ACL in review: Fitz and the Tantrums and Skrillex dance it out
Are we in a retro plateau? It's hard to tell at a fest like ACL, when so many acts seem to be re-reheating certain decades.There's a fine line between loving tribute and just microwaving leftovers, and Fitz and the Tantrums are definitely lovers.
The L.A. sextet probably doesn't like being called “retro” or "revivalists," though it's easy to see why they would fall into that swath: style plays a big part in the whole package, with frontman Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick strutting around like some John Waters extra, dapper maroon suit and grey skunk streak accenting the soulful 1960s ballast of co-vocalist Noelle Scaggs. And it's easy to see why they're so popular: Fitzpatrick's voice has accessible design, much like another practitioner of East Coast and Philly soul, Daryl Hall.
Pickin' Up the Pieces, 2010's debut LP, put a bit of a punk spin on soul, updated the genre, though it comes off a bit campy on stage, especially the he-said/she-said dynamic of Fitz and Scaggs. Still, it was interesting to see how they worked as a whole, whether on breakout hit “MoneyGrabber” or side-stepper “Breakin' the Chains of Love." They rarely stopped moving, proving them a better live band than studio. However, it would have been nice to hear Scaggs belt a little more. She definitely had enough energy for the whole stage.
Across the park in the same 5 pm slot was Skrillex, the DJ name of L.A. producer and former hardcore musician Sonny Moore. Decked out in all black like a Wax Trax! skate punk circa 1991, he proceeded to, well, microwave some leftovers for about an hour. It wasn't much in the way of a show – Moore occasionally pushed his thick, black spectacles back up his nose with his index finger, or mouthed the lyrics to a sample he was spinning. It was more an aural experience, a piecing together of glitches and breaks, as he attempted to squeeze in all the subgenres of underground electronic music he possibly could. (“Fidget house” is a real thing?)
At one point, as grey clouds rolled over the stage, he asked us to do a “sun dance,” then segued into a sample of Ludacris' “Move Bitch,” which perked the ears of half a dozen young men in front of me. And then: The fist-pumping started. Shortly thereafter, a mysterious cloud of white smoke hovered above the ecstatic crowd, which I could only assume was some sort of collective drug sweat. As a DJ for the “new rave generation,” Moore's as good a figurehead as any, I suppose, adept at transitioning and keeping a good flow and looking the part. But that massive drum and bass sound – the guiding force of that type of heavy club music - would have sounded way better in a club.