Skrillex Surprises at Intimate Brooklyn CMJ 2015 Show: Live Review

Ryan Muir

“Let's get some motherf---ing energy in here,” Skrillex demanded after coming on stage to an unrepentant air-raid siren around 1:15 a.m. Friday night (Oct. 16) as the surprise closing act at the Fader Fort presented by Converse, which has become something of a CMJ and SXSW institution.

His slight exasperation was understandable -- after all, the relatively small crowd (especially when you consider the EDM festival masses that normally worship at the altar of the drop), was still emerging from the fog of R&B singer Kehlani’s sultry, hypnotic performance. The DJ, who is maybe the most emblematic figure of EDM’s mainstream ascent, was unfazed by slightly off-brand crowd (an inevitable side-effect of the Fader Fort’s any-genre, all-hip ethos), willingly adjusting the turn-up to suit the crowd.

“I'm gonna make a motherf---ing party in this place,” Skrillex said -- and that's exactly what he did.

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Within 15 minutes of his set’s start, there was a girl on a guy’s shoulders, as though this were EDC and not a small room with, at the most, around 150 people. Completely unconcerned with being cliche (he still wears the same once-edgy side shave and necessarily look-defining glasses as he did when he first rose to fame), Skrillex led fist-pumps, hand-claps and brief motivational speeches (“If you’ve ever been in love say, oooooo”) through his set, even adding in his signature “mixing songs while standing on the table” move. This is not a function of stagnation -- this is a function of his professionalism, renouncing any claim to cool as a way to try to get the audience (in this case, a fairly self-consciously hip one) to renounce their own, and give in, as ever, to the beat. 

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He played to the people’s taste, keeping his set list to mostly drop-punctuated hip-hop bangers (i.e. French Montana’s “Pop That” and A$AP Ferg’s “Work”). When the power briefly went out to his turntables, he generously told us, “You guys twerked the power out.” Skrillex was tireless in his pursuit of the turnt, charming the crowd with “Hotline Bling” and the CDQ version of “Why You Lyin” (the viral meme cover of Next's "Too Close"). His willingness to try just about any tactic even translated into a little positive visualization.

“I need you to pretend you're at the world’s largest rave,” he said. “Jump with me!’

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The DJ wrapped up his set with an appropriately on-trend pair of special guests -- L.A. rapper Boogie, who had performed earlier in the evening and is a signee of Skrillex’s OWSLA label, and Brooklyn’s own Leikeli47, another notable Skrillex co-sign who he introduced as “one of the most influential artists in the world right now,” both accompanied by balaclava-clad back-up dancers.

Still though, it was Bieber who held sway. As the set wound down, Skrillex thanked people for coming out, and for a moment, the forced, pulsing ecstasy seemed to be coming to a close -- but he wasn’t done quite yet. “One more time!” he yelled, as he hit the “Where Are U Now” drop, again -- and everyone, compelled by nothing but the beat (the open bar most dry by this point) complied.


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