In a fine line of acts from Led Zeppelin and Run-DMC to Jay Z and Swedish House Mafia, Skrillex and Diplo's Jack U tandem headlined Madison Square Garden on New Year's Eve. The duo were joined by a group of performers that weren't so much fellow artists, but moreso an ensemble cast including (but not limited to) Dutch trap masters Yellow Claw, English bass quartet Rudimental, plus singers and rappers A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, Kiesza, Waka Flocka, ILoveMakonnen, and Leikeli47. The crew created a cavalcade of ratchet and manic energy that not just allowed the appreciative and near-capacity crowd to turn up, but also left their hands in the air while their booties dropped low. Overall, it was a safe, yet in many ways out of control spectacle.
Jack U took the stage at midnight on the nose, joined by vocalist Kiesza and a troupe of dancers to perform hit single "Take U There." It wasn't so much a star-making moment but moreso something that met expectations for the night, which was far more raucous frat party than iconic concert event. That was immediately followed up by the recent Jack U remix of Beyonce's viral smash single "7/11," which kept energies high. As Skrillex told Time Out New York, the point of Jack U is "to showcase different sounds, even outside of records we make." Moreover, in the same interview, Diplo stated "we know that dance music and hip-hop is our lane, and that’s where we work." The work they did insofar as playing hip-hop was of particular note in their set, 15,000+ people screaming "whip it in the glass, n*gga" from O.T. Genasis' "Coco" was a moment, similar to Diplo getting into the moment and breaking out the "Shmoney Dance" as notorious emcee Bobby Shmurda's "Hot N*gga" played in the background. Classic top-40 hits including Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On" and DJ Kool's "Let Me Clear My Throat" may not sound like they'd fit in with "EDM," but then again—now moreso than ever—the meaning of "EDM" strays further from dance's "traditions" more with each passing moment.
Prior to their joint headlining set, Diplo and Skrillex each played hour-long sets largely comprised of their own material. Diplo's 10PM-11PM set included a heaping serving of Major Lazer hits including "Pon De Floor," "Watch Out For This (Bumaye)," Flux Pavilion's remix of "Jah No Partial," and Flosstradamus' remix of "Original Don." When blended in with 2013's trappy trance-pop ballad "Revolution" plus non-Diplo tracks like Benny Benassi's iconic "Satisfaction," Drake's "0 To 100," Nicki Minaj's YMCMB posse cut "Only," remixes of Atlanta trap-rap newcomer OG Maco and more, he's ultimately on top of the dance industry (arguably music overall) and is setting a progressive expectation defined in his own image. Topping things off with a remix of Disclosure's "Latch" placed a pure dance-as-pop bow on the set, leaving no question as to how Diplo has evolved as a producer—and given that he's got credits on Madonna's forthcoming album—where he's headed, too.
Skrillex's sonic evolution is something that most folks who stay readily aware of dance music were quite aware of with the diversity apparent on 2014's album Recess. However, for the average dance fan, the excitement of hearing Skrillex is to hear his high-powered and electrified take on dubstep including his Damian Marley collaboration "Make It Bun Dem," the now iconic "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," plus "Try It Out" with Alvin Risk. Thus, when Skrillex drops something like Rick Ross' "B.M.F.," it's still a bit unusual by comparison to his now-frequent pairings with Fatman Scoop, the '90s party exhorter's voice possibly the most key element in making Skrillex's adaption to the rap-friendly direction of EDM possible.
For as progressive and intriguingly unique as a night that involves everything from A$AP Ferg and A$AP Rocky climbing on top of a DJ booth and rapping "Wild For The Night," a crew of double-dutch jumping teenagers on-stage with booty-twisting twerkers, 25 giant inflatable beach balls in the crowd while flames shot 25 feet in the air onstage, the night came to a close as Skrillex and Diplo threw hand-hearts into the air as Jack U's mashup of Andy C's remix of Major Lazer's Balearic reggae ballad "Get Free" and Skrillex's remix of Benny Benassi's "Cinema" played in the background. A moment blending dub, trance, and pop that feels like trance? Intriguingly enough, dance in 2015 in so many ways feels the same as dance in 2005 and 1995, too. Somehow as well, in the energy and scene at Madison Square Garden from Led Zeppelin's October 1976 concert film, Jay Z's 2004 Fade to Black, and Jack U last night all feeling similarly euphoric and blissful at the end of the night? To borrow from Led Zeppelin's film title, though "EDM" feels progressive, at the end of the day, the "song remains the same." Impressively enough, that's quite alright.
For those who missed it, Yahoo Screen's replay of this historic NYE show is streaming until 9:30 PM EST on January 1, 2015. Watch it now!