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Skrillex is a spectacle at ACL, but no match for Slim Shady

Eric Webb

Repetition was the name of the game at the Skrillex’s headlining Austin City Limits Music Festival set on the Honda stage. On Saturday night, the dubstep star asked how Austin was doing. He must not have been satisfied with the answer, because he kept asking. And asking.

Par for the course at EDM shows, to be sure. But Skrillex, mounted in a giant spaceship on stage and bathed in lasers, cycled through beats and bass drops and screeches incessantly, endings and beginnings indiscernible. As a dance party, it was propulsive if tedious. There was no stopping the predictably youthful crowd (and a glut of parents) from jumping continuously.

However, as a music festival show, it seemed insulting to spin through so many familiar songs (Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic,” Salt n Pepa’s “Push It,” Schoolboy Q’s “Collard Greens,” heck, “The Circle of Life” from “The Lion King), as if it was just an oppressively loud night at the Blind Pig. When those time-tested standbys sandwiched Skrillex’s own “Bangarang,” it started to feel presumptuous.

At the other end of the park, rap icon Eminem played the hits to a packed crowd. The scene was far different from Skrillex. Though the cluster directly in front of the stage was a teeming mass of sweaty arms flailing around glowsticks like a sea anemone, the assembly was unusually small for a big name festival act. Contrast with OutKast’s performance on the same stage Friday night: festgoers packed themselves tightly from stage to beyond the horizon well before the show started. On Saturday night, the audience was relatively scant thirty minutes before the show, and dropped off the stragglers by the end of the sound booth.

Don’t fault Skrillex. His own energy was unflagging, and his spectacle was well engineered. But scheduled against an artist that can move your body, move your emotions and move your mind at the same time? There was probably not much of a choice to begin with.