Friday @ Perry’s: Nero, Bassnectar

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BY MITCHELL HERRMANN For the Sun-Times

For those who preferred the loud and aggressive to the whimsical, Nero delivered a bombastic set of distorted dubstep later in the evening at Lollapalooza’s Perry’s stage.

The duo has long enjoyed success in Britain — their first album reached No. 1 on the UK charts — and recently has been riding the dance music explosion to popularity in the United States, as well. Their show mixed cinematic orchestral flourishes with torrents of wobbling bass, recalling the “Dubstep Symphony” the group premiered with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in 2011.

Intentionally or not, Nero referenced a number of the other acts at Lolla during their set.

Samples from Calvin Harris, Justice and Jack White, to name a few, were dropped in over dirty basslines, echoing the recent trend of turning any and all forms of music into dubstep. Nero’s frequent collaborator Alana Watson appeared occasionally to add breathy vocals and some much needed stage presence; unfortunately, she inexplicably disappeared after only a few songs.

Another dubstep DJ was unwisely slated to play after Nero as the headliner at Perry’s for Friday night, pushing the genre of music nearly to the point of oversaturation at Lollapalooza. California-based producer Bassnectar served up yet another set of angry bass, albeit in a more captivating fashion than his predecessors earlier on Friday.

The metal musician-turned-DJ energized the festival crowd with frenetic headbanging, which was accentuated by his long mane of flying hair. Bassnectar’s version of dubstep is distinctly American, combining booming 808s and whining gangsta rap synths with the basslines typical of his British peers. These hip-hop influences were juxtaposed unexpectedly with Bassnectar’s progressive activism when he played a bizarre video montage of fashion models while explaining how women have been “brainwashed by the media, which tells them they need to be physically beautiful to be worth something.” These quirks were unexpected but ultimately satisfying; in a genre where imitation of a few major acts is becoming standard, innovation is desperately needed.

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