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ACL Fest 2017: Martin Garrix delivers maximum everything DJ set

Chad Swiatecki

Say this for Dutch DJ Martin Garrix: the young electronic music star knows that an important key to capturing a crowd in an outdoor setting is playing up the intensity and force, often to ridiculous measure.

Take for example what this reporter experienced Friday night when without warning a bass blast erupted from the speakers at the HomeAway stage, strong enough to ruffle clothing and moving enough air that normal breathing quickly became a dicey proposition.

A quick retreat to a more comfortable distance – and quick application of aircraft-grade earplugs – offered a more reasonable chance to take in the spectacle Garrix put together for an hour as the sun went down.

On record Garrix’s blend of hard house music offers some ebb, flow and nuance. It’s still toward the more pounding and overloaded end of that genre’s creative spectrum but songs like “In The Name Of Love” and “Scared To Be Alone” have enough space and low-key moments to create something of a journey up to the inevitable high-speed peaks and bass cliff drops.

That was very much not the recipe on Friday however, where it felt like every song was a phase shift from one needle-in-the-red passage to the next. The rhythmic build/build/drop sequences still hit like a freight train – with fog jets and recurring pyrotechnic flashes piled on, just in case – but by the half hour mark the set was a stifling exhibition of overload instead of an exploration of his rarer understated and subtle creative moments.

It needs to be said that for the more than 10,000 gathered in front of him – many who’d spent the entire day packed in and waiting for his set to begin – Garrix’s max-volume approach was exactly what they wanted.

And even if they were already going crazy doing the very distinct basic-bro-and-barbie fistpump dance that’s become an ever-present facet of post-Skrillex EDM events, having Garrix jump on top of his DJ tables and exhort them to cheer and freak out just a little bit more surely didn’t hurt.