Review: Porter Robinson at Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2011

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The mouse ears. The neon-colored T-shirts with the mouse silhouettes. The girls in hyper-small costumes sucking lollipops. Dancers banging their heads with their arms in the air making out like it was a rave.

This was all happening mid-day, during Porter Robinson's set in the dance forest. Consider it a preview of the madness the closing Deadmau5 set Saturday night will be.


It wasn't just the crowd though that gave a hint of things to come. Robinson, a 19-year-old wunderkind DJ from North Carolina, played like a junior Deadmau5, a mini-mau5, if you will.

He was dealing out a mix of international dance music (Italians Nari & Milani; Chuckie & Hardwell -- Dutch dance music by way of Latin America) that would make him a favorite at Miami's Mansion. It was populist, big-tent dance music, in the vein of Deadmau5, Skrillex and Armin van Buuren; music that aims to please and get teen ravers moving.

Robinson's first number was ample evidence of that: "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," an old favorite guaranteed to be recognized by the young crowd.

Daft Punk bled into British producer Michael Woods ("VMS"), which segued into "Swagger" by Bombs Away. Each remix more caffeinated than the last, and the crowd ate it up. By the time Robinson played a remix of Chuckie & Hardwell's "Move it 2 the Drum" half-way through his set, the dance forest was starting to feel like a miniature Ultra, Miami's electronic music festival. Even when it started to drizzle, the dancers were undeterred.

More than last year's audience, which was happy to chill out on the lawn listening to Jimmy Eat World and Pavement, this year's seem like mouse-heads, or wannabe mouse-heads. At the very least, die-hard, future card-carrying members of clubland.

Judging by the dance forest, anyway. But, then, even outside that stage, Deadmau5 paraphernelia seemed like this year's defacto accessory.

With his slot at the end of the festival, the sheer number of acolytes in the audience, and the imitators on the bill, it's clear the Canadian DJ, who's been amassing a huge following in recent years, is one of the main stories of this year's FreeFest.


Dance music - with acts like Cut Copy, Empire of the Sun, TV on the Radio outside the dance forest - certainly seems like a dominant theme.