When electronic music producer and performer deadmau5 (pronounced "dead mouse"), a.k.a. Joel Zimmerman, does a show—as he did at the Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco on August 14—his fans manage to pack it. This time, they spread across the outdoor field in front of the Twin Peaks stage, dancing, screaming, and gazing in awe at his elevated, flashing stage cube as Zimmerman bobbed his giant mouse head to the beats he created. With the exception of the one dude who shouted, "You guys are crazy; Arcade Fire is on!" as he shoved past me in the stacked crowd, the fans didn't care that this year's Album of the Year Grammy winner was playing on the other side of the park.
Deadmau5 is ranked No. 4 on DJ Mag's list of best DJs in the world, but unlike No. 1, Armin Van Buuren, or No. 2, David Guetta, there is something different about the way fans interact with him and his music. Most DJs stand on a podium, outshone by the brilliant light shows flashing across their stages. But with his lit-up mouse head pulsing to the beat, and sometimes illuminating in a giant LED smile, deadmau5 is the centerpiece of his own light shows, including a brand new one developed for the three-month Meowington's Hax tour he launched this summer at Lollapalooza in Chicago. Deadmau5 is also unique because he doesn't consider himself a DJ—to quote his publicist, he is "an electronic music producer and performer [who] performs live all his own music—the way a drummer drums or a guitarist plays guitar."
As I'd seen when deadmau5 played Coachella in 2010, many kids in the crowd at Outside Lands were wearing tattoos of his mouse symbol on their bodies, glow sticks fashioned into mouse ears on their heads, and their own homemade versions of his mouse head. As they danced to his hits, I kept hearing shouts like, "Deadmau5 is the shit!"