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NERO at Identity Festival, Wantagh, NY August 21, 2011 (review)

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Hot off the release of its debut album, Welcome Reality, Nero came to Identity Festival at Jones Beach ready to blow the speakers out at the Dim Mak stage. As throngs of concertgoers huddled underneath the Monster Energy Drink tent, the true dubstep fans — the ones that would never wear a “Lets Dub to Fuck Step” shirt — braved the rain and enjoyed what was arguably the best performance of the day on the Dim Mak Stage.

Identity Festival Wantagh had many things working against it, including cloudy skies and torrential rain, a venue not well-suited to the typical festival atmosphere, and attendees that represented the lowest common denominator of EDM fans. Still, despite these shortcomings, Nero brought its A-Game and didn’t let the location hinder the show.

Performing on a stage covered with plastic wrap to protect the precious equipment, Nero eased the crowd into what would become a vicious attack on the senses. As the swarm of people bounced to the offbeat tempo and Alana Watson’s haunting vocals on “Guilt”, the ever familiar chorus to “Cinema” could be heard slowly creeping up from the background. Just as everyone expected the familiar Skrillex drop, the mix was launched into a chopped up live re-edit of the incredible original.

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Nero – Guilt (Original Mix)

As the set continued, the crowd seemed unaware — or at least unconcerned — with the worsening weather. While the rain continued to assault the concertgoers Nero continued his audio assault with the Doctor P classic “Big Boss” mixed effortlessly into the new Nero single “Crush on You.” While the energy of the set was escalating, so was the storm, pummeling the wobble obsessed fans with sheets of rain. With the wind picking up and the rain coming in sideways, Flux Paviliion’s “I Can’t Stop” was met with cheers as the entire mass of bodies began singing the chorus in unison, as if, despite the torrential rain, they too couldn’t (and wouldn’t) stop enjoying themselves.

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Doctor P – Big Boss

No dubstep set is complete without paying homage to one of the pioneers of the genre, Rusko, so it was no surprise that when the classic “Hold On” began playing the crowd erupted — only to have their cheers met with an abrupt stop as the rain shorted out the deck.  Unphased by the mishap, Nero launched back into his set with one working deck as the sound technicians scrambled to fix the faulty equipment.  After the technical difficulties were solved, “Hold On” came back with a vengeance and the crowd once again began singing, a mere speed bump in the flawless set. The song’s title couldn’t have been more appropriate.

Nero quickly revived the energy in the venue with Skrillex’s “Ruffneck Bass,” after granting passionate fans a slight reprieve from Rusko’s mellow dubstep sensibilities. Bodies flailed as the group jumped in unison as Skrillex’s signature screaming bass lines ripped through the sound system, shaking the crowd to its core. As the feet of hundreds of fans stomped in the accumulating puddles it was almost as if the rain was coming from above and below.

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Skrillex – Ruffneck Bass (Original Mix)

Next up was Nero’s breakthrough single, “Innocence,” mixed with Flux Pavillion’s genre-defining, dubstep masterpiece, “Bass Cannon.” Both tracks were played to completion as Nero effortlessly alternated between the two.

Following the unlikely mix was Nero’s own remix of the new Calvin Harris track “Feel So Close,” while the bass slowly built behind the vocals, what could be mistaken for an alarm began sounding.  As the alarm grew louder it was evident that this was the new Nero track “Angst” — previously known as the Nero Remix of “Stress” by Justice (Editor’s Note: This track is included on the Deluxe Edition of ‘Welcome Reality’)

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Calvin Harris – Feel So Close (Nero Remix)

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Nero – Angst (Original Mix)

As the parking lot became flooded and the winds picked up, security scrambled to get people out from under the merch and beverage tents — forcing the huddled masses out into the torrential rain.  Many of the concertgoers who had remained dry throughout the duration of the set were now forced to either leave, or get drenched and revel in the memorable experience but many chose the latter. The crowd nearly doubled in size as the tents came down, just in time for Nero to mix the lesser known Flux Pavillion remix of the Freestylers’ song “Cracks” into the Skrillex remix of Welcome Reality‘s stand out track “Promises.” The two songs incredible siren-like vocals complimented each other perfectly as the often overlooked N.E.R.D. and Daft Punk collaboration “Hypnotize U” was furiously remixed into a dubstep anthem over top of the female leads.

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Nero – Promises (Skrillex Remix)

As the set neared its completion and the electricity began to dissipate, the sopping wet mob sang along to “Me and You.” Swaying, rather than jumping, to what we all presumed was to be the perfect end to a nearly perfect set.  Before we had a chance to catch our breath Nero shocked everyone by playing the original version of System of a Down’s “Chop Suey”  — an unlikely but extremely fun finale to a set cursed and blessed by the downpouring rain.

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