September 22 was a date I’d circled on my calendar the second I caught a glimpse of Steve Angello’s management team posted a clever little image featuring the Size Matters logo in Central Park with the aforementioned date listed alongside the artists and the iconic venue. With news of the separation of the greatest Electronic Dance Music trio in existence to date fresh in our minds, I was immediately intrigued to see what stops Angello would pull out on his first solo tour post Swedish House Mafia. I know SHM is still technically together, and yes there is still #onelasttour and the dot spots and what have you, but for all intents and purposes each of the three iconic Swedes has begun their latest solo campaign. Axwell is currently wrapping up a North American tour and Sebastian Ingrosso is slated to headline one of this year’s biggest Halloween shows with his friends Otto Knows and Alesso at two separate venues in New York City. All three of the guys are doing their own thing while riding out the last couple months of the SHM tidal wave on the back of their latest single ‘Don’t You Worry Child’, and honestly, I can’t complain. I can’t speak to Ingrosso’s individuality since the break up announcement, because I haven’t seen him live since his spectacular set at EDC NY when the three were obviously still together, but there is no doubt in my mind that Angello and Axwell have taken it upon themselves to reinvent their sound as entities completely separate from the partnership that saw them rise to the pinnacle of electronic music worldwide. Axwell’s Electric Zoo set was as creative and well crafted a set as I’ve seen from him and embraced a sound that I can safely say dwarfed the two live sets of his that I’d attended previously this year.
I find that with a DJ/Producer that has reached the level of popularity and demand that guys like the three in SHM, Avicii, Afrojack or Alesso (sorry for the alliteration) have, the struggle with live sets becomes balancing IDs, unique tracks you like from other artists or up and comers that may be off the beaten trail, and your biggest hits into one set in such a way that the snobs don’t say “ohh it was the same set as last time, all he played were his hits” and the casual fans don’t say, “what the hell? I didn’t know a single song he played”. It’s one of those things that is cultivating the argument that today’s ravers are diluting the scene and forcing complacency from the artists who are inevitably producing and playing “mainstream music” that appeals to the masses and gets the best “crowd” reaction. I get that, but when you play to a massive festival crowd it’s almost impossible to keep everyone happy because you are always going to find critics who bitch just to bitch because they think they know more than everyone else. That being said, Axwell’s set was a masterpiece and I’d be hard pressed to find someone who felt he sacrificed true DJ talent or individuality to put on a set that would keep everyone happy. Everyone was happy because he killed it, and if you feel otherwise I’d love to hear what you have to say on the matter.
However, in regards to this article that is neither here nor there. It is simply a preface to add context to the more important matter to be discussed. On September 22, Steve Angello descended upon New York City, he played three venues in one night and in that night, he single handedly changed the way I look at and judge DJs.
A little over a week before Size In The Park I got a little jittery while reading an incredibly candid interview Angello did with the Huffington Post about the state of the EDM scene, the Swedish House Mafia breaking up and his solo career, you know, the usual stuff. What caught my eye among all of the interesting and intimate details of what makes one of the greatest producers and label heads in the game tic was a statement about Size In The Park needing to cater to Central Park’s restrictions and stressing that the event would be “all about the music”. Although he then eluded that the skimp in production would most likely be the exclusion of streamers and confetti from the set, I was certain that these were not the only regulations he was referring to. I was afraid that the volume of the music could only reach a certain level and that a night that was going to be all about the music would be undercut before it even started due to the demand to contain the sound. Not to give anything away, but I felt this fear even more so upon arriving at the venue.
We arrived slightly after 5 p.m. to see that the English progressive house duo, and Size Matters baby, Third Party had already taken the stage for their New York City debut. The only problem, I was in line to get a beer and could hardly hear that they were dropping one of my favorite tracks of last year, their remix of “Otherside” by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Every time I hear that song I’m taken back to Avicii’s NYE event last year, which is to this day one of the most insane and amazing nights of my life. So you could understand my resentment when the stage’s speakers weren’t loud enough to project the song to the outskirts of the venue. As expected, fresh off the release of their latest remix of “Somebody to Love” by Sultan and Ned Shepard, Third Party put together a progressive set with some creative mash-ups (they opened with Kryder’s new jam ‘Scorpio’ w/ Alex Kenji – ‘Let’s Get This Started’ and the ever popular vocals of ‘Coming Home’) that set the stage nicely for what was to come.
Next up was the Dutch DJ and production tandem Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano. They came out firing with some funky house beats and an on-stage energy that only few other DJs can claim to have. While continuously shouting at the production crew to raise the speakers, the Dutch duo dropped jam after jam, including their hit ‘Lethal Industry’ and even progressive bangers like the eternal hit ‘Spaceman’ by fellow Netherlands native Hardwell. One of the things that continues to impress me about these guys is how true they stay to their sound. Straight funky house fused with hard hitting progressive bangers. There aren’t that many guys out there talented enough to cross over genres in such a way that you maintain a clear flow and set structure, but these guys seem to rise to the occasion time after time. Opening with ‘Let Me See You Work’ by Joe Brunning threw me back to the last time I saw House legend Carl Cox and when they went into ‘Star 69′ by Fatboy Slim, I couldn’t help but laugh at how uncompromising they were to their sound, even while playing to a crowd who was clearly more progressive house oriented on a system that clearly wasn’t ready to handle their swag. Regardless of whether or not most of the audience wanted to hear ‘Levels’ or ‘Pressure’, SJ & RM stuck to their guns, they killed it, and by the time they were done literally every person their was dancing vigorously and waiting anxiously as we neared the night’s headline act.
The next duo took the stage, and concerns that Max Vangeli may be stuck in Miami were sidelined as he entered the booth alongside his longtime partner AN21. Earlier this fall the two released their highly anticipated debut album, People of the Night, on Angello’s Size Matters Records. The album features several acclaimed tracks such as the cover song, ‘People of the Night’ in collaboration with Tiesto and ‘Bombs Over Capitals’, both of which were played in their Size In The Park set. Honestly, after seeing them at EDC NY, I knew what to expect and they were who we thought they were. They played a well balanced progressive house set, which, in my opinion, lacked excitement and was only a lead in to Steve Angello’s headline appearance. Though there were definitely some shining moments where everyone raised their hands to the sky and sang along with every lyric, overall it just didn’t pack the punch that I’m still waiting to hear from them. Either way, by the end of the night no one would care what took place before Steve Angello took the stage anyway.
Steve took the stage to the pounding kick drum of the first bridge leading into the drop of ‘KNAS’, arguably his most popular solo creation to date. A white lazer shown down in a circle almost surrounding him in the booth while fog filled the stage symbolizing the calm before the storm. As the snare drums started kicking in and the drop neared, excitement was boiling over and people were screaming hysterically, not even forming coherent words. They were just releasing energy any way their body could as goose bumps raised on everybody’s skin and anticipation hit a climax. The drop hit, smoke stacks shot toward the sky and the stage lit up like the finale of Independence Day fireworks in front of thousands of ecstatic EDMers. Anybody who knows me knows that ‘KNAS’ is my jump off. Literally any setting, any time that song is played, I will legitimately drop everything on a dime and lose my mind. Catch me standing still during that song, I dare you. Even though I’ve seen him open with this track before (at the Electric Factory earlier this month), I couldn’t help but realize how significant a moment that was for me. Although the rest of the set was more or less packed to the brim with SHM style progressive house bangers, as many expected from Steve’s Size In The Park set, there were still several unforgettable moments that caught me by surprise. He dropped a barely unveiled ID remix of Daft Punk’s ‘Too Long’, he dropped fellow SHM member Sebastian Ingrosso’s bootleg of Deniz Koyu’s ‘Bong’ and ‘Right Here Right Now’ by Fatboy Slim, he dropped his up and coming single ‘Yeah’, but for me shit hit the fan when he substituted ‘Epic’ into the second drop of ‘Kick Out The Epic Mother F*cker’. Oh yeah, and that was all more or less in the first half of his set. The most incredible part of the evening came when Angello played in to ‘Reload’ by Sebastian Ingrosso & Tommy Trash, and just as he did so, the rain began to pour. He got on the mic and jokingly said that the rain seems to happen at the right time every time, and I don’t think he could have been any more right than in this particular circumstance. Just hearing those chords and standing with thousands of people and watching the rain come down heavier and heavier as it reflected through the array of lights and lazers was, in a word, breathtaking. I personally have never felt anything like I did that night and it is a period of time in my life that I will not easily forget. To cap the emotional evening Steve dropped a personal bootleg of SHM’s latest single ‘Don’t You Worry Child’ with the yet to be unveiled remix by rising stars Kryder and Tom Staar. At this point the rain was coming down so hard it almost hurt, and all of those who were there simply because it was the cool thing to do had come and gone. Those who were left were the true fans. The ones who didn’t bring an umbrella and didn’t care, the ones taking their iPhones out in spite of the down pour to capture another spectacular moment, the ones standing arms raised in the pouring rain not caring about anything but the music and belting out each and every word in unison as if it were their last. It was an amazing scene to witness and an even more amazing scene to be fully apart of. The first EDM event to ever take place in New York’s iconic Central Park was an historic one.
Before leaving the stage Steve hinted that the set at Pacha would be nothing like the one he’d just played, and later a Dancing Astronaut reporter would write that Angello had guaranteed him $1000 if he could ID a single track at the after party. In my opinion, this was an understatement, and the sole reason why my outlook toward DJs has been flipped on its head. He showed up to Pacha with an evil look in his eyes, laughing menacingly, ready to take the booth and get the after hours juices flowing. I’m pretty sure he played for about five hours and although I wasn’t in the main room for all of it, I can safely say that I could not identify a single track he played while I was listening. It was jaw dropping. Do you have any idea how bewildering it is to go to one of your favorite artist’s show and think you know that artist’s sound and then he just flips your world upside down? If not, it’s pretty crazy and amazing all the same. As someone who prides themselves on knowing the music and having a deeper knowledge of the artists and sounds than the average or even above average listener, it was almost offensive that I didn’t know a single track he dropped. He stumped me. The level of surprise in that set was as high as it will ever be, which in my opinion may be the trademark of a world class DJ, but its even more awe-inspiring when you have just as much fun as you would if you were singing every song. I just danced there in place, happily frustrated, trying to beat him at his own game, but I knew I wouldn’t. Steve had shed his body on the way over to Pacha and transformed into the Mescal Kid, a widely unknown tech and deep house moniker of his that has become my new obsession. The dude literally went until people were dropping like flies. I couldn’t stay until he finished, but from what I hear he started to drop some more familiar tracks toward the end of the five hours, but still no SHM progressive house tracks like he’s usually forced to play. It was a set that was so vastly different from anything I’d seen before and to be quite honest I can’t imagine having been more impressed even while recognizing so few of the songs. Just an amazing experience overall to say the least. Thank you, Steve Angello.
New Electro House
This track is a collaboration sent down from the EDM Heavens for me. Right now I am on a huge high with both of these artists. A recent back to back play from Trash and A-Trak at the Fool’ Gold Tent Friday night of Electric Zoo can certainly be to thank. Right now Tommy Trash is on an absolute run with productions. The amount of high quality music he is involved with is astounding. His collaboration with Sebastian Ingrosso on ‘Reload’ is an absolute gem. The release was recently pushed and has everyone in the industry on the edge of their seat waiting for it. Another track I am eagerly awaiting is a track Trash created with Aston Shuffle titled ‘Won’t Get Lost.’ His partner on ‘Tuna Melt’, A-Trak certainly needs no introduction. A-Trak has been producing for what seems like an eternity. His record label Fool’s Gold Records is continuing to cultivate talent and churn out great releases. I also challenge anyone to find someone who can work a set of turntables better than A-Trak. The man’s scratching ability is down right out of this world. The duo make for a great team and bring a piece of each of their styles to the song. On one hand you have A-Trak blending in the melodic vocal’s to perfection, and Trash’s grinding electro baseline is certainly evident. Not sure about the name but the vibe on this track certainly sticks.
American dj/producer Wolfgang Gartner just dropped his second two song EP package of recent months and, yet again, his efforts have resulted in the affirmation of his unique aptitude toward refreshing electro outfitted stylings. The ‘Love and War EP’ sees Gartner return to his roots in a fantastic pair of offerings featuring the haunting and ominous style that we’ve all come know and love. ‘Love and War’ is an energetic house-y track, and an easier listen, that still packs a mean punch with some heavy set electro chords and powerful drum work. The second track, ‘Nuke’, looks to turn up the heat on this EP with a massive air-raid siren drop that will turn your head around. You can’t go wrong with either of Gartner’s latest tunes, but for my money, I’ll take ‘Nuke’. The structure of the song just lends it self to a bigger sound and the drop has banger written all over it. Wolfgang’s got a 21 stop US tour under the Love and War title so make sure to check it out and see if he stops in a city near you. If you’ve never seen his show or listened to one of his sets, you’re in for a treat. The dude just lays it down. In the mean time, make sure to jump on his latest, the ‘Love and War EP’
New Electro House
When I think back onto my experience at Electric Zoo on labor day weekend a million fond memories pop into my head. To say the three days were amazing would be an understatement. Utter joy is probably a more accurate way to describe my three days. I think one of the great strengths of the EDM is the ability to take you somewhere, above your problems and worries and connect you to the music. At a festival, the 60,000 strangers around all seem like long lost friends. Im not going to delve into too much of an Electric Zoo review here since it would be pages of words with very over the top adjectives and adverbs since that is the only way I feel I could portray the experience. Even then I would still feel like i didn’t do the festival justice. Ask anyone who attends a festival and they will always give you their own ‘anthem’ of the festival. For me ‘Dear New York’ is that anthem. For one the title is more than fitting. This track was featured in two of my favorite favorite sets of the weekend from Sander Van Doorn, and Tiesto. The track features a gritty baseline that is a common characteristic of a Firebeatz track, and samples New York legends the Beastie Boys. The song has a great old school Electro feel and I can say sounds amazing on a big system. There are many a song that pay tribute to New York City already, however this track should certainly be added to the list.
Featuring the self proclaimed ‘biggest drop ever’ Dada Life continues to push the envelope and be one of the most entertaining duo’s in EDM today. With a list of The Rules of Dada, as well as their champagne and banana clad shows, Dada Life have branded themselves something fun and unique in today’s music world. Like all of their recent productions ‘Feed the Dada’ is a balls to the walls production that absolutely kills it. The song opens with a rather soothing vocal and quirky beat kind of like ‘Rolling Stone T-Shirt’, before the drop kicks in and in typical Dada fashion all hell breaks loose. The track is the second single off of Dada Life’s highly anticipated album ‘The Rules of Dada.’ The duo will also be embarking on a North American tour in a few weeks that will have them playing 40 shows in six weeks. I will be seeing the pair this weekend at Electric Zoo, and encourage anyone else attending the festival to pencil in their set as a must see. In the wise words of Stefan and Olle ‘If your stuck, there’s only one solution: Go Harder.” Words to live by right there.
New Electro House
Madeons’s rise to fame this year can only be described as meteoric. The French wunderkind has gone from obscurity to the spotlight in less than a years time. In a genre that at times leaves many people hearing the same general sounds, Madeon’s productions are truly unique. He first popped up on the industry’s radar when he received high praises for his remix of Pendulum’s ’The Island’. However, his youtube video for his track ‘Pop Culture’ was the first time most of the world had heard from the Frenchman and he has been on a hell of a run since. His remix’s of ‘Raise Your Weapon’, and ‘The Night Out’ are two phenomenal takes on the original tracks. ’The City’ will be the producers third single following ‘Icarus’ and the beatifully crafted ‘Finale’. His sound is very unique and can truly be classified as electropop. I had the joy of seeing ‘Madeon’ at ID Fest in Philly this year and have to say it was by far one of the most memorable sets I have seen this summer. His sets are a product of pure technical ability and a well defined swagger that is hard to come by from anyone let alone an 18 year old. Madeon has certainly cemented his place and looks to dominate the scene for many a year to come. Back in the 80′s another Frenchman had entered the industry and changed the game for the next couple decades. His name was David Guetta. I know curse me for speaking his name. Let me just say that yes he has gone the way of Pop America of late but you can’t discuss dance music’s rise through Europe in the 90′s and early 2000′s without talking about Guetta. So at least educate yourself before you hate. In all seriousness however, Madeon is the real do so do what you should with music and just listen and enjoy.