REVIEW / VIDEOS: Skrillex @ Outside Lands 2012
Many fans of the blog and friends alike were aghast on Sunday night when I tweeted out the following:
In full comprehension of the notion that I’m going to get flamed so unbelievably hard for even trying to write this post, I believed that tweet to be more true than many of you could ever possibly understand, and I’m still working on the best way to “explain” myself and back up my assertion that the 60 minutes of Skrillex’s set at Outside Lands was one of the best musical experiences I’ve had in a long time. How the hell could anyone say that’s even possible and mean it? And who would have such gall to actually publish that statement on Twitter for all the world to see (and to be archived by the Library of Congress forever)?
Well, I “said” it by posting that tweet and I meant it, man. Let me try to explain just a little bit, with a quick disclaimer first…
For anyone following the site for long enough to know that we’re a perfect mix of both taking ourselves seriously and clowning around with funny Phish videos every now and again, I want to assure you and reiterate that when I typed that tweet myself, always a long-time “voice” of our main Twitter account, I wasn’t necessarily speaking for every single person that writes for the site. Some of my staff threatened to quit (*cough* @Phortin *cough*), some of the staff actually LOL’d in my face (*cough* @BrahBrahBrah *cough*), some friends didn’t say anything and some thought I was hopped up on Molly and feeling blissed out on chemicals, so maybe it’s worth clarifying that I was not on drugs and that indeed my friends and crew from the site think I’m crazy as a result of such sheer tweet confidence. So these opinions that you see in this post are clearly my own… and proudly represent just one tiny portion of the fun we have here on Live Music Blog. Expect nothing less from us going forward, and do me a favor and keep an open mind about what you read here for the sake of honest discussion about what makes live music so great. This Skrillex set was something to behold…
The young gothy DJ that everyone loves to hate was set to play the final set of the festival opposite Stevie Wonder on the other end of the park. I got in front of the soundboard about 30 minutes prior to the show which proved to the best decision I had made all day (besides seeing the Jack White pop-up show in Choco Lands); the sound there was pristine and really provided the necessary subwoofer action I was hoping for as I mentally prepared for the full Skrillex experience. And I ran into a few friends and we all got set and ready for the show to start…. I looked down at my phone and saw 8:23pm…. and I shouted “7 minutes…” Then BAM, the lights drop…. and the countdown begins on screen…
The energy picks up, Skrillex hops up into his weird-ass spaceship spider DJ cage, and he launches into “Right In” with the crowd erupting right on the drop…
From there, all I remember really distinctly about my experience was how I was able to completely lose myself in it. To be totally overwhelmed with amazingly powerful, strong, heavy electronic music blasting right into my ear drums was actually nothing short of spiritual for me. And I type all that knowing full well how ridiculous that sounds to the people that read this site and get amped for this week’s return to the road of Phish. And yet I’m stuck with the lasting memory of how much fun this was to dance to, to be completely sweatsoaked and just hanging on for dear life in a pit of people and a haze of smoke and fog obscuring your view of the stage just enough to make it all seem like a dream. Do you know when the last time that happened to me was? Last year at the first night of Phish at UIC Pavilion, arguably the best photoset I’ve ever shot in my life and one of the best shows of all of Phish 3.0…
Back to Skrillex, though, because the Skrillex and Phish comparison is not going to go over all that well unless I really put some more thought into it. This show was a full-on immersive dubstep explosion and I’m so glad I posted where I was with the people around me bouncing along JUST AS HARD as me the ENTIRE show. All 60 minutes. One after another, a series of sub-frequency waves and explosions of music just continued to wash over the crowd, drop after break after drop after break after transition after break after drop, etc. etc. etc. etc. He played so many cuts that people knew like the obvious “My Name is Skrillex,” “Rock and Roll,” “Make It Bun Dem,” and “Equinox (First of the Year),” which all had some new variations in how they flowed into the set. He ended the show with a singalong worthy “Cinema” cover which has gotten a ton of attention since his version of the Benny Bennasi hit came out…
I can’t really understand what came over me except knowing that I’ve never gotten so lost in a show experience before. Almost ever. The only show of memory that really rivals this level of “mind left body” experience for me before that night was the My Morning Jacket show I saw down in Austin for SXSW 2008.
I’ve been following the setlists this year and it’s not that he needed to stray at all from the sets he put together at Ultra, Bonnaroo, or even on his Full Flex Express tour, but from what I saw he continues to innovate on his trademark whomps and pews by actually mixing in interesting double-times, half-times, not to mention quick transitions between half-finished versions of his “hits” that have been played a billion times over on YouTube. Plus, good ‘ol fashioned stage props, smoke cannons, visuals, cameras on stage and just enough unanticipated antics that kept me super interested in the whole production of it all…
Maybe I can appreciate what Skrillex is doing on a level that some don’t choose to focus on — PRODUCTION. After all of this discussion about how some DJ’s prefer a live approach to their craft and some choose for a more produced and polished version of the side of it, I was 100% down for the full-on over-produced light rig / fog machine / bass drop approach that kept the show moving from place to place with ease. It’s not that I feel every single note is properly placed or not actually placed intentionally to rile the senses, to cause aural discomfort much like a screaming high frequency guitar solo or a ridiculous double-bass drum pedal attack during some speed metal song. If you’ve ever gotten into an Umphrey’s McGee show, it’s probably because part of you LOVES that the metal gets a workout during a standard show of theirs. They’re the only jamband I know that embraces the heavy and embraces the idea of playing “Wizard Burial Ground” at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass; nothing is sacred and everything and anything is sacred nowadays.
Maybe my tweet should have said “fuck the haters, that set was hot” and maybe that would have been a sufficient statement, but I felt as though I had some responsbility to admit to myself and make it known that the only major electronic headliner at Outside Lands was Skrillex and he completely blew me away above and beyond anything else I saw there that weekend. Despite him being a posterboy for “brostep” and other bad connotations and feelings that most of the we-take-ourselves-too-seriously-sometimes music blogger / Twitter community is guilty of feeling above, like they’re “better” than dubstep in a way, I feel a bit of responsbility to the rest of the public to just make it known that I really like and enjoy all forms of music. And sometimes we all make subjective calls about how something moves us in the moment, and it’s sometimes as simple as catching onto a fad and finding inspiration in the “leader” of that movement to produce something actually somewhat new to some of us.
Maybe that original tweet was about as subjective I could have ever been in that moment, but that Skrillex set was insanely good and I’ve seen enough live music in my life to know what I’m talking about. Maybe I was only speaking for myself in that moment, but the thousands of music fans surrounding me for those 60 minutes made it known that we’re happy to get lost in chaos for a while as some of the best escapism that humans being can actually experience anymore. That Skrillex show is exactly what I love about live music on one entirely different plane vs. what I love about live music when I go see a Phish show. Later this week, I get to go see three… and I’m looking forward to saying the exact same subjective thing during one of the sets that weekend.
What’s wrong with a little over-exaggeration now and then?
Check out Page 2 for a ton more videos that surfaced on YouTube from the set and this won’t be the last you’ll be hearing about this set — SORRY, BROS!
About the author
Justin Ward is the Editor at Live Music Blog and has been with the site from the very beginning. He currently lives in San Francisco and regularly tweets other stuff over @justinpward.
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