There are only a few names in the electronic music world that capture the attention of mainstream audience. Artists such as Daft Punk, Swedish house Mafia, the late Avicii, and Tiesto. Just recently one of those acts headlined to the most prestigious electronic music festival in the United States. I am of course referring to the progressive house legends Swedish House Mafia reuniting to close out Ultra Music Festivals 20th anniversary in Miami. The event took place on March 23 through the 25th in Bayfront Park.
The Hype began from the first lineup announcement back in December. Ultra’s CEO Russell Faibisch announced one year in advance that Ultra Music Festival had something very special going on.
“Yes, something very big is in the works! Every year we pride ourselves on delivering for our fans special unannounced performances and surprises, but for the big 20th Anniversary, we knew we had to deliver something huge. Something unique that can only be seen at Ultra. It is completely under wraps. The only thing I can say is to expect the unexpected.” This was all said during an interview with Magnetic Magazine.
This interview and announcement sparked fans to dream big and throw out any name imaginable to headline the event. The tagline ‘expect the unexpected’ kept fans guessing all the way until the last day of the festival. The top two names in the conversation from the start were daft punk who have not performed a full live concert since 2007, the other being Swedish house Mafia who’s last performance was at Ultra 2013 before their breakup. Fans of electronic music were heard and read all over the Internet making their cases for who would be closing.
Swedish House Mafia is comprised of Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso, and Steve Angello. They group officially formed together back in 2008. Their first few releases before officially becoming and owning the name Swedish House Mafia included songs such as “Get Dumb” and “Leave the World Behind” featuring Laidback Luke. They achieved worldwide success with their first official single “One (Your Name)’”. Throughout their career together they released hit after hit including “Greyhound”, “Save the World”, “Antidote”. While releasing these hits they all continued to strive in their solo careers as well. As a group Swedish House Mafia released two compilation albums, Until One and Until Now.
Sebastian Ingrosso released classic progressive house songs “Calling” (lose my mind) and “Reload” with Tommy Trash. Axwell released several iconic remixes during his time with Swedish house Mafia such as “In My Mind” and “Sweet Disposition”. Steve Angello released heavy progressive house bangers such as “Show Me Love”, “Knas”, and “Lights”, which was featured on Until One. It’s safe to say while Swedish house Mafia thrived their solo careers still proved to be impressive.
After their breakup in 2013 Axwell^Ingrosso formed together while Steve Angello embarked on a solo career. Both continued to release house music with Axwell^Ingrosso catering more to the pop orientated style. Five long years passed that included hopes of a reunion but nothing ever seem to happen until five years later. During Angello’s solo career he has released two albums, Wild Youth (2016) and Human (2018).
The Swedish House Mafia rumors began to take steam when their social media accounts became active once again. Their Instagram and Twitter were cleaned and all posts were deleted…For the first time in five years Axwell and Ingrosso followed Steve Angello on social media.
As the event came closer Daft Punk was becoming easy to rule out due to no affiliation with ultra in the past, and in my opinion legendary as a night that would be, their French house music does not fit the general electronic music scene of Ultra.
I was lucky enough to buy my ticket a year in advance to the sold out 20th anniversary of Ultra expecting to witness something to electrify the world of electronic dance music. Ultra being the three-day event it is, it always has a main stage closer for each night. Axwell^Ingrosso closed Friday leaving the opening of Sunday’s closer still unknown. As I met and talked with other electronic music fans while on the Ultra Music festival grounds I heard people hoping for the late Avicii, Jack U, Swedish House Mafia, all the way to the few who said Daft Punk. It was truly a hopeful mystery that left fans guessing until Sunday night.
As Sunday night arrived the closing act was scheduled to come on at 10 pm. As house music legend Eric Prydz set was nearing the end I hurried across the festival to get a good spot for the closing performance at main stage. I knew I had to be there early enough no matter who it was. World renowned pop DJ David Guetta’s set at main stage ended at 9:15 PM leaving myself and the crowd of 55,000 plus waiting in anticipation for maybe the longest 45 minutes of my life. During those minutes people began to fill the main stage grass and before I knew it I was shoulder to shoulder with anxious fans awaiting the final act of the weekend. I was actually unable to move left and right all that much, only able to jump up and down. After being at numerous festivals I had never seen a crowd this packed up into one space. Initially this may seem like a negative factor having a crowd this tight. What made it worth the shoulder-to-shoulder bumping was the unity throughout the crowd. The love for the music and the artists were apparent as cheers from eager fans waiting to see what they came for. Smoke covered the main stage for forty-five minutes as Ultra set up the special stage for the closing act. I stood next to a guy and struck up a conversation with him, we talked about the closing act and he told me he thought it was going to be Avicii. I leaned over and said “I’m really hoping for Swedish House Mafia.” As the clock ticked down to 10 pm the smoke began to slowly clear although I was not tall enough to see at first, luckily my new friend was.
My buddy from before who had the height advantage over me leaned over to me and rose up three fingers to me with a smile, in that moment I knew it was going to be in for a very special night. The smoke began to clear and I found a better viewpoint as the three icons of Swedish House Mafia emerged on a raised stage looking over the crowd. The crowd was yelling and chanting as the bass started to kick in. As a fitting opener the trio dropped “Miami 2 Ibiza” which resulted in a hard hitting mash up with Axwell^Ingrosso’s “How Do You Feel Right Now”. As per usual Axwell took the honors of introducing the trio, this time it was a very special introduction. “My name is Axwell…this is Sebastian Ingrosso and this is Steve Angello and Miami you know that we are the Swedish House Mafia.” This moment still gives me chills looking back on it. The cool Miami air and the wonderful moments of the set balanced off the sweating and close proximity to everyone else in the crowd.
This lead into two other nostalgic mashups with past hits “Greyhound” and “We Came We Raved We Loved”, being mixed with more current electronic hits. I then found myself bobbing my head to Swedish House Mafia classic re-work of “Leave the World Behind”. What I appreciate about this set is the creativity and the execution of delivering such classics hits in a modern way or different way. Instead of just delivering their hits straight from the studio recoding we receive the Swedish House Mafia live touch. As the set moved on we heard heavy house songs from different artists bringing us back to the traditional house days. Two mashups that really stuck with me in the middle of the set included the infectious vocals of “More Than You Know” sung over the building anthem of “Payback”. As “Payback” dropped the festival house music washed through the crowd as fireworks were launched into the Miami air. Without missing a beat we transitioned to a moment for Axwell to shine as his “In My Mind” remix and “Barricade” were dropped one after another.
Axwell then gets onto the mic and asks the roaring crowd if “he can take us into the club for a little bit.” I did not recognize the following two songs. As of today they are believed to be new unreleased tracks from Swedish House Mafia. As the sound and video began to fade out I heard a familiar tune.
The piano melody of Steve Angello’s track “Remember” started to release from the speakers. A video montage appeared on the screen showing moments of their friendship through touring and making music on the journey of what is and was Swedish House Mafia. This became a relatable moment to the crowd; anyone can look back on their past, the good times and the bad times. It was undeniably a great moment to show how human these guys are just like anyone in the crowd. It was a truly nostalgic moment brought to life by a recent Angello tune. I couldn’t help but realize how much the lyrics resonate with their journeys.
“Remember when you had a dream? Remember when you had a heart? “
“Remember when it was so simple, this world, my fault, could it ever scar?”
“But now your on your own…”
As this moment hit the crowd it was a touching moment looking back on all they had gone through and accomplished together. The group than transitioned us towards a series of hits starting with the dubstep/house inspired track “Antidote” with knife party, to one of their greatest hits, “Save The World”. It was such a beautiful moment to hear a crowd sing in unison in that moment…”Who’s gonna save the world tonight!” A moment like that was last experienced on these very grounds five years ago. I remember looking up into the night sky full of fireworks as I danced and sang as I loud as I could with the thousands of others in the moment in Miami. My legs and voice would pay the price the next morning; of course it was worth every last second.
We then arrived on my favorite part of the set. The chords of the legendary Led Zeppelin song “stairway to heaven” began to play and slowly morphed into the super groups greatest hit of all time…”Don’t You Worry Child”. They mixed in Axwell’s “sweet disposition” remix into the last verse of don’t you worry child giving the crowd one last time to dance to an anthem of the genre. “Don’t You Worry Child” is a song that topped the charts and became a hit no matter what genre of music you liked. This gave the crowd one last opportunity to dance to an anthem. As the trio left the stage I knew they would be back to perform their first ever hit for the encore.
As the stage blackened and the crowd cheered the lights began to flash. The passionate crowd clapped along with the lights as they started to go faster and faster. A familiar sound began to resonate with the crowd as the infectious synth line erupted from the speakers. Fittingly ending the set with their first official hit release…”One”. The group inserted the inspirational lyrics from Axwell^Ingrosso’s tune “Dream Bigger”. At the very end of the set Axwell stepped up to thank Miami and to tell the world that “it’s Swedish house mafia for life this time.”
I didn’t know what to expect from a current Swedish house mafia set, would they play their hits? New music? Solo tracks? I’m happy to say they blended all of those perfectly together to create a nostalgic set that honored their solo careers while showing the world the pure magic of what was and still is Swedish House Mafia. The only time during their set when the crowd seemed uninvolved was during the debut of new music, which was a treat in itself.