Live: Mad Decent Block Party in Chicago

Photographer Jesse Lirola
August 21, 2012

The weather on Saturday for the Mad Decent block party couldn't have been nicer, but unfortunately, it was cut short. A few clouds dotted a sunny sky while opening DJ and local club stalwart Zebo warmed up a crowd, which had already reached a several hundred strong by the time Omaha's Icky Blossoms hit the stage at around 1PM The group seemed to reach an energetic peak with the gothic "Sex to the Devil." The young crowd, with an average age of what appeared to be high school seniors, was full of teenagers who attempted to draw just the right amount of attention to their artfully-waved cigarettes. Jim E-Stack, a young DJ clad in a black t-shirt and with a single gold tooth, also entertained the growing crowd to much success; by the time Chris Cab’s easygoing jam-rock vibes began, the audience had swelled dramatically, and a sea of good-natured, enthusiastic hand-waving followed.

As a line formed around the Puma truck, which provided free Mad Decent T-shirts for the crowd, audience members snacked on Cajun burgers, nachos and Heineken. Although the sun beat down heavily, the weather was cooler than Chicago's July heatwave; nonetheless, many audience members wore their Puma shirts around their heads to shade them from the midday sun. Keys N Krates set ended with loud crowd chants for one more song; they obliged, ending with the Ann Peebles-sampling (by way of Missy?) "Let It Rain."

The day seemed to reach a peak with the set by legendary Monterrey, Mexico DJ Toy Selectah, the DJ behind the hip-hop group Control Machete. He arrived clad in a simple black Obey shirt, his dreadlocks laying flat against his back. He greeted enthusiastic fans backstage, before climbing up in front of what had become a near-capacity audience. As he began to spin a blend of house, cumbia and hip-hop (he even dropped the classic "Apache"), the party really kicked into gear. After dropping the Derrick Carter house classic "Get Get Down," the DJ ran to the front of the stage and tossed water on the crowd, cooling down what had become a packed area in front of the stage. The crowd, dotted with red Puma bags and enthusiastic teenagers, was as enthusiastic for songs they knew as those they didn't; the mood was optimistic.

There were rumors that a bride was supposed to be reading her wedding vows a block east from the festival, and had come to ask police working the gates if they might be able to turn down the volume a bit around six. This was, of course, right when the volume would be turning up; dubstep producer 12th Planet would be performing at that time; he arrived early, and was walking around signing fans' Puma shirts as early as 1 o'clock. By the time Bonde do Role hit the stage, the sun had begun to descend and the heat decreased. The space between Ashland and Justine avenues on Fulton is not a large city block; it filled to capacity shortly after 5PM. The group's energy, as ever, was contagious; despite an apparent bandage on Laura Taylor's leg, she bounded across the stage, while Rodrigo Gorky stole the show with a bright tropical shirt that stood out like a spark. They were joined on stage by a giant, white inflatable condom with arms. But suddenly, around 5:05 PM, the sound was cut; the group still had 25 minutes left to perform. But the crowd at the gates, upset about having reached capacity so early, rushed through, past helpless policemen who tried to contain them. Many people simply jumped over the gate. Then, at the back gate, the same thing happened; hundreds of people ran through the gates, ignoring police trying to keep the fences together.

At first, it seemed like things were going to go on as planned; as the crowd calmed down and some people started to leave, the expectation was that the concerts would pick up again. Instead, around 30 minutes after the crowd first rushed through, they again burst through the rear gate. For police, this appeared to be the final straw, and the entire event was shut down early. 12th Planet, hanging out backstage, seemed disappointed, tweeting: "God Damn...Chicago peeps is showin love... I don't wanna leave @maddecent MDBP right now." Acts that were scheduled to perform, including Action Bronson, Spaceghostpurrp, 12th Planet, Tanlines and Nadastrom were unable to even reach the stage. Fortunately, the after-party still happened, and those that attended caught sets from Nadastrom, Keys N Crates and DJ Zebo.

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Live: Mad Decent Block Party in Chicago