Planting his black boots squarely between a laptop and a MIDI controller, Sonny Moore stands atop his gear table and surveys the scene. As far as the eye can see, there’s an ocean of bodies spangled with flash bulbs, crowned by colorful headgear, covered in Spandex, face paint, glitter, and beads. The horizon smolders in a neon haze of fireworks smoke. Glow sticks erupt from the crowd, mimicking the jets of flame that periodically burst from the top of the stage. It’s like Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights meets the bridge battle from Apocalypse Now — a riot of flesh and light and dizzying excess.
Of the 85,000 people who have ventured out into the desert to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on this June night for the 2011 edition of Electric Daisy Carnival, a significant proportion of them are now watching Moore, a former screamo frontman who has reinvented himself as Skrillex, a maker of hyper hybrids of electronic dance music. The diminutive, bespectacled Californian is one of the most closely watched artists on the dance scene, and he’s playing his biggest show yet in his 23 years on the planet.
There must be 200 people onstage. A camera crew is filming for the documentary The Electric Daisy Carnival Experience. Photographers scrum for position around Moore, ducking under the boom overhead. An intense-looking stage manager shoos back scores of VIPs and hangers-on, yelling, “Get away from my lights!” A steady stream of go-go dancers files out, commanded by a stern choreographer who practically shoves them into formation — waves of performers who look like refugees from Brazilian Carnaval and Blade Runner, cast in a strip-club version of Cirque du Soleil. Their attire includes hot pants, fishnets, bandeau tops, platform boots, fright wigs, feather headdresses and eyelashes, jester caps, and multifarious scraps of sci-fi cosplay detritus. One troupe of performers wear spooky white contact lenses to match their ice-colored vinyl capes, which are boned with glowing blue strips. A man cloaked in mirror shards, from his shoes to his face to his fedora, paces the front of the stage. Invisible but for a fleeting, fractured outline, he is the sum of everything around us: Look close, and you’re sucked into a kaleidoscopic vortex, the Big Bang behind all of the videos of this moment that will surface on YouTube tomorrow — every millisecond glimpsed from every angle.
A honeyed, Auto-Tuned chorus blasts from the stage monitors that flank Moore, as he leans down to flick a fader. It’s Skrillex’s breakout hit, “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites,” a song that will be heard umpteen times this weekend, in DJ set after DJ set. As the music quiets, a familiar voice tears through the speakers. It’s Speed Stacking Girl, a minor YouTube sensation whom Moore sampled for the song’s breakdown. “Oh my gosh!” she shrieks, a ragged cry of teenage abandon.
Suddenly, Moore is airborne. He hits the ground as a wave of bass radiates outward, and the crowd goes weightless in response. Every arm is upstretched; and above those, the upstretched arms of all the girls sitting on boys’ shoulders. The bass snaps back and forth across the crowd like a towel, like a whip, like a weed-whacker. A dude standing next to me cups his hands around his mouth and screams, “Kiiiiill ’em, Skrillex!”
Oh my gosh, indeed.
This is a new era in American electronic dance music. And if you want to understand it, keep your eye on Skrillex, regardless of what you think of dance music’s current ultracommercial turn, or of dubstep’s regressive macho tendencies, or of the genre’s 30-plus years of rhythmic refinement threatening to devolve into a Pauly D fist-pump. Dance music fans have been like those ornery partisans in the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercials, pre-epiphany: “You got electro in my techno!” “You got commercial in my underground!” Skrillex manically disposes of those dichotomies; his music is like a melted goo of influences, sticky and chemically sweet. And the kids are eating it up.
See Skrillex perform and you understand why Deadmau5 — the genre’s most spectacular, or at least recognizable, act — has anointed him with his magic mouse pheromones, releasing Skrillex’s official debut EP on his own label, Mau5trap. You understand why Atlantic Records has made Skrillex a cornerstone of Big Beat, its recently relaunched dance-music imprint. “It’s changing so rapidly, it’s just crazy,” cool-hunting DJ/producer Diplo shouts into my ear backstage at Electric Daisy Carnival while Skrillex plays. Diplo’s T-shirt reads BABYLON IS FALLING.
“You can’t put a fuckin’ timeline on it,” he continues, “but what Skrillex does, it’s really grassroots, man. The energy here at this stage is, like, 40 times bigger than what [David] Guetta has right now.”
After years of being relegated to the margins, the American dance-music scene is reaching critical mass. And though international superstar DJs like Guetta or Swedish House Mafia, and their glossy pop crossovers, have been part of the process, it goes deeper now. At every level — from Las Vegas superclubs hosting millionaire trance DJs for the striped-shirted and miniskirted to parties on the Burning Man playa fueled by ketamine and tweaked-out underground house music — dance is back, bigger than it’s been since the last days of disco. Bigger even than in the “electronica” boom of the late-’90s, which produced a No. 1 album — the Prodigy’s Fat of the Land — and sowed the seeds for today’s bumper crop of beats.
Consider these numbers: The total of 230,000 attendees this year at Electric Daisy Carnival surpassed Coachella, which sold 75,000 three-day passes (a reported drop from 2010’s take). In its 12 years, Coachella has grown into a cultural institution, an event whose imprimatur makes stars, confirms legends, and attracts a parade of willowy starlets who are chronicled from the Huffington Post to US Weekly. Electric Daisy Carnival’s profile is sketchier, to say the least (see SPIN magazine’s “Electric Mayhem,” page 54). But even indie-centric Coachella has been skewing its lineup towards electronic dance music over the past several years.
2 remixes of Mad World have been released!
Check out http://www.beatport.com/release/mad-world/436975.
Thanks to Noel Sanger and Chase Costello for their great work, to J. Scott G. for his vocal engineering and of course to Crysta Bell for such a beautiful vocal!
Authorities in Lane County are seeking a court order to block a three-day electronic dance music festival at a rural site, arguing that the event doesn’t have the necessary permits.
The Eugene Register-Guard reported (http://bit.ly/pO62Du) the county commission voted Thursday to ask a judge to halt the 11th annual Where Life Begins festival set to begin Friday night near the Coast Range town Blachly.
Organizers didn’t get county approval to hold the festival on land zoned for farm use, and county officials said this week they’re worried about public health, safety and fire risks.
Online festival promotions remained up Friday. A recording urged festivalgoers to park their cars and walk in if the roads are blocked. Email messages sent Friday through the festival’s website weren’t immediately returned.
“We need to stand up for our rights and party like we’re meant to party,” said a recorded message on a festival information telephone line.
Out of concern for keeping tensions low, sheriff’s deputies won’t try to remove those who make it to the festival grounds, Capt. Bill Thompson said. But he said that even 1,000 people showing up would be a challenge to manage.
“We’re not going to move in there and try and remove 1,000 people off the property,” Thompson said. “(But) if something bad happens, we’re going to take whatever action is appropriate to deal with it.”
County officials said the 2010 festival on the property was attended by 3,000 to 4,000 people, and there was inadequate security and too much traffic.
One woman fell and suffered a bad cut on her leg, a man who resisted arrest was hit with a stun gun shot and undercover officers reported drug use, Thompson said.
The paper said the concert organizer Russell Gorman paid a $5,000 fine for holding the event last year without permits and said he told the county commission Thursday he wanted to hold attendance under 3,000 people this year.
“Your 12 years of experience don’t give me a lot of confidence,” said Commissioner Jay Bozievich, whose district includes the Blachly area. “We just can’t have people do things without permits in this county. What do I tell the neighbors who are all objecting to this?”