Skrillex's Friday night show at The Ritz Ybor selling out three-and-a-half months in advance probably signifies some sort of music apocalypse to some. How a whiny screamo star-turned-electronic dance music poster boy can do this and not, say, an artist who sings and plays a "real" instrument, seems blasphemously baffling.
It probably doesn't help that he nabbed five Grammy nominations, a Spin cover, and a hefty handful of major radio station airplay all over the past few months. If there was anything resembling a massive revolution in popular American music this year, it was the burgeoning wave of dubstep-driven electronic dance music with Skrillex, board and all, surfing atop the whole damn thing.
Friday night wholly justified this sentiment. Entering the massive circus of fans ranging from shirtless muscley bros (a first time sight at the Ritz), to hyper-colored ballerinas, you could tell the main draw (besides the actual music) is the weird little subculture it's spawned.
The drugs, the costumes, the glowsticks, the sweaty camaraderie of it all; it's like entering a whole new neon reality far removed from every day life.
And that's before Skrillex even hit the stage. Flanked by two towering groups of pillars resembling a hybrid between the Emerald City and the set of Total Recall, Skrillex took the helm and didn't let go for a powerful 90 minutes.
For the most part, his catalogue relies heavily on remixes of other well-known tracks with a handful of his own (dude only has three EPs) thrown in for good measure. Tracks like his remix of Avicii's "Levels" or La Roux's "In for the Kill" all take a completely formulaic and predictable trajectory (what dubstep remixes don't?) but, goddamn, it's so hard not to get caught up in the Pavlovian response to the pulse-pounding energy of it all.
This married with the visual feast exploding around Skrillex's booth made for a pretty jaw-dropping spectacle. The massive screen behind it bounced from one visual to another with a C3PO-looking avatar popping up every once and a while. About halfway through the set, I realized this figure was mirroring all of Skrillex's movements by way of the tight Tron suit he was sporting. Can this be standard for, like, every DJ set, ever?
Not that he fell back on all the visual stuff. He puts on a show himself; calling out the crowd, bouncing back and forth, flailing with his godawful hairstyle like some maniacal primate. As one-dimensional as his music can sometimes be on record, live is a different story. House, dub, reggae, even a curveball verse from Biggie's "Hypnotize" and Fatman Scoop's "Be Faithful" made their way into the mix. Coupled with a few unrecorded tracks and the more (read: insanely) popular ones like opener "Rock n' Roll (Will Take You to the Mountain)," "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" and his remix of Benny Benassi's "Cinema," the set showed a respectable amount of diversity and influence for a DJ who get such a one-note rep sometimes.
By the end, I left the Ritz much more impressed than I expected to be. Skrillex's masterful production and unrelenting performance made for a mind-melting spectacle that easily co-signed his worth as the top guy in the game right now. Here's to wishing Skrillex doesn't get to big for his designer britches and comes back to Ritz just once more before he explodes into superstardom.
Some video highlights from the show: