Skrillex performed a 5-hour set at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado on April 29, 2023, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all in attendance.
If you’ve been around as long as I have, Skrillex might be the main reason you’re interested in electronic music. After discovering the Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites EP back around 2011 and 2012, I found a new lifestyle in EDM and festivals that I’m still passionate about today.
Sonny Moore, or Skrillex, has had a diverse and successful music career. After finding success as the frontman of the band From First To Last, he Americanized dubstep with a few EPs on deadmau5’s mau5trap label in the early 2010s and instantly became the face of the EDM boom in the United States and beyond. After albums in 2012 (Bangarang) and 2014 (Recess), he formed the supergroup Jack U with Diplo and permanently solidified EDM into mainstream pop music.
Since then, Skrillex has been a little bit of everywhere, slowly moving away from his brostep sound into a more hip-hop and underground-oriented brand. In 2023, Skrillex surprised the world by releasing two albums: Quest For Fire, a return to an EDM-heavy sound, and Don’t Get Too Close, an album full of hip-hop collaborations.
h/t: Skrillex at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 1001tracklists
With very few recent sets under his belt and the longest set of his career looming, no one really knew what Skrillex was going to play at Red Rocks.
Tickets were priced reasonably but were bought up by both fans and scalpers immediately. In response, AXS actually bought back some tickets that were purchased by scalpers abusing bot technology and sold them for face value via a lottery. Even with this unprecedented move, resale prices still approached $300 in the days and weeks leading up to the show.
Clearly, everyone in attendance was a passionate fan who grew up with Skrillex in one way or another. Sonny’s set time was scheduled for 7 PM-12 AM, and parking lots began to fill up several hours before the gates opened. Some commented that they had never seen Red Rocks so packed so early for a show.
Was Skrillex going to play 5 hours in his new house and techno style? Would he bring out Fred Again.. and Four Tet for a repeat of the (mostly) well-received headlining set at Coachella? Or would he rip through his entire discography and play the classic dubstep tracks that his oldest fans wanted to hear?
Skrillex had a special treat for those who waited in line first. He set up a stage in the middle of the crowd and played there for the first 30 minutes of the set.
He actually opened the show with a few selections from movie soundtracks, followed by a slow-moving house sequence with several IDs from Burna Boy. However, this was not without teases to more energetic moments, with some thoughtful remixes of “Bangarang” and “XENA” placed in there as well.
Around 30 minutes in, Skrillex made his way from the makeshift stage in the grandstand to the main stage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. While the lines outside did seem ridiculous, the staff moved things quickly and they got us in as fast as they could. Considering Skrillex’s set started as gates opened, getting inside around 7:30 seemed like a huge success after being in line for over an hour.
Playing a DJ set for 5 straight hours is no easy feat and is completely unheard of outside of genres like house, techno, and trance. So I anticipated that Skrillex had to take things slow for a little bit. As soon as hearing the vibe that he was throwing down at this time, I decided to head to the main concourse and grab some merch before it was sold out.
Admittedly, I was more interested in hearing the Skrillex classics, as the new music he plays isn’t exactly my favorite.
After a few deeper house and techno selects, Skrillex began to play more recognizable songs about an hour in. He brought in “All I Ask Of You” after “Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing”), opting to play the majority of each song with little actual mixing between the two decks. After diving into some UK Grime, Four Tet’s remix of “Love Story”, and “Midnight Hour”, Skrillex started to throw things back to the Scary Monsters EP with “Kill Everybody”.
Now being around 8 PM, and having purchased the merchandise that was still available in my size, I heard “Kill Everybody” and ran up to my spot on the right side of the Red Rocks bleachers. Seeing the entire crowd light up and get down to the signature Skrillex sound was awesome, and we were instantly thrown back into his Mothership tour era. Complete with abrasive loop effects reminiscent of his old days of mixing on Ableton, my #1 wish for the night was granted: Skrillex would in fact be playing his old dubstep tunes.
While it might seem obvious now, I really didn’t know what to expect going into the night. Would he just play an extended house set (with “Rumble” queued endlessly) like he did at Coachella? No – this was something different. He even followed up with the Bare Noize remix of “Kill Everybody”, opting to roll back the track and play the drop twice, presumably after hearing the crowd reaction.
With four hours still to go, Skrillex went “Right In” to more classics, including “Scatta” and “Summit”.
The energy was high, and I was hoping to hear mostly bass music for the rest of the night. While that might’ve been unrealistic, Skrillex cut this dubstep portion of his set after a grand total of less than fifteen minutes. We were now in for a Don’t Get Too Close showcase, with about 25 minutes worth of songs like “Don’t Leave Me Like This”, “Mixed Signals”, and “Summertime”.
Obviously, it was expected that he would play a considerable amount of his new music. But going from the songs I love to the new album I’m not too crazy about was a bit of a buzzkill. However, I can appreciate the way he navigated different parts of the set through different phases of his career. The new hip-hop album won’t produce a bunch of chart toppers, but it’s cool to see that Skrillex isn’t afraid to produce and DJ any kind of music he wants and trust that his fanbase will be open to it.
Skrillex’s mixing throughout the first few hours left much to be desired, as some transitions were non-existent or involved unpleasant BPM shifts.
After settling into the hip-hop tunes, Skrillex took us all by surprise with the introduction to “Bangarang”. The following mashup with “Chicken Soup” and “Agen Wida” was fun, but I found the harsh energy shifts between genres to be a vibe killer sometimes.
Now at the start of hour two, the set continued to have a little bit of everything from songs like “Linda” by Tokischa and ROSALIA to Skrillex songs like “RATATA”. He then had a bass vibe going for a while, with a few different cuts like “Baby Again..” mixed in before going back into “Rock ‘n Roll” and “Fuck That”. Next, Skrillex focused on the Quest For Fire era which included an unreleased Hamdi collab and the new song with Me Jesmay that was played at Coachella.
While Skrillex continued to play crowd pleasers like the buildup from his “Levels” remix into “Fuji Opener”, I couldn’t help but feel like the set needed more of a consistency to it.
I think it’s important to remember that Skrillex was never really a “DJ”. He was a producer (a producer that got a lot of help from his labelmates at mau5trap – but that’s a different conversation). In the golden era, he was DJing with largely pre-planned sets on Ableton, a software which is used for music production but can also be utilized to pre-arrange live sets. It makes sense that his DJing skills are still just average, and that was on display at certain times of the night.
Around hour three, things started to pick up. I almost think that a shorter set would’ve been better for him, because he popped some serious punch in the second half at Red Rocks. With surprises like Eliminate’s “Weeble Wobble” VIP and “Gem World” from Ace Aura mashed with “Breakin’ A Sweat”, there was clearly plenty of good music still to be played.
The energy started to increase significantly, with more mashups and more cohesiveness throughout the set once the sun was down. Skrillex opted for a rather basic production set up at the venue, with almost no production on stage and string lights hung above the crowd. Fans also had light-up bracelets that were synced up with the live performance.
Originally tweeted by Skrillex (@Skrillex) on May 2, 2023.
There were still rocky transitions and sped-up BPMs, but part of the appeal of Skrillex is the raw, unfiltered energy that his music brings.
Hearing him repeatedly loop the “many types of animals…” vocals of “All Is Fair In Love And Brostep” was basically everything I wanted when I planned a trip from Chicago to Denver for this show. Next was “Ease My Mind”, but the way he opted to play songs like this for 3-4 minutes sometimes made it feel like a new song or unexpected remix was desperately needed by the second drop.
With “Dirty Vibe” coming next, we were firmly in the middle of the Recess portion of the show, which is one of my favorite eras of his career. One of the more interesting selections of the set came in “Coast Is Clear” featuring Chance The Rapper. Not exactly the most critically acclaimed track from either artist, but it was definitely unique to hear this one live.
Now in the last 90 minutes at Red Rocks, Skrillex kept the energy coming late into the night.
He played a few songs from the Jack U album, which sounded surprisingly refreshing. Maybe it’s because that music is basically old enough to be a throwback now, but “Febreze”, “Holla Out”, and “To U” were great additions to the set, especially considering his interactions with the audience during this time.
Going with the theme of running through different eras of his career, Sonny surprised his day one fans with “Emily” by From First To Last. It definitely seemed like most people were Skrillex fans from the same era as me or later, but the way this song was mashed with “Warped Tour ’05” from Quest For Fire was pretty epic.
After a few more Quest For Fire songs, Skrillex went into “Ragga Bomb”, “Supersonic”, and “Kyoto”. While at this point, several hours of Skrillex on one stage kinda started to feel like a lot, he had no problem keeping our interest throughout the remainder of the night. He mashed up “Recess” with both the Valentino Khan and Flux Pavilion remixes before ripping into “Where Are U Now” and “Right On Time”.
After a few IDs from Skrillex & ISOxo (according to 1001tracklists), Skrillex gave us a mashup between “Purple Lamborghini” and “Stereoplein” by Wiwek. Hearing jungle terror wasn’t on my list for the night, and this was a pleasant surprise. It reminded me of hearing “Salute” by Wiwek during his Lollapalooza 2014 set, possibly my favorite set of all-time. A major theme to this show was music from Hamdi and Eptic, both of which made multiple appearances towards the end and throughout the entirety of the set.
Skrillex tore through some of his most popular songs to wrap up the show, including “Red Lips”, “Wild For The Night”, “Make It Bun Dem”, and “First Of The Year”. Regardless of his DJing quality, hearing these tracks live again made for an unforgettable experience. Some of these songs might’ve been more satisfying earlier in the set, but these timeless tunes still sounded fresh nearly four and a half hours into the show.
Consistently changing the vibe throughout the night, Skrillex played two tunes back to back from Ski Mask The Slump God in the last 30 minutes at Red Rocks.
I remember when Jack U first came out and how it odd it sounded hearing hip-hop mashed with EDM in a live setting. That just wasn’t something that happened often in old dubstep sets or the progressive house and big room era. He brought this hip-hop vibe back at Red Rocks, also dropping Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode” and a mashup of Waka Flocka’s “Hard In Da Paint” with Ray Volpe’s “Laserbeam”.
There wasn’t exactly a grand finale to the Skrillex at Red Rocks set, but Sonny continued to hop in and out of the classics throughout the ending portion. After constantly building the energy through both “Ruffneck” flexes, a few edits of “Burial”, and the massive IsoXO remix of of Knock2’s “Murdah”, Skrillex teased the Yookie buildup of “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” before stopping the track completely.
I remember from past Skrillex shows that he didn’t always end his sets in the craziest ways. He was always more likely to get on the mic or play something new at the end of his set instead of saving the best drop for last. And the way he played a five minute montage of “Don’t Get Too Close” reminded me of this. It sounds nice played back at home, but in person, this slow, meditative vibe following some of the heaviest songs of the night was a bit odd to me. But again, this was the theme of the night – ups and downs, energy shifts, and unexpected genre changes.
Skrillex came back with the “Scary Monsters” drop next, thankfully opting to play the original instead of the overplayed Yookie remix.
And as a special treat for the real fans, he even played the Noisia remix at the second drop. Next came “Cinema”, once again rinsing the original remix that made him a household name in 2011. However, as soon as this one dropped, Skrillex got on the mic and cut the drop almost completely as he was out of time. After a heartfelt speech over the ending of “Cinema” with the “Levels” remix mashed in, Skrillex at Red Rocks was officially over.
Overall, I was extremely satisfied to hear the songs that I fell in love with a generation ago, but I can’t decide if the entire experience lived up to the hype.
Too much of the set felt like Skrillex navigating through a Spotify playlist with automix enabled. He did say during the set that he had no idea what he was going to play, and honestly, I think that showed throughout the night. Outside of some pre-planned edits and mashups, the set didn’t always flow smoothly. And after analyzing the tracklist, there were very few unreleased cuts from his upcoming album (his third of the year, with maybe a fourth due as well).
Ideally, I would have liked to see is a bass-heavy set that navigated all tracks of his career simultaneously.
There weren’t many “aha!” moments where the unexpectedness of a track hit perfectly. For me, the closest we came to that was during the Jack U and Recess portions of the set. It just felt good to hear those forgotten songs that remind me of my favorite era of the EDM scene.
My favorite Skrillex set from 2014 is full of drops from other artists that only Sonny knew about. Sometimes they were songs that I never heard again, like something called “Without Warning (Silver Fox Remix)” by Ego Trippin. I would’ve really liked to go deep into Skrillex’s Rekordbox and hear some obscure stuff. And that wouldn’t even have to be dubstep – he’s one of the most respected producers in modern music, so it would’ve been cool to hear more deep cuts from a literal icon.
Instead, we got all of our favorite songs served to us on a silver platter with a few goodies sprinkled in between. This was less of a DJ set and more of a showcase of Skrillex’s music. But I guess most DJ sets in 2023 follow a formula like that anyway.
Skrillex at Red Rocks was undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime show, and I’m truly lucky to have attended.
I can’t honestly say that the night was worth the $250-300 a significant percentage of the audience paid, but the show was something that might never happen again. As the initial EDM boom gets further and further away, it would be nice to see more sets like this, similar to what Flume did at his ’10 Years of Flume’ show in Los Angeles. Hopefully Skrillex does play another extended set some day, as there were thousands of people that weren’t able to get tickets to this one.
If you were in attendance that night at Red Rocks, you’ll likely look back on this night fondly. And with good reason. It reminded all of us of a more carefree time, when life was simpler and we were all experiencing something new and exciting. The nostalgia was running high at Red Rocks, and the crowd interactions were always friendly. There’s something special to be said about a high-demand show where you know everyone there loves the music with a passion.
Reflecting upon the night, I feel like I got to experience something I’ve been yearning for for a long, long time. Between this and Hardwell’s throwback set at Ultra Miami 2023, it’s so satisfying to hear the classics and watch a crowd go absolutely nuts.
If you made it this far, congratulations. Like the 5-hour set itself, this will probably be the longest article I ever post. Shoot me an email at email@example.com and tell me a story about Skrillex.
One response to “Red Rocks in the Jungle: An In-Depth Review of Skrillex’s 5 Hour Set”
i felt like I was there. thanks for thr article.