after the show had wrapped up.
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The pair says they regularly hit the EDM circuit in Dallas and Houston, and despite the inconveniences, “We go for the music," said Smith. "The prohibited things don't stop us from coming. The music is always solid. It's been awesome.”
Mitchell, who also didn't want to give his name for this story, traveled up from Austin as well with a group of 20 guys who all went to UT or Texas State. The group are also frequenters of the EDM circuit, having been to Tomorrow World, Nocturnal Fest and Electronic Daisy Carnival together.
“I thought it was amazing," Mitchell said. "I like the scenery. It was cool seeing cars stopped [on the bridge] during rush hour.” He said all the amenities made the festival go off without a hitch, including the plethora of bathrooms, free water and the amiable staff.
As far as the music, he’s already seen Kaskade play that same set five times elsewhere, “It's always the same thing,” says Mitchell. “I think GRiZ played one of the better sets I’ve seen him play. GRiZ really went hard.”