One of the hottest young names in electronic dance music these days – if not all of popular music – is Skrillex, the L.A.-based, five-time Grammy-nominated DJ and producer who played a run of six consecutive sold-out local shows over the last week. Saturday night at the packed Palladium, the 24-year-old (real name: Sonny Moore) held court over his largest area headlining show to date, blasting a 90-minute continuous set of bass-heavy, short-attention-span theater that was consistently thick on spectacle but often thin on substance.
“I’m so proud to be from Los Angeles,” Skrillex shouted as he launched opener “Breakn a Sweat,” a mid-tempo track from the “Re:Generation” documentary that warps and filters bits from The Doors’ “Light My Fire” for an infectious generational mash-up. Robbie Krieger’s familiar guitar lines were heavily manipulated while Jim Morrison’s voice was rendered into a snarling apocalyptic growl.
Sensory overload was the prevailing approach as smoke and flames billowed and kaleidoscopic images filled two large video screens positioned above the elevated DJ booth. Elements of house, electro, hip-hop, reggae and hardcore ricocheted in the cavernous space as delirious attendees shouted, danced and waved their glow sticks.
The show peaked about halfway in as Skrillex delivered his first single, “My Name is Skrillex,” with an extended bass drop tease that elevated the energy in the room to near-riotous proportions, segueing smartly into the gangsta-leaning “Kyoto” that quickly morphed into a rendition of “Hypnotize” by Notorious B.I.G. Throbbing bass shook the room while onstage flames filled a stylized “ill” prop.
Skrillex lead the post-hardcore band From First to Last in the mid-2000’s and his experience as rock frontman gives his live appearances more of a cheerleader flavor than most dubstep practitioners. However, his endless arm-waving and pogo jumping raised questions over how much of what was heard here was actually being spontaneously generated and how much was little more than pushing play on his laptop.
Second-billed DJ araabMUZIK suffered no such shortcomings, and was highly impressive utilizing his MPC drum machine for an incredible display of manual dexterity. Mixing traditional dance beats and samples with highly inventive percussion rolls, the Providence-based producer masterfully crafted unexpected melodies from a deep well of electronic effects.