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Arts & Entertainment

SF seemingly did the impossible: A Fred Again x Skrillex rave for 25,000 in Civic Center

A DJ is performing with a large crowd and a grand building in the background, seen through a red filter or curtain. The DJ is focused on mixing music.
Fred Again and Skrillex played a rave for 25,000 people in Civic Center on five days’ notice. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Saturday night, San Francisco seemed to do something almost impossible: The city threw a huge rave in Civic Center with electronic musicians Fred Again and Skrillex. Barely five days after producer Another Planet Entertainment put tickets on sale, some 25,000 people forgot about the well-publicized woes of a plaza directly opposite City Hall and danced to two of the most popular DJs and producers in the business.

It began with a tweet. On May 27, Skrillex posted a pic of Fred Again smiling and gesturing toward a T-shirt emblazoned with their logos, plus the date and location. The internet erupted, and tickets sold out within an hour the next day in spite of the steep fee ($80-plus-service-charges), with fans road-tripping to the Bay Area from Los Angeles and beyond. Dozens of who weren’t able to get a ticket lingered just outside the fences anyway, just happy to be there.

The image depicts a nighttime concert with a massive crowd of enthusiastic fans, illuminated in red light. Two performers stand on stage, engaging with the energized audience.
Some 25,000 people packed Civic Center for Fred Again and Skrillex's concert Saturday night. | Source: Courtesy Julian Bajsel
A large, diverse group of people is gathered outdoors at night. Most are standing and appear to be enjoying an event, with some smiling and chatting. Buildings and street signs are visible in the background.
People who weren't able to get a ticket enjoy the show from outside Civic Center. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Fred Again is a British DJ and producer as well as the protege of electronic pioneer Brian Eno. Skrillex, a nine-time Grammy winner from LA, has been on the scene longer and arguably personified the 2010s dubstep era of electronic music. Known for their bass drops and good-vibes-only attitude, the two have partnered on stage numerous times, serving as each other’s hype man and releasing the song “Rumble” last year. 

Filled with high-energy remixes and fan service, Saturday’s three-and-a-half hour set included plenty of references to festival favorites like Frank Ocean and Justice, along with the duo’s own collaborations, like Fred Again and Swedish House Mafia’s “Turn on the Lights Again” and Skrillex and Missy Elliott’s “RATATA.”

Three people are posing together, smiling outdoors. They are wearing black clothing and sunglasses. A crowd and tall buildings are visible in the background.
Jude Victor, left, Joyce Ferrer and Red Vodhier wait to enter the plaza before the show. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard
A person wears a black T-shirt with large, bright pink text promoting Coachella. The text reads, "OMG TBA COACHELLA 042323," featuring "Fred again.." and "Skrillex."
Fred Again fan Matthew Rosa wears a T-shirt from Coachella 2023 when Fred Again and Skrillex played a set. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

A set of that length almost guarantees at least one surprise guest, with most attendees hoping for electronic veteran Four Tet. Fans Matthew Rosa and Andrew Boutros, who had seen Fred Again and Skrillex at their well-received Coachella 2023 performance, correctly predicted who it would be.

“That new song they made with Anderson .Paak was insane,” Rosa said, referring to the rapper and R&B vocalist whose latest track, “places to be,” was officially released on Friday. “I’m ready for it!”

Could it happen again?

Although Saturday’s rave may have appeared spontaneous, planning began at least as far back as February, The Standard previously reported. Mayor London Breed has made it a priority to bring people back to places like the Financial District and Civic Center, and Mary Conde, senior vice president of Another Planet Entertainment, said that the company is open to conversations with the city about additional ticketed events of this type.

The company is also slated to produce three free shows per year—at Civic Center, nearby UN Plaza, and the Embarcadero—in exchange for approval to throw a second, smaller festival in Golden Gate Park one week after Outside Lands, which Another Planet also produces.

Two figures face a vibrant urban scene with bright red lights, stage equipment, and tall buildings at dusk. Banners read "TIME FOR MUSIC" and "SUMMER SYMPHONY."
Although Saturday’s rave may have appeared spontaneous, planning began at least as far back as February. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard
A lively group of people is gathered outside an urban setting with tall buildings. Two men in the foreground are posing energetically with tongues out and making hand gestures.
Crowd control, restrooms and other logistical elements proceeded smoothly throughout the night, showing San Francisco can have fun at a rave and keep it orderly. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Unlike many debut efforts—namely the inaugural Portola Festival at Pier 80 in 2022—logistics like crowd control and restroom access were handled well Saturday. Even at peak times, lines for food trucks and the dozen or so bars remained manageable. The sound quality was excellent across the plaza, and nearly everyone had a direct sightline to the stage, with City Hall’s imposing rotunda making a fine backdrop. 

There were no pyrotechnics, and the two screens flanking the stage were small by the audiovisual standards of a multiday festival. But there was plenty of smoke and lasers—and Civic Center’s flagpoles made for easy meet-up spots with waylaid friends when cell service started getting iffy. And there was more than a little hometown love.

“I used to walk through this park all the time,” Skrillex told the crowd, noting that he went to school in West Portal while growing up. “This is a dream come true.”

Two performers on stage with a lit-up grand building behind them, surrounded by a cheering crowd. One wears a T-shirt saying "Eat, Boop, Play, Repeat." both hold microphones.
Special guest Anderson .Paak performs with Fred Again during the concert at Civic Center. | Source: Courtesy Skyler Greene
a screen of two white men DJing in front of a neoclassical building
The sound quality for Saturday night's concert was excellent across the plaza, and nearly everyone had a direct sightline to the stage. | Source: Astrid Kane/The Standard
A group of joyous people dance energetically outside a large concrete building, some in colorful, furry coats, in front of green shrubbery.
People dance outside the Asian Art Museum to catch a glimpse of the Skrillex and Fred Again concert. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard
A crowd gathers in front of a lit, grand building at night. They are looking through a red barrier, holding up phones to capture photos or videos of something unseen.
A crowd gathers outside the perimeter of the Skrillex and Fred Again concert at Civic Center. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard