The dubstep wunderkind brings his insane "Skrillex Cell" live show to LC Pavilion.
What do you do when your music is a complex amalgamation of club music genres refined for mass consumption, your live show consists of you fist-pumping and fiddling with electronic equipment, and you find yourself on stage in front of thousands of adoring fans night after night?
You buy some reeeeeally fancy toys.
Skrillex brought his Mothership Tour to LC Pavilion last night, and while the music was certainly notable -- we live in a brave new world, people -- it's impossible not to dwell on the Skrillex Cell, the absurdly high-tech video projection set that serves as the throne for a tour that feels like a coronation. Imagine a life-size ice castle with dreams projected on it, and you might come close to visualizing last night's optic overload. Never have I seen a stage set come alive quite like the Skrillex Cell.
At the epicenter of the bursting, bouncing imagery was Skrillex himself, born Sonny Moore, who functions in this setup as either the nerdiest cheerleader ever or the coolest, most encouraging science teacher. Like most superstar DJs, he spends a lot of time tinkering with his gadgets and looking downright exhilarated doing it, but he also frequently grabs the mic and exhorts the crowd to really go nuts when this beat drops. (One time, rather redundantly, he screamed, "Dance party!") The music had a few peaks and valleys, but basically this was a 90-minute pep rally to cheer on Team Dubstep.
Dubstep has been building quietly in underground dance music for decades, but in recent years, an aggressive, consumer-ready version of the genre has become the sound of the moment. Much criticism has been leveled at American producers like Skrillex. As Philip Sherburne put it in Spin, critics of this macho new breed of dubstep are gawking in horror at "the genre's 30-plus years of rhythmic refinement threatening to devolve into a Pauly D fist-pump." Skrillex is a major player in that process, but last night was proof positive that he's in a different league from most of the bass-blasting knuckle draggers saturating the market. Like so many trendsetters before him, it's foolish to fault Moore for his imitators' inferior output.
Instead, why not appreciate the way he applies a deft melodic touch to violent bass breakdowns, or his acute understanding of how to elicit an emotional reaction from an expert transition, or the way he dramatically extends synth drones like Jimi Hendrix bent guitar strings. He's a rock star not just because of trends or image (he looks like Harry Potter in "The Matrix"), but because he is exceptionally good at making dance music for a glowstick-clad generation that can't seem to satiate its desire for color and bass exploding everywhere.