Swedish House Mafia Bring Masquerade Motel to Los Angeles: Concert Review
The disbanding DJ trio offer a marathon of house music to thousands of masked ravers ahead of their last-ever performance in Miami later this month.
Taking something of a page from LCD Soundsystem, Swedish House Mafia announced last year that it would be disbanding on a high note at the end of a lengthy farewell tour -- though the questionable conclusion of the three DJs' time together comes just five years after they formed.
What the act may lack in longevity, it more than makes up for in fervent devotees. A sold-out, 35,000-strong crowd turned up at Los Angeles State Historic Park on Saturday for the second and final night of SHM's Masquerade Motel. Aiming to stretch the goodbye for as long as possible, the group parlayed two of their final dates into an abbreviated EDM festival. Ten hours worth of sets from Alesso, Zedd, No_ID and others culminated in a two-hour performance from the headliners.
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And the festival-like atmosphere wasn't just courtesy of the lineup. Filling the venue that also serves as home to the annual FYF Fest, Masquerade Motel upped the ante of SHM's headlining performance at last year's Coachella. The beefed-up set list and explosive pyrotechnics rivaled any of their previous stateside outings.
Pulsing images of their mantra, "We come. We rave. We love," SHM took the stage promptly at 10 p.m., opening with throbbing instrumental powerhouse "Greyhound." It's a distinctive track for the act, which has seen nearly all of its mainstream play come from hits with sing-along lyrics.
Singing, somewhat surprisingly, offered the night's most unifying moments. Though there was obligatory, unending dancing, however contained in the packed throngs -- songs like "Don't You Worry Child" and the remix of Coldplay's "Every Teardrop Iis a Waterfall" seemed to bring attendees together in almost deafening chants. The crowd-sourced choruses frequently rivaled the booming bass, which did not seem to be as loud as it has been at some of SHM's less urban venues.
But if volume was at all a concern for neighbors, visuals were not. All the way up until midnight, the homes on the stretch of North Broadway were treated to SHM's unrivaled visual displays. Flames shot from pillars around the park, fireworks filled the sky no fewer than five times and the massive stage's moving screens blared what looked like a souped-up, football field-sized iTunes visualizer on acid.
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In the months leading up to Masquerade Motel, DJs Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso requested that fans arrive in masks, and an overwhelming majority obliged. The Carnivale-esque attire, and the relative anonymity it offered guests, could have easily produced a rough-and-tumble atmosphere -- but even as the crowd condensed like so many bushels of neon asparagus in the final hours, you'd be hard up to find a more polite group ravers.
As is the test of any crossover house act, SHM's treatment of others' material often equals their own tracks. Among the snippet-sized samples and mash-ups unleashed during the night were Usher's "Euphoria," Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Strong" and even a blissfully unexpected moment of Adrian Lux's "Teenage Crime."
Scant banter and barely a few seconds' worth of pauses eventually culminated in 2011's "Save the World." An almost unending mix, which thankfully dragged on as neither SHM or the audience seemed ready to part for good, at one point saw the entire field sit down on the ground and then leap up for one final dance-out.
If SHM is indeed done for good when they finish their last scheduled set in Miami later this month, Masquerade Motel offered as good a goodbye as any fan could have asked for -- and a fitting example of EMD at its very best. The satisfied crowd left civilly (if slowly), without any sort of incident that so often mars the genre's bigger events, echoing SHM's optimistic slogan of coming, raving and loving.