The end of any Ultra Music Festival weekend is when things start to get real.
After three full days of dancing and pounding music, mostly in the sun, only the strongest make it to the end, and even they can get cranky. So while positive vibes ruled over 99 percent of the festival, as Swedish House Mafia's last show ever (and the final main stage set of Ultra 2013) approached, things got kind of ugly in the middle of the crowd.
Sweaty, shirtless bros stamped on the feet of kandi kids as they pushed past with plastic cups of Heineken, and the tension of near-fights seemed to bristle everywhere in the air. Uh, what gives, in a scene that's supposed to be about peace and dancing and all that good stuff?
Perhaps everyone was just superstressed that there were only a few minutes to go until Swedish House Mafia's last show ever? A group of guys in the crowd crowed that they would "remember this in 20 years!" before doing a group cheers with their beers. Two decades is ... a long time. But with thousands and thousands of revelers crammed red-face-to-dripping-chest for the last few strains of mega-smashes like "One," it was impossible to deny the group's impact over just five years.
And luckily, at least some of the aggressiveness among the masses started to melt during the massive, nearly six-minute buildup to the SHM's first song, "Greyhound." (Remember, that's a song that was specifically written to sell Absolut Vodka and push the old-fashioned greyhound drink, just another testament to the group's, uh, branding power.)
From there, the set was one big crescendo.
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As solo artists, Sebastian Ingrosso, Axwell, and Steven Angello have trod into relatively deeper and unexpected territory. But as Swedish House Mafia, they've always been about big, euphoric, easy-to-digest synths, hooks, and melodies that get a huge crowd jumping without having to do much thinking. The SHM experience is really about getting lost in that crowd to those big hooks, and a lot less about what the three guys are actually doing in real-time onstage.
Luckily, whatever they're doing in real-time, onstage, is carefully honed so that the mood never dips into any valleys. The entire set played as one big upward tick, a kind of this-is-your-life of all of SHM's musical happy pills, from the remix of the Temper Trap's "Sweet Disposition" on through to "Miami 2 Ibiza" up to, of course, "One." All of this came punctuated with enough fireworks and pyrotechnics to make you erupt in a sweat, hundreds of yards away from the actual stage.
This was a suitably over-the-top sendoff for a pretty musically over-the-top group, and rather than sad over a breakup, the mood was celebratory. If dance music is about hearing a tune at top volume and experiencing it with a group of like-minded revelers, then Swedish House Mafia as a group can live on any time someone starts up one of their tracks.