I regretted buying tickets to Axwell & Ingrosso the second I did it. Going to hear house music with an obnoxious crowd on a Monday night? Why did I sign up for this?
When I first started listening to electronic music, I didn’t know anything about anything. I listened to artists as I heard about them, sampling from all different genres and styles, not really knowing whether anything I was hearing related to anything else I was hearing. All I knew is that I had really enjoyed the one electronic music festival I had been to, one to which I wore a multitude of neon accessories and spent the entire time wandering around aimlessly and not actually listening to any music.
I eventually learned enough about the EDM scene to understand the genres and learn about the different factions of fans. I realized that even though I don’t dress like a hippie, I still preferred their music, opting for Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic and Bassnectar over the mainstream progressive house guys like Tiesto or Hardwell. Give me those smoothly, funky bass lines over that UNTZ UNTZ any day.
I still liked some house music, enjoying the high energy levels when I caught some of those acts at festivals, but they were never all that memorable for me. I stopped actively seeking out house music and started passing judgment on those who got more excited about Deadmau5 or Zedd than Griz or Gramatik. I built more rapports with people who wear hat pins and shied away from the bros in the “Eat Sleep Rave Repeat” tanktops.
I honestly can’t tell you why I decided to buy tickets to see Axwell & Ingrosso, 2/3 of the now-defunct supergroup Swedish House Mafia. It was on a whim, I had friends who also wanted to go, and I thought it would be fun, I suppose. But as soon as I had secured the tickets – the first and only time I ever managed to get tickets to a show that sold out in seconds – I immediately wished I had saved up my Ticketmaster luck for something better.
On Monday night I met up with my friends and went over to Terminal 5. I was sure of a few things: that the show would be fun(ish) but forgettable, that I would hate everyone around me (friends excluded), and that I wouldn’t stay for the entire thing.
2 hours later, I was sweaty and tired and in a huge mass of similarly sweaty people all trying to jostle through a narrow hallway towards the exit. The show had not only been fun, but really incredible. If it had gone longer than 2 hours, I could have easily stayed for more.
I don’t know exactly what it was about the Axwell/Ingrosso show that I loved so much, but here are a few highlights:
– The music was great. This is probably a big “duh” moment, but people who aren’t into house music largely say it all sounds the same. And you know what? A lot of it does. I wasn’t sure I could handle 2 hours of the same beat over and over again, but the show was surprisingly diverse (I should clarify that I don’t actively listen to them as a duo, so I really didn’t know what I was getting into aside from the Swedish House Mafia songs that they obviously threw in).
– Covers/remixes. I love when an artist brings something completely unexpected. Like this little snippet of Toto’s “Africa.” (Video courtesy of my concert buddy, thanks TB!)
– Transitions. Seeing a house DJ is different than seeing a rock band because a poor transition can have, in my opinion, a larger negative impact on the mood of the room. If you go see a band in concert and they take a 5 minute pause between songs in order to tell a story or have some witty banter with the audience, that’s totally normal (and often really hilarious, poignant or insightful). Long pauses are largely unheard of in house music because honestly, it would confuse the room and bring the vibe down. If you let people stop dancing it’s going to be extra hard to bring the energy back up. Axwell & Ingrosso managed to have seamless transitions between songs that somehow allowed both for changes in rhythms and a little chattiness without ever draining the crowd of their energy.
– Visuals. As with most electronic shows, there were lasers. But there were also some really unique lighting elements going on, including my personal favorite, larger than life heat map silhouettes of the duo projected onto the screen behind them. You can see a little bit of this in the video above.
– They really wanted to be there. Or if they didn’t, they’re great actors. The guys seemed genuinely happy to be up on stage performing for us and grateful that they had a packed room of fans. You can always tell when artists are just phoning it in and Axwell & Ingrosso were doing anything but. Being a DJ often makes it hard to show any amount of life when performing since you can’t move around too much, but they managed to jump and dance and clap almost as much as the crowd was.
– The audience did not suck. I chose to dance it out on the upper level of T5 instead of in the thick of it downstairs. People up there seemed a little less terrible than your standard progressive house crowd.
As we left the show, I turned to my friend and said, “That was way more fun than I expected it to be,” which is a perfect way of summing it up. Axwell/Ingrosso really made me question my harsh judgment of house music. Experiences like this one are exactly the reason people love it.