To the three producers who make up Swedish House Mafia -- Axwell, Steve Angello, and Sebastian Ingrosso -- operating on a massive scale is no big deal, pun intended.
From the beginning of the trio's rise to international prominence, they've seemed to always operate at a sweeping level, beginning with the music itself.
Their first official single, 2010's "One," was almost the direct opposite of an anonymous underground tune. With its skyscraper-size synths and anthemic singalong chorus, this was a track that always seemed destined for a stadium.
So it came as no surprise late this past December when Swedish House Mafia achieved a feat previously unthinkable for a current electronic act: It not only played, but sold out, Madison Square Garden. OK, actually, it was surprising -- so much space to fill, so little traditional instrument-playing or rock-style performance.
"The biggest challenge was that it had never been done before at this great venue. It's always easier when you can reference a previous performance at any venue, but this was not possible here, so we broke new ground," says Sebastian Ingrosso. "Of course it was a gigantic space and everything we did had to be even bigger. Huge stage, huge production, huge sound, and the best music possible."
But long before filling that famous New York City arena, the group had already built up a reputation for live shows that dwarf their musical peers' in anticipation and balls-out craziness. "We only play together as a trio a handful of times a year so when fans do see us there's so much energy that's bound to be released," says Ingrosso. "We all get really excited, too, and always bring with us the best in sound lighting, visuals and special versions of our tracks that people have never heard before. Swedish House Mafia is a true event."
Before the stadium run, though (another appearance is planned for England's Milton Keynes Bowl in July), there was the Masquerade Motel, Swedish House Mafia's own minifestivals. Last year marked the first to take place during Miami Music Week, with an outdoor tent set up on the sand along Ocean Drive, and thousands of revelers crowding South Beach just to get a whiff of the party.
By all accounts, much of the event could have gone more smoothly. Admission lines were disorganized, and the city of Miami Beach's police officers were, to say the least, unprepared for and perhaps overenthusiastic in their dealings with the throngs. This time around, some changes have wisely been made.
"We learned a lot from last year's Masquerade Motel as it was a massive undertaking to launch our own event on the beach," says Ingrosso. So the biggest change for the 2012 edition: It's no longer on the beach. The event has been moved to mainland Miami's newly opened Grand Central Park. This means more parking and more points of access for those arriving by car -- as well as the option of arriving via public transportation.
The other huge change, of course, is that this year's Masquerade Motel is now two days, Friday, March 23 and Saturday, March 24, with Swedish House Mafia headlining both nights. With Ultra happening just a few blocks away, the even't expanded presence creates some serious competition for dance music fans looking for a relatively boutique, more tightly curated festival experience during the week's sprawl.
It also proves as a definitive coronation for the headliners themselves, whose mega-success is beginning to recall that of the super-DJs of dance music's last big mainstream crossover, in the late '90s and early '00s. Ingrosso, though, disagrees that Swedish House Mafia in 2012 is any kind of repeat of the jet-setting stadium-spinners of the recent past.
"There is a major difference between the past and what's currently blowing up. Back then there was a lot of anonymity to the music because there was no Facebook and Twitter or blogs to spread the music and buzz," he says. "Another key factor is that we see the dance music community getting younger and younger these days. There are teenage DJs blowing up and some key tastemaker writers are still in college. It all makes for a level of enthusiasm that far surpasses the late '90s and early '00s scene."
For proof, of course, there is this year's Masquerade Motel lineup, which tends towards the youthful. Besides Swedish House Mafia themselves, who range from the late 20s to early 30s, acts include the similarly fresh-faced, from Alesso and Calvin Harris to AN21 and NO_ID, who also play both nights. And as far as that new level of enthusiasm?Tickets for the event sold out by the middle of February. All further details, though, are so far under wraps. "If you want to know the secrets of Masquerade Motel," says Ingrosso, "you'll just have to check in!"
Swedish House Mafia's Masquerade Motel with Alesso, Calvin Harris, and AN21. Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24. Grand Central Park, 721 NW First Ave, Miami. General-admission tickets are sold out for Friday and general-admission tickets for Saturday cost $125 plus fees via wantickets.com. VIP tables cost $3000 to $5500. Visit swedishhousemafia.com/masquerademotel.
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