Skrillex kicks off Takeovers Tour in San Francisco [Review]
Last Monday, Skrillex began his one-of-a-kind Takeovers Tour, staging a temporary residency in San Francisco and performing for six straight nights from the Bay Area. With a different cast of openers and new venue each night, each show promised a different vibe. While there were no shortage of dates to choose from, Wednesday’s performance from the Mezzanine with the masterful Seven Lions and newcomer Etnik proved especially enticing.
While I’ve seen Skrillex at festivals countless times now, prior to Wednesday, I had never caught Sonny Moore in a club setting. Despite the lack of mind-bending visualizers and mammoth festival speakers, Skrillex’s intimate set from the Mezzanine was by far my favorite performance from the OWSLA boss to date.
Before diving into the specifics of his awe-inspiring performance, it’s worth revisiting the opening sets by Etnik and Seven Lions, as they were just as much a part of the success of the night as Sonny.
For those who have not been to the Mezzanine in San Francisco, I can’t praise it enough. Tucked away on the elusive Jessie St., a few blocks from the Powell BART station, the small, dimly lit nightclub boasts a deeper experience for its 21+ attendees thanks to its minimalist aesthetic and later sound curfew.
I arrived to the club as new OWSLA-signee Etnik was getting the night started with some compelling techno. As Sonny excitedly informed me later on in the night, it was the young German’s first performance in the US. Any nerves Etnik may have had, however, were concealed by his clean mixing style and eclectic Hamburg tastes. With the dark overtones and variety of unorthodox kick snare combinations, Etnik’s style was comparable to that of the remarkable Louis Brodinski.
Next up was a personal favorite of mine, Seven Lions. The Santa Barbara producer has proven one of the most innovative artists to emerge in the past couple years thanks to a series of masterful remixes and EPs. Throughout Montalvo’s entire set, I was consistently surprised by how well the crowd responded to his own productions. Seven Lions is no longer a niche bass music artist, but a household name in the electronic music sphere. Opening with his emphatic remix to Above & Beyond’s “On My Way to Heaven,” the energy in the venue instantly transformed to celebratory enthusiasm. Montalvo’s heavy genre-hybrid “Tyven” soon followed, as did his lush remix to Tritonal’s “Still With Me.” Originals “The Truth” and “Fractals” were highlights as well, but the climax was most certainly Seven Lions’ colossal remix to “Running to the Sea.”
As midnight approached, Skrillex could be seen hovering behind the decks as Seven Lions wrapped up with what appeared to be a brand new house original. Suddenly, it was all whistles and cheers as we applauded Seven Lions off and welcomed the almighty Sonny Moore.
I looked around and was once again reminded by the sheer intimacy of the Mezzanine. Having been accustomed to watching Skrillex from thirty to fifty rows back at numerous festivals, it was a bit surreal to see Sonny Moore no less than ten feet away. Opening with a tour edit to his iconic “My Name is Skrillex,” Sonny stirred the crowd into an immediate frenzy, standing on the decks and merging the track into a ramping, blistering build, only to introduce some seriously heavy electro. “EDM Death Machine” followed, capitalizing on the early intensity before Skrillex slowed it down with the beautiful piano break of Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake’s “Holy Grail.”
After a bit of delightful swooning, the energy was back up as Skrillex picked up the tempo to the 140-160 BPM range. Much of the material was clearly new Skrillex, wielding rich 808 kicks and subs with plenty of tribal percussive elements and nasty reese bass lines. As the set drove on at an alluringly quick pace, Skrillex continued to push the tempo with an effortless mastery, eventually arriving at midtempo and moombahton.
The next challenge was how to mix back to 128 BPM. In stylistic fashion which any DJ in the room would have appreciated, Sonny sampled Wildchild’s classic “Renegade Master,” using the famous track to increase the tempo back to up house and electro range before dropping his tremendous collaboration with Wolfgang Gartner, “The Devil’s Den.” As I stood watching his movements, it was more than obvious that Skrillex was dangerously in the zone. Never once keeping his handles idle, Sonny continually prepped and sampled new tracks, all the while engaging the crowd with his affable charisma.
From this point on, the set only got more intense. The festival-tested 140 BPM edit to “LRAD” was followed by Dillon Francis’ heavy take on “Who Is Ready to Jump.” A personal favorite of mine, Chase & Status’s “Machine Gun” had us all boisterously shoulder dipping, as did the transition of “Right On Time” into Missy Elliot’s “Work It.” Skrillex’s love for What So Not led to the funky “Jaguar” receiving some much deserved extended play. The most badass moment of all, however, was the sudden introduction of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.” 20 years old and the song still sends crowds into a frenzied riot.
Throughout the performance, I couldn’t get over how absolutely immersed the audience was in Skrillex’s set. I haven’t seen so much mutual love between a DJ and a crowd since Eric Prydz took over the Warfield in San Francisco last March. The pure enthrallment of the audience (myself included) was truly remarkable. When a DJ can win over massive festival audiences and intimate club crowds alike through honest ability and candid showmanship, it’s a sign of true talent.
Skrillex, for six nights you called San Francisco your home, and for six nights you stole our hearts. Come back soon; we’ll be waiting.