Skrillex may be the boss when it comes to his DJ/Producer-heavy label OWSLA – the label is named for a military caste of rabbits in the legendarily intense 1970s children’s fantasy novel Watership Down – but on Thursday the deafening bass pioneer showed he’s also just one of the DJs during the label’s first SXSW showcase. Launched only this past August, the label has nine EDM artists to its credit, including up-and-coming DJ acts Nick Thayer, Zedd, Kill the Noise, Alvin Risk, Child in Disguise, the mysterious M Machine and 19-year-old DJ phenom Porter Robinson, the latter two who played otherworldly DJ sets Thursday night.
“It’s cool. We’re just having a party,” Skrillex told the sweaty crowd during a pseudo DJ battle with Robinson that was more about hugs than trying to one up each other. The two switched off between tracks during their back-to-back set. The bass was turned up to full blast, hitting the fans like wind blowing from the house speakers. “Drink cold beer…and water,” Skrillex yelled to the crowd.
“OWSLA is a community of the youngest, most excitable kids who consume the most aggressive, crazy music of all time,” M Machine’s Ben Swardlick tells Rolling Stone. The San Francisco-based indie electronic outfit met Skrillex in November 2010, after the now-Grammy winner played a show in Santa Cruz behind his breakout EP Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, and needed a place to crash. There wasn’t a label then but they kept in touch. “He was really into ‘Trafalgar,’ Swardlick says of the free track M Machine initially released. M Machine’s set soared with laser beam sythns that would drop any moment and comeback to automatic fist pumps and cheers from the audience.
It’s obvious that the OWSLA family’s main objective Thursday night was to have a good time. The bass-heavy dubstep with which Skrillex and his clan have become synonymous has often been called the new heavy metal – that held true last night with the dance party looking every bit like a dance-fueled moshpit.