Skrillex – The Shacklewell Arms
We managed to squeeze a man into this tiny pub show by the wub wub man
Words Jordan Bassett
Photography Peter Fallan
Skrillex, the 24-year-old Californian recently named the world’s second highest-earning producer/DJ (Forbes estimates he raked in $15m over the past year) stares into his pint by the bar of 150-capacity east London pub The Shacklewell Arms. Considering his set’s due soon, the dancefloor’s still pretty empty. And on second glance, the fella by the bar isn’t even Skrillex! He’s a lookalike: long black hair replete with an undercut, goofy spectacles and all-black clothes. It’s troubling when you can squint and say with authority, “No, that face is too fat and old to belong to Skrillex,” but there you go.
That bloke’s ironic fancy dress outfit probably sums up tonight. Sonny Moore, who started out in screamo band From First To Last, became Skrillex in 2008. Since then, he’s spent four EPs and countless shows torturing old-school dubstep fans. Common criticisms bemoan the absence of subtlety in his crushing, bass-heavy electro sounds, which have been dismissed as ‘bro step’ due to their popularity with macho frat boys. The punchline is that, small and geeky and scrupulously humble in interviews, Skrillex is no bro. This has made him a big internet in-joke, perhaps explaining why tickets disappeared instantly when tonight’s gig was announced two days ago.
The real Skrillex arrives sometime after midnight, having trekked across London after playing electro festival SW4. By now, the venue’s filled right up. Moore makes a low-key entrance, slinking through the packed crowd to hop onstage with fellow rambunctious dubstepper Flux Pavilion (aka 23-year-old Joshua Steele), who shares the decks tonight. All present and correct are screeching vocal samples, clattering drum loops and basslines that rumble through the floor like those massive horrible worm things from Tremors.
This is no doubt effective and the crowd’s soon frothing sweat, but Flux Pavilion seems to be twiddling most of the knobs. Skrillex spends an alarming amount of time just waving his arms about or nodding approvingly through cigarette smoke (both puff away throughout the set, the naughty buggers). Do you care who pushes the buttons if it makes you dance? Well, that depends if you’ve come expecting a Skrillex set or the dubstep equivalent of a Dave Benson Phillips special appearance at freshers’ fortnight.
There’s an undeniable sense of occasion in this ridiculous and cartoonish figure, accustomed to crowds of 20,000, standing before 150 people in The Shacklewell Arms — but it’s easy to feel that Skrillex could switch places with his hipster lookalike by the bar without anyone noticing.