Swedish House Mafia - L.A. State Historic Park - 3/8/13
Swedish House Mafia
Anyone who thought chilly temperatures and some rain might deter the rave kids from raving full throttle at the Swedish House Mafia show last night underestimates the heartiness of rave kids and the zeal with which they fucking love this group. Come hell or high water nothing was going to stop this EDM spectacle, and the truth is, it's never that cold out when you're dancing your ass off. Even if it is 50 degrees and you're wearing little more than a sequined bikini, furry boots and a smile.
See also: Our slideshow of the event
Swedish House Mafia -- Steve Angello, Axwell, and Sebastian Ingrosso-- announced their breakup last spring not long after assisting EDM's takeover of mainstream music culture. Since then, the trio has been on a worldwide farewell tour, playing sold out shows for audiences from Johannesburg to Melbourne to Mumbai. The One Last Tour touched down in downtown Los Angeles last night with Masquerade Motel, a multi-stage festival style party that SHM originated in Ibiza and which last night also featured sets by a crew including Nero, Sub-Focus and Alesso.
7:45pm: "The circus has come to town," says the valet who takes my car at the park's back entrance. Indeed this is no rinky dink, one horse operation, this is fucking One Last Tour, a high level behemoth spectacle of production that brings road closures around the park, security men in suits who look as serious as the secret service and a multi-level ticketing system which finds myriad VIP areas and tens of thousands of GA fans roaming the muddy field out front. (Crowd attendance for the two night event is expected to exceed
170,000 70,000). At the back entrance, a gaggle of beautiful women in trendy outfits wait to get in, teetering in the wet mud on their stilettos and smoking.
8pm: Inside, the park is filling up fast. Doors opened at 2pm, and those who showed up early could catch a screening of the SHM documentary Take One. The mostly-early-twentysomething crowd is clad in varying shades of neon, with many folks getting into the spirit of the show by donning masquerade masks. (Fact: Most anyone looks sexy while wearing a masquerade-style mask, and especially when they are also wearing a miniskirt and fishnets). I feel simultaneously overdressed and underdressed with my two hoodies and utilitarian winter coat.
8:30pm: Inside the tent-covered ballroom, the smaller of Masquerade Motel's two stages, Nero drops a dirty, inventive set that sees the "Harlem Shake" crossed with The Jet's 1986 jam "Crush On You." To describe the drug use in the thick of this crowd as rampant might be exaggerating, but there are a lot of people doing drugs in here. In front of me, kandi-jewelry clad girls in unicorn hats and novelty neon framed glasses dance with their eyes closed and their hands on their hearts.
8:45pm: Nearly fall on my ass in the mud while en route to the main stage, where fellow Swede DJ Alesso makes a striking silhouette, outlined by the massive panel of LED-lighting behind him. From a distance, it looks like the future.
9pm: The VIP area is called Room 101 and basically feels like a standard Hollywood club with its couches and bottle service and lingerie clad women clinging to the hula hoops hanging from the ceiling. The bathrooms are also very nice.
9:15pm: Toast with a glass of champagne while also noticing that all of the women up in here look like European fashion models with their amazing faces and champagne and cigarettes. Seriously, where did all of these hot chicks come from? Do they just travel around with Swedish House Mafia? Could I come?
9:30pm:Alesso ends his set, which means that the night's main spectacle is up next. There is a long wait between shows as some announcer takes the mic and talks about the awesomeness of the new Swedish House Mafia app (he uses the word awesome like, nine times) and then talks about Instagramming or something. I have lost interest. I find another glass of champagne.
9:40pm: Onstage, SHM's "Greyhound" plays over a stylish ad for Absolut Vodka that is projected on huge screens. Between endorsements, the tour, merchandise and the music itself, the trio must be making so much damn money. There is nothing like a group announcing retirement at the peak of their fame and then going on a massive farewell tour to move some concert tickets and t-shirts. The inevitable reunion tour should also do quite well.
9:55pm: Glance to my right and, holy shit, why is the guy standing next to me waving his genitals around right now? Seriously his pants are down and he's just flinging it around with his hand. The European fashion models that he is with both laugh (and smoke). He notices me and my friends noticing him -- we are sort of amused but not really laughing and also not smoking. His apology is something like, "I'd really like to show you ladies my genitals on your terms."
10:05pm: Onstage, a stylish concept video marks the beginning of the set as the feeling of crowd anticipation rises. This is the moment we've been waiting for since this show was announced last September. This is the moment that people on Craiglist are offering $250 a ticket to experience. This is IT. This Masquerade Motel. This is One Last Fucking Tour and it is ON, guys. Here we go.
10:07pm:Axwell, Ingrosso and Angello waste no time getting into a huge set of thump thump thump fist pump dance music that opens with their track "Greyhound." Three minutes into it and I'm already dazzled. We dance as bottles of champagne pop. So many bottles of champagne popping right now.
10:11pm: But why aren't the European fashion models dancing? To be fair, a few of them are standing up on the couches and tables dancing Paris-Hilton-at-a-club-circa-2003-style, but most of them are just sort of standing there (smoking). Out in the pit, tens of thousands of pairs of fists raise in unison as the light from the stage washes over the youth movement army. Must get out there.
10:15pm: Flee the VIP area, downing some Red Bull on the way out before running through the mud and pummeling through the sea of humanity and straight into the beating heart of this massive crowd.
10:20pm: Settle in next to a duo of men smiling impishly and wearing really nice top hats. Their friend has a third eye painted on his forehead. These guys are kind of magical. This is the exact right place to be.
See also: Moon Rocks: The Best High on Earth
10:30pm: "It's time to turn off your brains and turn on your hearts" announces Ingrosso from the stage, as the group launches into the moody "Miami to Ibiza." It is such sensible advice and my brain is like "Yeah it's all good girl! I'm just going to rest a while -- you have fun." And we are, we are all having so much fun here together. Rare is the crowd where perfect strangers smile widely at each other for no reason, and flailing our limbs around with total abandon.
Swedish House Mafia might get a lot criticism for the being the poster boys for overblown, heavily commercialized and pop-oriented electronic music for the masses, and yeah, they are sort of all those things, but really, who fucking cares? It's a sleek, expertly produced show and it feels amazing to be part of it. And for all of the DJs out there preaching the gospel of deep house and how young audiences need to mature into the "subtler shades of EDM" I say sure, it's a valid proposition, and most young fans eventually graduate into lesser known realms of their preferred genre. But to this also I say, get over yourselves for a second and take a moment to appreciate all that Swedish House Mafia is. Here we are, a horde of relative strangers standing out in the cold in a field singing anthemic songs and hugging and smiling and experiencing a very real feeling of collective unity. It's not as big a crime as some hipster critics might make it out to be.
"America needed this music," says an observer. "Why?" I ask. "To help us get over 9/11."
Sure, it's a strange and often scary time to be alive, especially for this generation defined by sensory overload and eternal war and economic collapse. Older generations might lament on the soulless nature of machine made music, but these songs have heart and these kids aren't dumb. They're just, like most of us, slightly lonely and a little bit scared. So this big joyous sound is less an escapist activity than a coping mechanism. It is a celebration bigger than sadness. It is a bunch of thrilled people in a field singing about saving the world and turning up the love.
10:50pm: Venture away from the trio of magicians and deeper into the crowd. "You're a girl you can get as far up there as you want!" a random woman yells encouragingly as I move forward. But in the middle it is a tight shoulder to shoulder scenario with minimal room to move. "Let's go back to periphery and get down!" suggests my gal pal, and we do that.
10:55pm: Swedish House Mafia momentarily stops the show to talk about their new app. The specifics of all this are lost on me, but what I know for sure is that "#together" keeps flashing up on the screen and in this moment that sentiment feels right.
11:05pm: Two very young sort of frat looking boys ask if they can dance with us. We say yes and they immediately do that boy thing where they stand behind you and put their hands on your hips in a move that at once feels like an assertion of ownership and compensation for not knowing many other ways to dance. "Do you have any molly," one whispers my pal's ear. She shakes her head. They move on.
11:11pm: And we dance to "Antidote."
11:20pm: And we dance "Greyhound."
11:25pm: And we dance with a friendly guy wearing an SHM "We came. We raved. We loved" t-shirt. Turns out he flew in from Japan for this show. (Group hug). We soon make friends with another young guy who also likes to dance. Turns out he flew in from Copenhagen to be here. (Group hug).
11:35pm: For a moment all I can do is stand still and look up at the sky and thank my lucky stars for getting to be here tonight as the group samples the Temper Trap's "Sweet Disposition" and the lyrics ("a moment, a love, a dream, a laugh, a kiss, a cry, our rights, our wrongs) flash across the screen and thousands and thousands of us sing along in unison. I have goosebumps but not because it's cold.
11:40pm: And we dance to "In My Mind"
11:45pm: Axwell says farewell to the crowd with a rousing thank you to everyone who came out in the cold to see them. "To all of you dressed in bikinis tonight, you really fucking brought it!"
And then of course they
close round out the show with their massive mega ultra hit "Don't You Worry Child" and we all go fucking nuts and scream "because heaven's got a plan for you!" at the top of our lungs and (group hug) dance with each other, at least for a moment feeling like those words are true. Then a bunch of fireworks go off and I cry a little I'm so happy. 11:40pm:11:50pm: And we dance to "Save the World."
12:05pm: It's all smiles on the way out the gate. "What did you think of the show?" I ask one of the cops monitoring the crowd. "It all seems like a lot of samples and stealing other people's music," he says, "but I get why people like it, although I don't appreciate when they bring their pot and smoke it just so they can enjoy the show."
This statement is arguably faulty on several levels -- weed was definitely not the primary controlled substance at this party -- but I thank for doing his job and he waves me goodbye as a group of girls walking out next to me sing "don't you worry don't you worry child."
Personal bias: Steve Angello once told me he liked my shoes before Axwell advised me to go out into the crowd at Coachella and "sex someone."
Overheard in the crowd: "Fuck yeah I'm coming back tomorrow."
Masquerade Motel happen again today at L.A. State Historic Park.