Skrillex at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 8/9/12
To put Skrillex's show last night at Red Rocks in historical perspective: If this were the venue equivalent of the Titanic, blissfully floating along, enjoying the scenery and the people aboard her deck, then Skrillex was the motherfucking iceberg that took that epic ship down. Say what you will about our Americanized mainstream dubstep, but Skrillex is the new face of rock and roll, and we're barely seeing the tip of that iceberg above the water.
Just before the stroke of midnight, the stage spanning LED screen blasted a five-minute countdown, emitting a hint of light on the agro-stage setup that had, up to that point, remained covered. Through the haze, an X-Wing fighter-style transformer laid dormant in the darkness as a lullaby version of "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" -- a track that has since gone down in infamy as "the one with the signature Skrillex noise" -- played over the speakers. The anticipation was thick in the air, and the excitement kept steadily building as folks geared up for the insanity that is Skrillex.
Following the "Scary Monsters" intro, we were teased with a sample from "Welcome to Jamrock," while Michael Jackson's zombie dance scene from "Thriller" played on the screen. It was at this point that it became abundantly clear to anyone paying attention that Skrillex had not come all the way to Morrison, Colorado to simply push buttons and twist knobs. He came to show us all why he's worthy of the hype that precedes him -- but more importantly, he came to dazzle. Sure, lights and lasers aren't everything, but when they are complemented with flash pots on stage, cryo cannons lining the front of the stage, fireworks from turrets stationed halfway up both sides of the venue and -- later, as we'd discover -- fireworks from the roof of the stage, they conspire to create quite an amazing spectacle.
The inevitable drop into the Skrillex version of Nero's "Promises" generated the first wave of complete and utter dub-psychosis -- and had us thinking that Skrillex would be offering up a near carbon copy of his famed Ultra Music Festival set with the rising "Mothership." Only, he didn't. Instead, the X-Wing fighter that housed the young producer rose up from the ground, reaching up about thirty feet in the air or so, with lasers blasting on full, spraying the crowd with beat-matching patterns of purples, greens, blues and reds.
This lead into "Ruffneck Bass," which splattered pixelated images of the matching creepy music video, which features a pill-popping Santa Claus getting attacked by kids and elves. From here, it was pretty much a drum and bass party into "Tarantula," which not only slowed the crowd down a bit, but showed that Skrillex can tame even the most savage beast with subtle beat changes from raging dubstep into mellow reggae cuts.
At the first hint of "Kyoto," the crowd immediately stood at attention as if mimicking the screen, which displayed marching robots, until the Sirah vocals demanding "Yo, Skrill! Drop it hard!" hit, which cued another blast of strobes. The hook was slowed down just a bit, and the Red Rocks crowd transformed into an organized sea of waving hands. The show took a turn when Fatman Scoop's "Be Faithful" came blasting from the stage, but this was done, apparently, only to give the crowd one last taste of hip-hop infusion before winding into the psuedo-encore, which none of us were prepared for, but we were all eagerly awaiting.
Wait a second. No "Cinema," and it was nearly 1:30 a.m.? Okay, there it is. The request from Skrillex for everyone to pull out lighters, cell phones, glow sticks or whatever they had capable of illuminating was met with feverish enthusiasm. Once the entire place was singing along with Gary Go's lyrics, the waves of energy began to rise from the bottom to the top. What else could trump lasers, fire blasts, fireworks and confetti streamers? A full wall of fucking fireworks blasting from the top of the stage, that's what.
Here, Skrillex brought things back full circle into "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," before he let the beat wind down. Skrillex came from behind his now stage-level contraption, joined by the cast of openers reminiscent to of curtain call to a Broadway play, at which point he thanked everyone and ran off stage. The house lights rose, and we saw the remains of what was left of Red Rocks. Dare I say that Skrillex put on the best show Red Rocks has seen this year? I do. I do dare to say that.
Skrillex at Red Rocks last night: Now that's what you call a finale. Slideshow: Skrillex at Red Rocks.
Prior to Skrillex, Zedd thoroughly warmed up the crowd for the headliner with constant nods to Daft Punk, teases of "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" and "One More Time," neither of which peaked, but instead bled into deep, dark house grooves that had everyone dropping real low. Overall, Zedd takes home the MVP for the night for never once creating predictable parameters to dance within.
Before that, Brodinski & Gesaffelstein had members of the crowd scratching their heads wondering who they were listening to and why they enjoyed it so much without precedent. Staying true to form as an opener should, the tempos never peaked, the frequencies never boosted into the red zone, and the music inspired many in the crowd to pull out their phones to either document the act for later reference or try to Shazam a track with the hopes they could download it later.
The M Machine, who recently opened for Porter Robinson in Denver at the Ogden Theatre, took the opportunity to show Red Rocks who they are and where they want to go. The set was similar to the Ogden, with tracks that showcased the act's live vocals and mixing skills, and even turned some heads. If Glitch Mob were to drop what they were doing for good, the M Machine would take over as the go-to trio of producers and even rise above, given the considerable vocal talent.
Click through for a Critic's Notebook.
Personal Bias: I've been waiting for this spectacle since seeing Skrillex at 1STBANK Center last year on Halloween. He's not my favorite artist, by any means, but his show is amazing. No expense is spared.
Random Detail: I believe a Derek Vincent Smith sighting occurred side-stage just prior to Skrillex going hitting the decks. He was probably just scouting his battlefield for next week's two-night massacre.
By the Way: The once humble producer who used to graciously address the entire crowd as his friends is now fully aware of his stage presence and power, and he takes full advantage.
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