Diplo headlines soaked day at Mad Decent Block Party

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Just as Diplo hit the stage Saturday night for his headlining set at the Mad Decent Block Party, a massive storm swept through the Russell Industrial Center, dumping thick sheets of rain on thousands of fans.

The timing was so impeccable it was as if Diplo himself had ordered the rains. And while some fans were sent scattering – some toward shelter, and others toward the exits – the majority of them embraced the rains as if they were another production element in the show.

It was the second time storms rained down during the eight-hour, wall-to-wall dance party, so fans weren’t squeamish about getting wet. The earlier rains, which hit in the 6 p.m. hour, left several large pools of water in the middle of the concert grounds, which fans splashed around in as if they were children jumping in their galoshes. (Had the show been set up on grass, the rains would have caused mud to collect, but on the gravelly site on the south end of the Russell’s grounds, only puddles formed.)

The rain element didn’t detract from the party, it only enhanced it, lowering fans’ inhibitions even further. So what was already a free-flowing vibe became even more wild, as the mostly early 20s fans – dressed in tank tops and shorts, and often less – shed clothing and accepted they were going to leave the event soaked from head to toe.

If there was ever a concern the rains would halt the event, no one showed it. Diplo never balked, delivering an electrifying hour-long set, singular in its drive to get people moving.

Seen mostly in silhouette against a bright video wall, the Mad Decent founder threw down a set of buzzy, whirring clips of his hits and others that always sped straight to the drop. After whipping off his shirt early in his set, he mixed his own Major Lazer hit “Lean On” with Skrillex’s “Bangarang,” teased the crowd with a sample of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and wrapped the set with his Justin Bieber-assisted Jack U smash “Where Are U Now.”

Even after a full day of ADD-dance music that never took its foot off the pedal, Diplo still managed to set himself apart from the pack, delivering more thrills per second than any of his contemporaries.

Not that he was surrounded by slouches. The masked performer Marshmello, who performs with a white bucket on his head and an all-white onesie that makes him resemble, yes, a marshmallow, had the crowd all the way up during his hour-long performance, bouncing from the Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down” to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Otherside” to Kendrick Lamar’s “m.A.A.d. city” to Adele’s “Hello.”

Video screens behind him showed his likeness doing his happy dance in front of the pyramids in Egypt, the Hollywood sign and the Eifel Tower, and it’s hard not to get behind the spirit of an adorable happy face playing good time party anthems. Marshmello could be a commentary on electronic dance music and its anonymity (he completely removes personality from the dynamic) or he could be a narc sent to spy on the activities of “the kids” (who is Marshmello? It’s your dad!), but when you’re having this much fun, you tend not to ask questions.

Prior to Marshmello, NGHTMRE (aka Tyler Marenyi) threw down a fiery set of EDM anthems, interrupted briefly by Blink 182’s “All the Small Things,” played undoctored for its first verse and chorus, which became one of the day’s most sing-along moments.

The Russell grounds, hosting the event for the second straight year, gave the day-long party a gritty vibe akin to the warehouse raves of Detroit techno legend. But with the staging on the periphery of the hulking structure, it feels almost as if you’re on the outside looking in; staging the show in between the Russell’s buildings (where concessions were set up) would increase the urban-industrial feel it captures.


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