By Rebecca Bulnes
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You really, really, really want to spend the night at Swedish House Mafia's Masquerade Motel. But how do you even find the place?
Well, you could always try to track the synthy cinematic overload of the club-killing triumvirate's superhit single "One" to its source. However, here's another (admittedly fictional) way:
In the middle of the night, you make a phone call to an anonymous reservation hotline. Some British dude answers, asks for your credit card information, and confirms the availability of a standard suite. You book it. And within an hour, a private black limo with tinted windows pulls up outside your apartment, the doors unlock, and you climb into the back seat.
8th St. and Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Category: Performing Arts Venues
Region: South Beach
You're alone. But some invisible butler has already poured six ounces of straight, ice-cold vodka into a lowball glass. You finish the drink, pour another, and finish that one too. Then at some point during the 20-minute ride between the pick-up point and tonight's final, undisclosed destination, you fall asleep.
When you wake up, you're already on your feet, standing in the iridescent shadow of a giant white tent set up on the sands of South Beach. You recognize the spot from the glowing lime green, hot pink, and electric blue of the signs on Ocean Drive. Suddenly, you're face-to-face with a female model in a cheap plastic carnival mask. She hands you a black skeleton key and points you toward a secret side entrance.
OK, so maybe the average guest's trip to Masquerade Motel isn't some mysterious pseudo-noir narrative. But that's the fantasy. And everything about Mafia members Axwell, Steve Angello, and Sebastian Ingrosso's collective vision is carefully calculated to feed the idea of a strange, supersaturated party experience. The marketing is cryptic. The details are sketchy. And the VIP list may as well be written in hieroglyphics.
First staged in June 2010 on that infamous island called Ibiza at that equally infamous club called Pacha, this dance music throwdown has always dabbled in the arcane, especially when it comes to the unholy art of branding. "The first year, we did a concert called the Dark Forest," Swedish House Mafia's manager, Amy Thomson, explains. "And the second year, we decided to call it the Masquerade Motel," drawing inspiration from the "flashing neon of the motels up and down Sunset [Boulevard]" in Angello's adopted hometown of Los Angeles. And then there was the Motel's first Miami tour stop in October 2010, which slyly coincided with Halloween.
"When you put a mask on, you feel quite anonymous. You feel a little bit mischievous, and it allows you to just let loose that little bit more," Thomson says, explaining the appeal of partying incognito. "And that's the kind of energy that we want at the Masquerade Motel."
Unsurprisingly, when the Ultra edition of this electro-house über-event (officially titled One Night Stand at the Masquerade Motel) was announced last December 13, the Mafia men immediately seized onto the mystery tactic again and willingly withheld key pieces of information — such as lineup and location — in the hope of stoking fans into some kind of anticipatory freakout.
It worked. Despite knowing virtually nothing about the ultimate party program, a swarm of Swedish House Mafia maniacs snatched up passes — the first phase of $50 tickets sold out in a ridiculous 22 minutes on December 21.
Over the next 51 days, though, Axwell, Angello, and Ingrosso slowly filled the biggest blanks in the initial Masquerade Motel announcement. On January 31, the Swedes leaked the official lineup, an alphabetical list of ten names: A-Trak, AN21, Armand Van Helden, Calvin Harris, Dirty South, Kim Fai, Max Vangeli, Pete Tong, Third Party, and Thomas Gold. (At the time, there was also a promise of "more TBA." But that commitment seems to have expired.) And then two weeks later, on February 10, the location was finally revealed when the Mafia's camp issued a news release stating that Masquerade Motel would be the official closing music event for Funkshion Fashion Week Miami Beach at "a state-of-the-art fashion and music venue to be built... at Eighth Street and Ocean Drive on South Beach."
As these minor mysteries were solved, one after the next, the ticket price rose — $75 to $100 to $150 — and each batch of passes was gobbled up till every one of Masquerade Motel's 12,000 available guest spots was gone.
And there's the answer to our opening enigma: It doesn't even matter if you find the place. The Motel is all booked up.