There was a time when Skrillex was a bit of a joke. Looks like a mop, sounds like a dishwasher fucking a traction engine. Massively popular with America’s endlessly enthusiastic EDM crowd, but critically derided.
But his headline set on Friday night in Reading’s NME/Radio 1 Stage proved he’s far more than a lazy caricature. It was obvious from the moment the thousands of fans crammed into the tent laid eyes on the armour-plated tank he’d chosen to DJ from. It looked like a cross between a Judge Dredd-style people carrier and the Batmobile that Christian Bale took such relish in destroying. Ahead of him, an arsenal of flames, smoke machines and even fireworks made sure that even the deaf would have known every time a serious drop kicked in.
He dropped a handful of pop melodies to hook the crowd: Khia’s ‘My Neck My Back (Lick It)’, Missy Elliot’s ‘Work It’ and Damian Marley’s ‘Welcome To Jamrock’. Contrary to the rumours being feverishly repeated around site, there were no special guests. They weren’t needed. Even A$AP Rocky didn’t appear for ‘Wild For The Night’, although the DJ did dedicate the track to the watching rapper who had played a crowd-pleasing set immediately before.
Like Jay Z headlining Glastonbury, Skrillex relished blowing away any remaining doubts that he could win over a festival crowd more used to guitars than serious drops. He teased the crowd by calling out: “Y’all like the heavy shit. This is a rock festival, right?” before express delivering some of the heaviest beats of the night – and surely of the weekend, too.
The crowd did well to keep pace with the tunes as the temperature in the tent reached sauna-levels. “You guys still feeling good, it’s fucking hot out there?” asked Skrillex at one point, before casually replying.. “Me too.” The packed out tent was moving in unison as he dropped his remix of Nero’s ‘Promises’ and finally let the crowd hear his anthem ‘Bangarang’.
He returned to Jam Rock towards the end of the set, while his onstage tank’s metal spikes fanned out like a peacock’s plumage and his DJ booth levered him further up above the stage. Nobody can resist Skrillex on stilts. He even played Fatman Scoop’s ‘Be Faithful (Put Your Hands Up)’ as he finally allowed the now sweat-drenched crowd room to breath.
“I just wanna say you guys have been fucking awesome tonight,” he announced. The feeling was more than mutual. The punchline is: Skrillex isn’t a joke anymore.