Want to feel old? Listen to some Skrillex. Want to feel really old? You should have been at the first of Skrillex's four New York City shows, late last night at Webster Hall in Manhattan.
Skrillex is the 23-year-old electronic dance music DJ with a weird asymmetrical haircut and five brand new Grammy nominations. He's the reason everyone must now have an opinion about dubstep, the formerly obscure British electronic music genre characterized by heavy bass "drops" and weird robot sounds. Skrillex has become a star by making dubstep palatable to American college students and their embryonic tween counterparts, while—crucially—ensuring it's still revolting to their parents. Thus, Skrillex has become one of those things that defines the line between Young and Old America.
At 2am this morning, dampened with beer spilled by the drunk couple grinding above me as Skrillex bounced like a greased spring backlit by an enormous LCD screen filled with a loop of the viral video Nyan Cat I definitely felt on the far side of that line for one of the few times in my 27 years.
I hadn't expected to make the show. When I belatedly emailed Skrillex's publicist last week to see about getting on the press release, he said they'd already compiled the list. Too bad. I'd written this guide to Skrillex for old people, and figured it was now my responsibility to keep tabs on him and his ilk for everyone over the age of 25, in case they were fomenting some kind of dubstep revolution.
But in 2012, planning ahead is apparently for old people. Skrillex tickets were almost magically summoned via social media. An off-hand tweet about how I "kinda wanted to go" to the show prompted an email from Skrillex's manager a few hours later. "Saw your tweet about this show, would be happy to list you if you want to hit it."
The doors didn't open until 11pm, which is my bedtime most weeknights. This late hour was obviously calculated to ensure a crowd of only the young, unemployed, and irresponsible. Gawker's Maureen O'Connor and I showed up at around 11:30pm. But it turned out Skrillex wasn't slated until the actually obscene hour of 1:30 am. For two hours, we jostled around a warren of dance floors and understaffed bars in what, with all the teenagers, resembled a demented high school dance.
The crowd was a mix of young kids in club gear, and older bros in plaid buttondowns or graphic tees. They looked like they'd either come from binging on American Apparel at the mall or stumbled in from a still-raging kegger. I, however, had come straight from work and was lugging around an enormous laptop bag, off which 15-year-old girls in booty shorts bounced like superballs.
Skrillex finally took the stage from opener AC Slater in the main hall, and the vibe of the place changed instantly from lame Jersey Shore club to wi-fi-enabled glam rock temple. He bounded up to the DJ setup in tight, black reflective pants and a black, sweat-wicking longsleeved t-shirt. Lights flared and the big LCD fired up.
Skrillex is an unusually physical DJ. Onstage, he channels his earlier days as the lead singer of the screamo band From First To Last, flinging his hair and body around behind his setup. The simple act of wiggling a knob becomes a spasm that travels up his whole body, like he's operating a machine that electrocutes him. He's really fun to watch.
Things really picked up when he played 'Weekends', with its robotic, text-message simple chorus: I think you and my friends/ should hang out, on the weekends. Skrillex's brand of juiced-up "Brostep" has been criticized for emphasizing massive bass drops over a more nuanced sound, but the crowd didn't give a shit. At one point, a woman threw what looked like her panties over Skrillex's head. Nuance was not what she was after.
Maureen and I sat on the edge of a small gogo stage to the side of the hall, which functioned as a sort of an old person refuge. Next to us, a bro of maybe 30 said this was his 10th Skrillex concert in less than a year. The guy was really drunk—or must have been, because there's no other reason why he would be so excited to show us the awful tattoo he had on his calf: A rebus puzzle spelling out "I Heart House Music." Later Googling showed this was a popular meme on MySpace pages in the mid-2000s.
It was fun, but we only lasted an hour into Skrillex's set. When we left, at around 2:30am, the girls in bras were just starting to crowd surf in earnest.
[Image via Eastscene/Flickr]