Skrillex brings smoke, lasers and plenty of volume to 9:30 Club

Ysa Perez - Skrillex performed at 9:30 Club on Thursday.

Rarely has the 9:30 Club looked as good as it did Thursday night, when EDM icon Skrillex took to the decks, laying down a set worthy of the supporting spectacle. Through hazy clouds of red smoke and between laser beams that seemed as though they could extend for miles, 25-year-old Sonny Moore demonstrated why his alias is synonymous with America’s affair with dubstep. Flashy, forceful and rarely subtle, Skrillex’s DJ set was a crawl through sawtooth-waved hysteria.

Perhaps no other performer is as closely tied to the rise of electronic dance music over the past few years. He has the star power to headline festivals, and packed all the volume and visuals of an open-air set into the relatively cozy confines of the 9:30 Club. As with any superstar, he can be a polarizing figure. His name is used derisively by some as a keyword for dance music’s detachment from its underground roots. For others, though, it’s the name of a pioneer — a kid who championed a fresh, brazen sound for dance floors. And though the EDM wave might be starting to show signs of cresting, Skrillex seems likely to be riding high for some time.

Contrails from jet planes passing overhead intersect the National Museum of Art in Washington, Thursday morning, April 17, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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While his technical ability behind the digital decks is nothing to scoff at, the depth of his crate felt shallow at times. Woven between robotic walls of wub-wub were dance-floor tested cuts from the Beastie Boys and Damian Marley. His footnotes to dubstep’s Jamaican ancestry were dime-a-dozen choices. Silhouetted in front of a sold-out crowd, Skrillex seemed less like DJ-as-song-selector than DJ-as-showman.

But Skrillex is quite the showman. He used a five-minute countdown on the big screen to get the crowd in a tizzy before the first note. He cut the music mid-set to sing “Happy Birthday” to a crew member. As the performance was coming to a close, he took to the mic to say that he was a weirdo, and that all he wanted to do was make music for other weirdos. Skrillex was constantly working the energy in the room, and throughout the nearly two-hour set, the buzz never dissipated.

Truth be told, there wasn’t much weird in the room. Skrillex kept things pretty common, with familiar dubstep womps, chipmunk bridges and big-room bass tones. It was a familiar crowd, too: bikinis, tank tops and neon, what has become the semiofficial EDM outfit. But familiarity kept the room warm, and the light show kept the stage captivating. Skrillex owns his sound and owned the stage.

Yenigun is a freelance writer.

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