When Daft Punk played Coachella in 2006 with their now-legendary, sensory-overloading pyramid-light show, they laid down the gauntlet for every major electronic act thereafter. So impressive was their set, it encouraged other EDM artists to go all-out with their production. Add Skrillex to the list of those who have lived up to the challenge: his no-prisoners Coachella set was loud, raw and utterly entertaining, thanks to his non-stop energy and the launch of a major set-piece that was completely jaw-dropping.
Skrillex’s prop of choice was a gigantic, arena-ready fighter-jet (think of an X-wing from “Star Wars”). The set-piece was larger than the ones he has played in over previous years and was abetted with an ever-increasing amount of lasers that blasted out above the packed crowd, wings that moved, and billowing smoke machines that gave the producer (real name: Sonny Moore) the appearance of flight.
Not that Skrillex needed the help finding his wings: he actually launched himself high in the air regularly, coming out of his cockpit/booth to get the crowd amped up before taking a giant leap back to his seat, landing (of course) just as the bass dropped.
If that were it, it’d still have been an EDM set that could convert genre naysayers. But Moore’s production also utilized the whole of the Sahara tent’s monstrous lighting rig, allowing huge trusses to level themselves mere inches above the crowd’s head, then fly back up two stories and back down again, making the crowd even more a part of the show (similar technology was used on last year’s Nine Inch Nails tour).
The audience, of course, responded in kind, especially when Skrillex invited fellow DJ Dillon Francis to lead an audience-participation bit (the overused but still fun “get down as low as you can and then jump all together” routine), or when hip-hop star A$AP Rocky bounded onstage for a frantic version of their collaboration “Wild for the Night.”
It doesn’t hurt that the music Moore has far more personality than that of many of his dance-music counterparts. His signature sound –- heard on the tracks of his new album “Recess” — is a bottom-heavy din that evolves into a four-on-the-floor big beat, but it somehow approaches genre conventions rather than embraces them. Even as Skrillex has become something of a mainstream name his sound still reeks of rawness and danger. All the better, than, for it to be juxtaposed with massive videos of throwback anime and, uh, the title screen to the ‘90s sitcom “Full House.”
All these components together meant the set — and the spectacle – resonated loudly. It was no Daft Punk, but nothing may ever hit that peak again. At least Moore’s helming a ship that’s approaching the same orbit.