25.03.18… Exactly one year on from the most dramatic night in dance music history, and the return of Swedish House Mafia still continues to hog headlines as the biggest story in the industry’s all-time pantheon.
The historic return of the iconic trio marked not just a seminal moment in dance music history, but also the reunion of the first ever act to have elevated themselves above the pantheons of a ‘DJ’ or ‘Producer‘ tag. Since their inception a decade or so ago, the names Axwell, Steve Angello, and Sebastian Ingrosso have steadily grown in stature, with the triplet of performers gaining ‘Rockstar’ like status.
Whilst many electronic music performers come and go both readily and frequently – others stake their claim for a place in folklore by cementing their spot at the upper echelons of the industry for prolonged periods. The double-decade spans of acts like Carl Cox, Paul van Dyk, Paul Oakenfold, Armin van Buuren or Tiesto a prime example of this.
But others – go even beyond that level, merging the realms between the dance industry, and bona fide music legends. For EDM lovers, these names are now the modern equivalent to Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Freddie Mercury. So what made the Swedish House Mafia project just SO big? Why are this trio thought of SO highly? And how did the snowball effect of this EDM juggernaut impact the rest of the scene so vividly?
We Rave You‘s Jake Gable investigates…
THE VIEW FROM MIAMI:
To say that the 20th anniversary celebrations of Ultra were somewhat overshadowed by the impending Swedish House Mafia reunion would be something of an understatement, which in itself, offers a hint of the trio’s size in the industry. Arguably the biggest and most iconic festival in the calendar, Ultra attracted a stellar cast for their 2018 edition, with the likes of Hardwell, Tiesto, and Armin van Buuren all in attendance on the main stage. But with all respect to their Dutch counterparts, the aura of the Scandinavians is something wholly unrivalled across the dance music spectrum.
The popular phrase ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’ has certainly never been more true than in the form of Ax, Seb, and Steve – who had somehow actually managed to grow even bigger – in their 5 years apart, and 6 since their last release (‘Don’t You Worry Child’ in 2012). Sure, the latter continued to grow his solo presence with iconic shows at Printworks, and the impending release of his highly anticipated ‘Human’ album, whilst the former blitzed all before them as a duo with headline shows at Tomorrowland, and their own Ushuaia Ibiza residency, but like salt & pepper, or in this case – salt, pepper & salt – the hidden ingredient for both acts’ success seemed to rest on the attendance of the other.
ANTICIPATION & RUMOURS:
By the time Steve had ‘followed’ his former pals across social media again at Christmas time, rumours began to circulate. By the time a series of SHM posters magically appeared in the Wynwood Art District on the Miami streets on the Saturday afternoon of Ultra, rumours transformed themselves into fever pitch excitement. The final day of Ultra was spent with nervous ravers asking one another if it was true, and in honesty, the day’s events were overshadowed by the anticipation of the 10pm ‘Special Guest’ slot.
Even a true EDM juggernaut like David Guetta, who was tasked with the unenviable role of the one hour ‘warm up’ slot at 8.15pm, paled in comparison as the mainstage crowd jigged a light sway through his set, conserving their energy in favouring a wild frenzy at 10. By the time the Frenchman performed his ‘Thank You Ultra’ speech into the mic, and told fans that ‘The guys coming next are so special and I’m so excited‘, nervous glances between the crowd grew into full on buzz as the atmosphere crackled electrically throughout the somewhat extravagant 45 minute stage changeover. With more and more atmospheric fog being pumped into the audience, the main rail of the stage, which separates the left and right sides for crowd control purposes had become a catwalk for a who’s who of dance music talent.
“YOU KNOW WE ARE THE SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA”:
The pin was poking firmly at the balloon stuffed with EDM’s biggest secret, and soon popped, as a crane from the sky of the main stage delivered a concealed box down to the now supremely elevated stage. As the opening chords of the aptly chosen ‘Miami 2 Ibiza’ rippled through the crowd, the box lifted back up to unveil three familiar figures who had been delivered by private police escort to the audience, standing high above their crowd. Figuratively, their position gave them the look of Gods scanning over their earthly children, and soon, millions of cries and prayers were answered as Axwell bellowed his familiar introduction to the crowd – albeit it with a slight 2018 twist.
“My name is Axwell, this is Sebastian Ingrosso, and this is Steve Angello, and Miami… You know… We are the Swedish House Mafia.”
EMOTIONS RUNNING HIGH:
By the time Steve Angello’s ‘Remember’ accompanied a series of emotional flashback images on the LED screens to the glory days between the trio, and a wealth of ‘video diary’ style personal shots of the three in the studio and relaxing together on beaches and in the back of cars, Miami was experiencing the first sight of wet weather all week, as copious amounts of tears began to drench the sun-soaked night sky. By the time the set was over, and an emotional Ax had told the crowd that:
“This time… Swedish House Mafia is for life.”
Their status as the first, and last, rock stars of EDM, was firmly cemented.
Whilst many dance music fans clamour for the golden age of progressive house to return (Alesso was even the subject of online abuse by passionate fans who felt the producer had abandoned his progressive roots during his Tomorrowland weekend one performance), a resurgence in the movement led by the Swedes might not not quite pan out the way that fans who long for ‘Greyhound 2.0’ initially expect. Judging by the sound of Axwell Λ Ingrosso’s 2018 ID ‘Behold’ and the various heavy tunes dropped in the trio’s Ultra set, (Salvatore Ganacci’s ‘Antidote’ remix, ‘Cobra’ by Magnificence etc), 2019 could see the musical landscape shifting to a much bassier tone than many may initially predict.
With their triplet of nights at Stockholm‘s Tele2 Arena now just over a month away, the trio were asked about their return at a globally broadcast press conference last October, adding:
“It was time.”
Not just for themselves, but for the dance industry as a whole.