By Adam Marofke
Lost in a sweaty and throbbing mob, awash with eerily luminescent lights, you are blasted with bone-rattling bass and ear-piercing screeches, all while dancing to the commands of a shadowy figure with long, dark hair. No, this is not a ghoulish dream — this is a Wednesday night Skrillex set.
The Oct. 19 Calgary show was not for the faint of ear, and thus would not have been an ideal night out for less-than-devoted fans of heavy electronic and dubstep music. However, for the legion of emphatic fans that turned out to support the 23-year-old Los Angeles native Skrillex — otherwise known as Sonny Moore — on his “Mothership” tour, this was Christmas come early.
This was evidenced by the fact that just after 9 p.m. last week, a long line of fans stretched from the front doors of Flames Central, down Stephen Avenue and around the corner.
Skrillex’s mercurial rise through the ranks of the electronic dance music scene has planted him firmly on the mainstream radar. For proof of this, you need not look any further from his appearance on the cover of this month’s SPIN magazine and to the crowd that was standing outside Flames Central on a chilly October evening.
Along with the usual glowstick-toting mob you would expect at a DJ set in Calgary, there was a remarkable number of fresh-faced youngsters and frat boys — this was not your average underground dubstep show.
As the line filtered in and concertgoers grabbed drinks, you could already hear the crisp breakbeats provided by opener Two Fresh. The trio onstage fulfilled their role as hype men adequately as their danceable hip-hop beats got the crowd moving, with a live drum kit adding a nice touch.
12th Planet filled the next slot, using every spare decibel of Flames Central’s booming sound system. Even the crowds lining the upper balconies were up and bouncing as 12th Planet’s set climaxed with a remix of the “Tetris” theme, which they followed with an emphatic stage dive.
Those restless waiting for the main event were finally rewarded when Skrillex took the stage a little after midnight.
The young DJ took advantage of a swift stage turnover as he picked up right where 12th Planet had left off and kept the excitement levels running high. A light mix of the vocal hook to “Rock N’ Roll (Will Take You to the Mountain)” drifted out over the chanting crowd right before the speaker-punching beat dropped for Skrillex’s remix of La Roux’s “In for the Kill.”
Hearing wasn’t the only sense being bombarded, as Skrillex’s stage show, dubbed “The Cell,” provided non-stop visual stimulation. One main highlight was the enormous computer-generated effigy that appeared on screen, copying the bouncing DJ’s every move. The robotic image’s hand swayed up and down, leading the crowd along as a puppeteer would his marionettes.
The most popularly acclaimed hooks of Skrillex’s most notable songs were sprinkled liberally throughout the one-and-a-half hour set, ensuring that even the casual fan could continue rocking out to recognizable tracks. This culminated midway through his performance when the hits “WEEKENDS!!!,” “Rock N’ Roll” and “My Name is Skrillex” all dropped in a short time span, sending the writhing, sweaty crowd into a frenzy. Keeping to his genre-bending reputation, Skrillex also dropped a segue of classic Ludacris songs. Although momentarily tripped up by the shift in style, the crowd responded well and kept bouncing along.
As the show pushed on well past 1 a.m., the tiring crowd was given a much-needed rest with the ubiquitous concert tradition of lighter-raising, accompanied by the DJ’s own remix of fellow EDM artist Benny Benassi’s “Cinema.”
The audience sang along right before getting hit one last time with the big drop on “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites,” a point at which a scantily-clad youngster wearing a furry bear hat behind me grabbed my shoulders and screamed uncontrollably.
As Skrillex shook hands with the front rows and departed the stage, the chants for an encore were only met by 12th Planet, who emerged to advertise the after-party at the nearby Hifi Club.
Having had enough sensual discombobulating for one evening, I slipped out as those showgoers flying high off the bass scurried down the block to keep vibing into the wee hours of the morning.
Last Wednesday, hundreds of fans were treated to exactly what they had turned out for: bass heavy enough to crack your sternum, a cutting-edge light show and enough beat-dropping to punch a hole through the floor.
But the most memorable surprise of the evening was the diverse crowd — a sure sign that Skrillex’s star is still rising, for anyone from casual electronic dance music fans to dedicated bassheads.