Skrillex at The Independent, San Francisco, February 3, 2014
Watching a skeptical music media attempt to wrap its head around EDM was one of last year’s nuttier guilty pleasures: Detractors insisted the genre showed up out of nowhere (even though the Electric Daisy Carnival was outselling Coachella as early as 2010), and seemed to hope that maybe, with a Molly overdose here or a mega-club boondoggle there, they could will this whole thing back out of existence. That’s not going to happen. And here’s why: Last week, I watched Dave Chappelle crowd-surf to a mix of “Levels” into “Cinema” during a Skrillex show.
Seriously: You can watch it right here, about three minutes in. This was last Monday night, the first of six events comprising Skrillex’s Bay Area Takeover, itself the first of four such takeovers that will also see the EDM rapscallion descend on New York City, Amsterdam, and finally Barcelona, each for a mix of concerts at alternately tiny and cavernous venues. But it all started at this intimate San Francisco space called the Independent, during the surreal closing 20 minutes of Mr. Sonny Moore’s inaugural set, during which I’m pretty sure the 500-capacity venue’s walls started to warp in on themselves Inception-style, lasers and strobes exploding, the show-goers possibly literally bouncing of the walls. It was then that fucking Dave Chappelle himself jumped onstage and — with that bug-eyed wonder-goof look of his — flung himself into the crowd.
“Dave… Dave… Dave Chappelle!” Skrillex screamed. “This is for the fucking books!” Oh my god! Bwah-bwah-bwah-bwah.
Indeed, Moore played “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites,” as well as pretty much every other “hit,” both his and others’: “Bangarang,” “The Devil’s Den,” Knife Party’s “Power Glove,” “Wild for the Night,” Benny Benassi’s “Cinema,” Nero’s “Promises.” This is another indication, to me at least, that EDM is an entire generation’s musical lingua franca: Skrillex played the hits. This is not what we generally expect from our DJs, but it’s exactly what we expect from our rock stars. Even though this gig was in a small venue for a die-hard crowd, it was not an experimental set designed to try out new material. There was some of that, some new songs (honestly: meh), but for the most part, Skrillex regarded himself as a crowd-pleaser, as if he were Bon Jovi or Taylor Swift or… Jimmy Buffet.
Because let’s have a quick come-to-Jesus moment here and say what most of us really think about EDM: that it’s the music of choice for bros, who are the antithesis of everything cool in the world, a la their counterparts the Parrotheads. (Sorry, Parrotheads, but hey, you’re not reading this.) This is the wrong attitude. This is a bad attitude. Not only are Skrillex and his cohorts here to stay, but they are at least occasionally pretty awesome, capable of inspiring a level of fan devotion that is sincere and visceral, not to mention writing the occasional great song (what’s not to like about “Bangarang”?), not to mention bending fucking walls. Above are photos from the Independent show and Saturday night’s Bay Area Takeover-capping gig at the comparatively huge Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Have a look, and then take my advice: Join Dave Chappelle in embracing EDM. Trust me: You need it more than it needs you. GARRETT KAMPS