The Swedes Say Goodbye
Saturday, June 23 was a dark day for electronic music lovers. After four years of masterfully-crafted progressive electro-house hits, Swedish House Mafia announced that their unrivaled musical collaboration would come to an end.
I sat collapsed on my bed, wrapped in my blanket, surrounded by tear-soaked tissues and wondered if this was how my parents felt when John Lennon ditched The Beatles for Yoko Ono.
You can call it a stretch to compare the trio of Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello to the greatest rock and roll band of all time, but I wont budge on this one. Maybe The Beatles outproduced and outplayed SHM by decades, but the Swedes surely matched the Brits when it came to vibrant originality, worldwide domination and most importantly genre-defining sounds.
Swedish House Mafia was a perfect storm. Forming just a moment before the American electronic music boom, the trio’s international-jetsetting partyboy style helped to turn DJs from wallflowers to rockstars. I’m not saying that they did it alone, but their irresistibly catchy and brilliantly progressive sounds certainly played a significant role in bringing electro-beats to the forefront of American pop culture.
And that’s why I knew I couldn’t sit idly by as the Swedes began the final leg of their live performances, all scheduled overseas. This was musical history in the making, and I was going to be a part of it - for myself and for all of the other American fans who wont have a chance to say farewell to the greatest electronic collaboration of all time.
From New York to Ibiza
Ibiza is a tiny tourist island, just east of the Valencia coastline, tucked away in the Mediterranean Sea. From Fall until Spring, the island welcomes visitors looking to lounge on the crystal clear beaches or explore the Spanish culture. But during the summer months, Ibiza serves as the world’s electronic music mecca - playing host to the biggest and best DJs night after night.
Nightclubs are scattered across the island, all armed with unparalleled production and sound equipment. If you’re a DJ and you don’t hold a weekly residency on the White Isle, chances are you’re trying to snag a spot. Swedish House Mafia chose the Miami-style poolside venue Ushuaia for its weekly residency, playing every Wednesday evening until Autumn rolls around and the island once again returns to its quiet beachtown persona.
The trio hosted their residency kickoff on July 4, with friends Pete Tong and Trent Cantrelle as openers. Surrounded by 9,000 of Swedish House Mafia’s most dedicated fans from around the world, I descended on Ushuaia and let thoughts of barbecues and patriotic pool parties fade into oblivion.
In the seedy beach town of Ibiza, Ushuaia is a diamond in the rough. The venue sits in the middle of the the uber-upscale Ushuaia hotel which offers penthouse rooms with balcony views of the stage for the hefty pricetag of 1,215 euros a night. The outdoor venue’s exquisite pools and glass bars provided for a minimalist design, perfect to avoid outshining the main act’s music. Dancing models donned hooded yet backless one-pieces in the pastel color scheme of blue, yellow and pink. Palm trees lined the outer ring of the venue, adding a tropical twist to the poolside venue.
The Beginning of the End
As the sun began to set, Pete Tong wrapped up his French-techno based set and exited the stage. Under a cloudless sky lit by a glistening full moon, we looked up in awe as planes soared by as if to remind us that yes, this is real life. The rambunctious crowd quickly quieted in anticipation of the moment we’d all been waiting for. Moments later Angello, Ingrosso and Axwell emerged onto the decks to the sound of roaring cheers, whistles and monster applause. In usual form, the three DJs gathered in a huddle, arms locked around each other as if to signify their unity in a time of blatant disharmony.
And then the magic began. The bass-filled harmonic introduction of Axwell’s Mix of “In My Mind” blasted through the speakers, sparking a rapturous response from the crowd as we readied ourselves to sing along with the soulful chorus-line. Soon after the trio they dropped Alesso’s “Raise Your Head,” pushing the energy-level even higher. An obligatory “Epic” was thrown in, quickly fading into an avant-garde a capella version of Daft Punk’s “Around the World.” Deniz Koyu’s recent hit “Bong” proved to be a crowd favorite; his progressive house madness shined through again later in the set with a Hard Rock Sofa Bootleg which combined Axwell and Ingrosso’s “Together” with Koyu’s “Hertz” and Eric Prydz’s “2night.”
The second half of the set turned the vibe from absolute raging to somewhat of a tribute to Swedish House’s career. Taking us on an emotional roller-coaster ride, the guys spun their own hits like “Antidote” and “Greyhound,” as well as brilliantly executed bootlegs like “The Moment of Resurrection In Paradise” (Michael Calfan & Axwell vs. Coldplay vs. Tim Mason & Steve Angello) and Thomas Gold’s “Million Voices vs. Apologize.” I’ve never seen a crowd rumble with such pure joy as when “Miami to Ibiza” dropped, nor have I ever felt as humbled and moved as when Axwell’s “King is Heart” swept across the venue.
Hope for the future?
The three music masters stood looking down at the crowd, exuding sweat and smiles as they explained that although this was the first show of their last Ibiza residency, Swedish House Mafia would never completely fade away. “Save the World (Knife Party Remix)” roared through the speakers but was quickly quieted as the guys began speaking:
“Alright, we want to do something special with you guys. Everyone squat down and then jump up when you hear the chorus!”
We knew we were taking part in something special, a moment to be frozen in time, remembered only by those who experienced it in person. We kneeled down then popped up with more energy than a kid in a candy store, linking arms and swaying about, screaming out every word. As the song ended, the guys hugged, stepped back, and spoke the most uplifting words we had heard all night:
“Make no mistake, we will come back.”