Breakin’ a sweat with Skrillex at Pacha NYC
Skrillex may be the most polarizing person in music today (non-Lana Del Ray category). The DJ/Producer/Sprite provokes love from his fans, hate from his detractors, millions of YouTube views (each with thousands of comments) and a ton of weird Photoshopped pictures.
But have a conversation with any famous DJ, and the topic of conversation inevitably turns to the little guy with the glasses and the half-shaved head. Skrillex is in a small minority of DJs who have crossed over, big time, and in turn has helped catapult EDM music to unprecedented popularity. A rising tide lifts all boats – and Skrillex is that rising tide. He sells out venues, he converts legions of fans to the ways of the wobbling bass, and he nurtures an environment where a DJ with talent and drive can make it, thanks to increased demand.
I had to see the guy in action myself.
Skrillex, aka Sonny Moore, is currently in the midst of a mini-tour, and is playing several nights in a row here in New York City. A show at Webster Hall is followed by last night's surprise performance at W.i.P., plus gigs at Roseland Ballroom and Terminal 5. Sandwiched between those dates was Wednesday night’s set at Pacha NYC.
Pacha is built like a labyrinth designed to trap partiers and keep them dancing all night. Like a Las Vegas casino, there are no windows, no clocks, no concept of time and every twist and turn seemed to lead to more people gyrating to the beat. The staircases spill out onto the third floor, a doughnut-shaped balcony above the main floor. The hole in the center of the room gave the impression that the whole building is a chimney, and that the packed main floor was full of embers. This illusion was helped by the periodic bursts of fog on the bottom floor, which would block out the lights every few minutes and rise up to the top floor like smoke from a volcano.
The DJ booth itself is on the main floor, and juts out into the center of the room. It resembles a party boat, floating on a sea of fans keeping it aloft with their outstretched arms and nonstop movement. I entered the VIP behind the booth in time to catch the beginning of German producer Zedd, who was spinning an uptempo, crowd-pleasing set. Particular audience favorites included his completely dope remix of the “Legend of Zelda” theme song.
But this crowd was not here for Zedd, in spite of his considerable talent. Nearly every person in the club sported thick, black-framed glasses, and every girl with long black hair had it combed over to the side. These were Skrillex fans, no doubt about it, and they were ready to see their king.
The problem with milling about the VIP waiting for Skrillex was that every girl dressed in a Skrillex costume fooled me into thinking he had arrived. Craning my neck and standing on my tiptoes, I was disappointed time and time again by the long hair and glasses. As the clock neared 1:30, I felt a hand press against my chest. A large man smiled and moved me the side, while another large man followed. A small figure, barely reaching my chest, suddenly walked by. Another girl in a costume? Nope, this was the real thing. Skrillex slid past me and down into the booth, crouching next to a still-spinning Zedd while he set up his laptop.
The beat dropped out of Zedd’s “Slam The Door,” and up popped Skrillex, sending the crowd into absolute hysteria. The first thing to notice about Skrillex, besides his small stature, is his absolutely boundless energy. As soon as he revealed himself, he began dancing wildly, bouncing off his boothmate Zedd and hyping the crowd to dangerous levels.
Once he took over the tables, out came his new singled “Breakn’ A Sweat,” recorded in conjunction with the living members of The Doors. The crowd was primed and ready, and once the beat dropped and the strobe lights kicked on, they all tried to match Skrillex’s own considerable dance moves. Skrillex energy is infectious, but even the man who does not stop moving knows when to bring the mood down just a bit, and he read the crowd perfectly in order to let the energy wax and wane. Any time he felt the crowd losing it, he pulled on the truck horn dangling above the DJ booth to send an electric jolt through the whole party.
Images whirled on the half-dozen TV screens that surround the DJ booth, showing everything from strange, robotic brains to jumping Pomeranians to Nyan Cat, the internet meme that somehow fit perfectly with his banger “Right On Time.” Standing to the side of the dance floor, I realized the bass shook so hard that the rafters were shaking and water was falling from the ceiling.
Hours later, finally back in bed, I stared at my own ceiling, too wired to sleep. My body was exhausted but my mind was sharp, and I realized something: I was still feeding off of Skrillex’s energy. Thanks for the insane party, buddy – and the bad night’s sleep.
Check out this awesome remix from Zedd of "Breakin' a Sweat."
Photos By: Maverick Inman