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Live: Mad Decent Block Party in LA

photographer Mae Ryan

On Saturday, we interrupted our regularly scheduled L.A. weekend routine—making our own nut milks, foraging the yard for purslane, sexually harassing the baristas at Intelligentsia—to drop by the Mad Decent Block Party for a quickie quality control check. This involved driving to a no-man’s-land on the East Side, wedged somewhere between Echo Park and Downtown, to a hulking compound of buildings called the L.A. Center Studios. We knew we were in the right place when we saw the line snaking around multiple blocks, and the ripe summer music festival smells—hormones, bubblegum, sweat and weed—punched us in the face like a fist.

The party is an all day, all ages, outdoor kind of jam (Theophilus London and Zeds Dead headlined later in the night), but we swung by for the afternoon shift. Diplo was nowhere in sight, but things seemed to be running smoothly. Girls in hot pants and disfiguring quantities of facial spackle mingled with dudes in oversized tank tops, flipped-lid baseball hats and neon shades. Babies in headphones nibbled on beach balls. Judging by the number of empties already littering the pavement at 1pm, people were in the mood to get up.

Riff Raff took the stage decked out in royal purple hat and T-shirt and a solid pair of 1987-era neon Jams, cornrows swinging, facial hair hieroglyphs in place, and tossed two boxes of new Pumas (an event sponsor) he’d poached from the backstage artists’ lounge into the crowd. The chubby teenager in front of us turned around, beaming: “Awesome!”

After bemoaning the sound system (“the retrospecs[SP?] are all off”), asking where the drugs were at and requesting that girls release their mammaries to the open air, Raff launched into “Deion Sandals” and other endearing raps about the usual stuff, like your sister doing coke off his new bitch’s titty. When he got low you could see his underpants were the color of orange sherbet.

But mostly people came to dance. Colorado-based DJ Paper Diamond’s high-energy set was like a futuristic aerobics class, with wavy gravy basslines and tweaky momentum guiding a sea of bouncing hands in the air. Behind him, a giant mustachioed taco two-stepped.

Backstage, Riff Raff, now wearing a shirt covered in cheeseburgers, untangled a chain while muttering about Don Shula and Dan Marino. Heading back to the crowd we passed a huge white geodesic dome with a sign that said “Vortex Immersion.” We kept walking.

Next up, Casey Veggies, a sometime Odd Future collaborator, came out with the charisma and gleaming grin of a child actor. Girls swooned. The sun glared. Two chicks with bare midriffs and navel rings had the right idea, lying down on the pavement in the shade and gyrating on their backs.

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Live: Mad Decent Block Party in LA