Nadia Elkharadly: What happens in Vegas – a Music review

Another friend gets married, another bachelor(ette) party gets planned, another trip to Vegas gets booked.  Yes folks, it really does keeps happening!  Last Tuesday, just as my column was posted, I was jetting off to sunny sin city yet again.  Another dear friend is getting married this summer and wanted that last hoorah, so heed the call I did.   I’m no Vegas virgin, this would be my fifth trip so I had a vague idea of what this was in store.  But Las Vegas still had a few surprises left for me.  And what was more unexpected was that one surprise in particular was musical in nature.

Going to Las Vegas with a large group of girls means that a night out at one of the city’s cavernous night clubs is a must.  Huge and loud, indoors or outdoors, filled with tourists, locals and almost locals from adjacent states, the Las Vegas club is an interesting experience.  They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but generally, with an open mind, and a few strong cocktails, a good time can usually be had by all.  That good time is almost always improved by the right kind of musical accompaniment, which club bookers always try to accommodate.  Many of the world’s most prominent DJs have enjoyed residencies or featured nights at one or another hotel club in Vegas;  Tiesto at the Hard Rock, deadmau5 at the Wynn, Dada Life at Encore, Fede la Grande at the Venetian , and the list goes on.  So I guess when I made plans with the girls to go to Surrender at the Encore this past Wednesday night, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see none other than Skrillex behind the turntables.

I first got wind of the now world famous Skrillex a couple of years ago, when, for some reason, he started following me in Twitter.  It must have been a case of mistaken identity on his (or his twitter handler’s) part because it didn’t last long, but I followed him back, which put him on my radar.  A few months later I was covering the Coachella Music Festival and, seeing his name on the schedule, decided to check out his set in the Sahara Tent.  I had no idea what to expect.  I’d never heard his music, I’d never seen even seen a picture of him, and most of all, I didn’t have a clue how famous he actually was.  I walked into the tent and went into the photographer’s pit, hoping to get a good look at this enigma, and a couple of good shots.  I soon found that to be impossible; the dj was barely visible over the massive platform his turntables rested on, especially looking from right below it.  Pushing my way back through the rabid, sweating crowd, I climbed onto a fence and pointed my zoom lens at the stage.  At first, all I could see was the top of a dark haired head, and an exceptionally large pair of black glasses.

My first reaction?  Who is this hipster nerd.  My second reaction?  People REALLY seem to dig this kid!  Everywhere I looked, hands were raised, bodies were writhing, and people were screaming.  Not just people, but fans; fans that clearly worshipped this DJ.  Now, I have to admit, this type of music (Dubstep, as they called it – Thanks Google) is not my favourite, in fact it’s nothing I would ever seek out on my own, and truthfully, I wasn’t that engaged by the music at first.

The crowd was overwhelming, and combined with the heat and the thudding beat, I was quickly losing interest.  And then, something incredible happened.  Just as I was putting the lens cap back on my camera, a familiar sound made its way over the speakers – the sound of an actual guitar.  Soon, two men made their way to the stage; they were none other than James Schaffer and Jonathan Davis from Korn.  In half a heartbeat, the lens cap was back off, and I was riveted.  Together Skrillex and part of Korn launched into their collaboration “Get Up”, a pulse pounding, head banging, and absolutely killer track.  I was blown away.

And with that incredible combination or rock and electronic music, Skrillex had won me over.

Skrillex was born Sonny John Moore in Northeast LA in 1988.  A tough adolescence lead Moore to music, from singing in the post hardcore band From First to Last, to starting a solo career as a DJ and superstar producer.  He recorded four albums under the name Skrillex (My Name Is Skrillex, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, More Monsters and Sprites and Bangarang), was nominated for five Grammy awards this year and took home three, and continues to pack clubs and venues around the world.  The kid I never knew existed was an international superstar.

Fast forward to last Wednesday, and my second encounter with Skrillex.  This time, I was ready for it.  I knew what to expect (awesomeness), I was freshly showered, and ready to dance.  Having seen the 24 year old LA native work his magic on a crowd that already adored him, I was interested to see how he fared with a club crowd.  Sure, many people would have ventured out to see him specifically, but at a club that massive, there was an equal, if not larger number of people who were just out to party.  Just as it had been at Coachella, Skrillex had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand within seconds of getting behind the turntables.

Skrillex’s talent, in my opinion, lies in his ability to fuse so many types of music together, all the while retaining his own identity.  By merging elements of rock, rap, hip hop, reggae and dance music and adding that that synth bass sound that is truly his, Skrillex is able to reach a massive cross section of fans, all the while infusing that unforgettable “whaaaaaaaaaaaa” bass sound is his signature.  Between my friends and I, we had a hard core hip hop and R&B fan, a hardcore pop music fan, and a hard core rock music fan (can you guess which one is me?), and we all loved the music we were hearing.  We danced for hours, and finally dragged our sorry, tired, blistered feet back to the hotel, calling the night a terrific success.

The amazing thing about music is that it comes in all forms.  I may be more comfortable in motorcycle boots at the Bovine, but branching out every now and then is a necessity.  Skrillex has surprised me twice now, and has reminded me that every now and again, I like to dust off my dancing shoes and boogie to a great beat.  If you want to check out the DJ mogul for yourself, he’ll be right here in Toronto this summer (July 13th at Historic Fort York).  You may find yourself pleasantly surprised as well.

Until next time,



*all photos (except the first one) by me from Coachella 2011

Nadia’s column appears every Tuesday

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Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

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