Local bass-music act Zeds Dead receives a rowdy welcome home.
Yonge-Dundas Square was filled with face-melting bass on Saturday as the Mad Decent Block Party brought out thousands of revellers.
The event—organized by Mad Decent Records, the New York–based label founded by producer/DJ/tastemaker Diplo—was the first of a series of open-air throwdowns that will take place in cities across North America over the rest of the summer. Saturday’s festivities featured critically acclaimed Canadian electronic acts like A Tribe Called Red and Smalltown DJs, as well as jazz-hop delinquents BadBadNotGood. The party was co-headlined by moombahton pioneers Nadastrom and local bass music heroes Zeds Dead, who were making a triumphant homecoming after having played several large electronic music festivals in Europe and the US. Detroit-born, San Francisco–based house artist Claude VonStroke was also supposed to be a co-headliner, but he missed his set because of travel issues.
In addition to pounding beats, the party also featured foosball, a photo booth, and—most popular of all—a carnival-style dunking booth. The result was an incongruous mixture of underage drinkers consuming smuggled booze, happy families watching a man fall into a tub of water, and excitable, shirtless bros downing PBR in the beer tent. Beach balls and inflated condoms were batted around in the crowd. At one point someone decided to send a beat-up green office chair crowd surfing.
Neither Nadastrom nor Zeds Dead seemed to mind picking up VonStroke’s slack, with both acts tacking the extra time onto their sets. While electronic music can occasionally make for a boring live show (after all, you are essentially watching a guy work on his laptop) Nadastrom went out of their way to provide visual interest. Not only did they have dancers and a crew of people whose sole jobs were to squirt water guns into the crowd, but Dave Nada’s mass of black hair seemed to move as if it had a mind of its own. It was like watching Cousin Itt on bath salts.
As much fun as Nadastrom may have been, the night most definitely belonged to Zeds Dead. The duo got their start roughly three years ago, when they started the successful Bassmentality party, a monthly night dedicated to dubstep and other forms of bass music. It first took place at 751 before moving to Wrongbar. In the past eighteen months, Zeds have gone from being local-scene staples to international superstars. They’re currently in the middle of a tour that will see them play dates across Canada, the US, and Europe. The hometown crowd went absolutely insane for the pair, chanting their name, screaming on command, hollering in response to every bass wobble and synth squeal, throwing “Zs” in the air, and screaming requests. The group themselves, meanwhile, seemed to be having as much fun as the crowd, hyping the audience, swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniels and repeatedly bro-hugging each other.
By the time they played their remix of Blue Foundation’s “Eyes on Fire”—arguably Zeds’ best-known release—the crowd was borderline hysterical, with everyone, from frat bros and girls in fun fur boots and bikini tops, to aging ’90s-era ravers reliving their youth, screaming in almost incoherent joy.
Torontonians have an unfortunate reputation for not supporting their own artists. The Toronto edition of the Mad Decent Block Party proved that false.