When dubstep party boy Skrillex and respected electronic artist Four Tet announced a last-minute joint gig in Camden, the question on everyone’s tweets was: why on earth … ? Skrillex commands a hydraulic spaceship stage show and has collaborated with Justin Bieber. Four Tet – AKA Kieran Hebden – on the other hand is the kind of DJ who, until recently, held a monthly residency at recently closed Shoreditch club Plastic People – just for the love.
The answer is: for the sheer hell of it. “We’ve been internet friends for a while, but this is the first time we’ve met,” announces Skrillex, testament to tonight’s spontaneity. He blasts out a beat that could strip paint, and the unlikely duo launch into a raging, three-hour back-to-back set.
It’s by no means perfect, as heady peaks and dodgy mixes clash, but it’s raucous fun. They take UK bass music past and present, from jungle to grime, garage and beyond, and throw in some US rap swagger. T2’s bassline anthem Heartbroken gets rinsed, while gun fingers are pointed in the air for young hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd’s trap track No Flex Zone and OT Genasis’s modern gangster anthem Coco.
The set takes some eyebrow-raising turns when Skrillex plays too much to the crowd – his remix of Sam Smith’s Stay With Me marks the moment that Hebden looks as if he wishes he could slope off the stage. But it’s not to be taken too seriously: halfway through, Skrills drops the Lion King’s theme-tune intro (unsurprisingly earning the biggest cheer of the night) and, later, Four Tet plays Skrillex’s divisive bassface banger Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.
At a time when UK clubbing increasingly feels suffocated by licensing restrictions, predictable big-name lineups and a general lack of risk-taking, events like these channel old-school rave culture’s on-the-fly spirit. More celebrity DJs should bother to do the same.