It's beginning to look like "global weirding" — an alternate term for global warming that emphasizes the increasingly erratic nature of weather events — isn't just about climate change; in 2013, the music industry just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. Bowie snuck out a new single without any advance notice; then Prince managed the same, on the internet at that; and then, holy smokes, Kevin Shields stepped up with a new My Bloody Valentine album. Now, in the surest sign yet that hell has frozen over, Barcelona's Sónar has announced Skrillex as one of the headliners for its festival this June.
Booked for the Sónar by Night lineup on Friday, June 14, Sonny Moore will play the same stage as Kraftwerk, who will be debuting their new 3D spectacle; he joins a lineup that already includes pop icons and crossover heavyweights like Pet Shop Boys, Paul Kalkbrenner, Two Door Cinema Club, and Nicolas Jaar, as well as more niche-oriented acts like trap upstart Baauer, noise technician Vatican Shadow, and the gender-bending New York rapper Mykki Blanco.
Sónar isn't a total stranger to North America's EDM boom; the festival brought Deadmau5 back for a second time last year. But Skrillex is nevertheless a surprising choice for the festival, which has typically triangulated its aesthetic between cutting-edge sound art (Carsten Nicolai, Francisco Lopez), pop provocateurs (Björk, Die Antwoord) and thundering techno (Jeff Mills, Richie Hawtin) played for crowds of 10,000 strong. He's a provocative choice, too: Sónar's Facebook comments, as you might expect, have erupted with the force of one of Skrillex's own gut-busting drops. (Sample comment: "Call your self a cutting edge festival? The only thing cutting edge with Skrillex is that everyone reaches for their razor blades!")
When SPIN interviewed Sónar co-directors Enric Palau and Ricard Robles last fall, they discussed the tensions inherent in maintaining a reputation as a festival of "advanced music" across 20 years of shifting styles and trends. "It's about developing your profile not in opposition or to be alternative," Robles explained, "but because the expectation attached to the brand is that every year there's an offering of 100, 120 acts that are the most representative of the musical panorama. And thus we can move between extremes — from the world of rock at one end to the world of commercial pop at the other, without subverting the Sónar brand."
Of Deadmau5' 2012 appearance, Robles noted, "It's important to us that the festival isn't seen as a snobby kind of thing. Deadmau5 has the value that you want to give him. There will be people that think that he doesn't innovate, that he makes music according to very basic formulas, but for another, newer public, he might be the way to introduce them to electronic music. Within 120 acts, to have one or two examples of what is happening in the world of electronic music, keeping that younger public in mind, I think it's justified. We can't turn our backs or take a snobby attitude. Those acts are a symptom of where we are, what's happening in music now."
At the very least, Skrillex's booking offers Spaniards something to debate that's not the economy (youth unemployment stands at 55%), Catalonia's secession bid, or a widening corruption scandal involving Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his Partido Popular. So far, however, there has been no organized opposition to Skrillex's appearance — unlike David Guetta's 2011 booking at Spain's Monegros festival, which gathered 10,000 irate ravers around a Facebook protest page. But Skrilly may get off easier than Guetta; thus far in his career, he has shown himself to be remarkably resilient. After all, he escaped brostep's clutches with his recent (and reasonably convincing) tip of the hat to Burial — and on his birthday, he turned out to be surprisingly flame-resistant. He may just light a fire under Sónar's stodgiest fans yet.