The Reader's guide to the Mad Decent Block Party

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Action Bronson
In 2010 Diplo's Mad Decent label took its annual Block Party national—previously held only in Philly (Diplo's adopted hometown), it branched out with installments in Chicago and a few other cities, where Mad Decent-signed and Mad Decent-approved acts slung the latest in forward-looking EDM and hip-hop at what looked sort of like small-town carnivals swarmed by streetwear-clad hipsters. This year the party takes place Sat 8/18 on Fulton between Ashland and Justine, and once again it's free with RSVP. As usual the acts on the bill represent a broad range of sounds—electro-pop, hip-hop, niche EDM styles such as moombahton and tribal guachero—united by the fact that they're all at the forefront of musical fashion. Which isn't to say that the artists in question are mere trend chasers—Mad Decent's a proven incubator for talent that's responsible for some of the most revolutionary advances in recent pop history.

After the jump, the day's schedule, headliner first—and I recommend the acts that are worth giving up your turn at the dunk tank.

Nadastrom
9:00-10:00

Dutch house's twitchy, syncopated beats sometimes sound like a reggaeton record (approximately 100 BPM) revved up to a house-music tempo (approximately 125 BPM). When DJ Dave Nada slowed down the Dutch house anthem "Moombah" to reggaeton speed, he inadvertently created moombahton, which combines hip-winding rhythms and ravey air-horn synthesizers to addictive effect. Since then he's been collaborating with DJ Matt Nordstrom under the name Nadastrom, and they feature heavily on Mad Decent's 2011 anthology Blow Your Head, Vol. 2: Dave Nada Presents Moombahton.

Action Bronson
8:15-9:00

Blue Chips, a recent mixtape collaboration between Queens rapper Action Bronson and Brooklyn MPC wizard Party Supplies, is the noisiest, sloppiest rap record of the year (during "Hookers at the Point" you can actually hear Party Supplies turning up the sound on his Mac), and it might also be the best. Bronson's got a wild flow that justifies the comparisons to Ghostface he's attracted, and his frequent shout-outs to gourmet foods—he's a former fine-dining chef—will make it impossible for you to ever read a menu again without hearing it in his voice.

Tanlines
7:30-8:15

Brooklyn duo Tanlines take their cues from vintage new wave and contemporary electro-pop—not, say, old-school rap and next-generation EDM microgenres, like most of the acts on the bill here—but for most of their recent Mixed Emotions (True Panther Sounds) they put as much emphasis on danceable beats as they do on memorable melodies. In the process they come out way ahead of pretty much every other electro-pop going. "All of Me" is one of my jams of 2012.

DJ Earl
6:45-7:30

No tastemaking dance-music festival worth its sneaker sponsorship would dare come to Chicago without including some footwork music. The hyperspeed local-born style's representative here is DJ Earl, whose compositions radiate an extreme level of chilled-out-ness even when they're built around sirenlike synths or supernasty sex talk.

Spaceghostpurrp
6:15-6:45

One part Cypress Hill, one part Houston rap, and two parts "being so stoned that you start to seriously worry that you might have actually smoked enough weed to go insane" is about the recipe that Miami's Spaceghostpurrp works with. He's a gifted spitter and an in-demand producer among the current batch of buzzy young MCs (his collaboration with A$AP Rocky, "Purple Swag," was the warning shot that this particular generation fired across the bow of their rap elders), and in both arenas he's been responsible for some of the most legitimately psychedelic music to ever come out of hip-hop.

12th Planet
5:30-6:15

Bonde do Role
4:45 - 5:30

This Brazilian trio's 2007 debut, With Lasers, was a hyperactive aggregation of just about every aggressively energetic dance-music style in the world, all arranged around a core of favela funk—a raunchy mutant strain of electro hip-hop that emerged from the slums of Rio in the mid-aughts thanks in large part to Diplo's Favela on Blast mixtape. They've finally released its follow-up, Tropicalbacanal (Mad Decent), and though it's a slightly more subtle and subdued affair it still has energy to burn.

Toy Selectah
4:00-4:45

The underground dance-music scene prides itself on having globally broad tastes, and it's full of ambassadors from the tiny splinter communities that have formed as house music and hip-hop have spread around the world. Toy Selectah is this scene's premiere representative of Mexico and Central America, mixing the rhythms of Latin styles such as cumbia with the latest EDM fashions, resulting in infectious, bastardized sub-subgenres, among them "raverton," "meximore," and "tribal guachero"—some so narrow that he's the only artist working in them.

Keys N Krates
3:00-3:45

Jim-E Stack
2:00-2:45

Chris Cab
1:45-2:00

Icky Blossoms
1:15-1:45

Icky Blossoms is a trio from Omaha signed to Saddle Creek, but they don't play poppy indie folk. Their recent self-titled debut, produced by Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio, is nocturnal club pop that has a lot in common with female and female-fronted electroclash acts like Miss Kittin, Adult., and former Sitek collaborators the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Chrome Sparks
12:30-1:00

Zebo
12:00-12:30

Longtime Chicago club-scene fixture Zebo seems to end up on just about every half-decent EDM bill in town, and his ability to adapt to any style thrown his way probably has a lot to do with that. In the past he's focused on house, electro, and disco, but in his recent work he follows fellow Mad Decent-approved locals Flosstradamus into the world of trap house, the supremely stylish fusion of ravey techno keyboards and trippy, triplet-heavy southern hip-hop beats.

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