The First Time I Watched an Entire EDM Show

Full disclosure: I was asked to cover Swedish House Mafia’s last ever concert and I jumped at the opportunity, because it was at ULTRA Music Festival… in Miami. It was March. It was cold and dark in New York City. Plus, I’ve never been to an electronic music show.

Night one in Miami I saw Boys Noize, and this warmed me up to the whole idea of an EDM show. Despite the abundance of bros in tank tops and neon sunglasses, there was a general feeling of good vibes. I ventured behind the booth, where I was welcomed with Red Bull and vodkas and chatted with people who seemed important. We exchanged words, but I could not hear anything so I nodded a lot and tried to present myself as a friendly human being. Boys Noize arrived after some opening DJ sets and he had just come from a studio with Snoop Dogg so he was in a super happy mood and he greeted me with a high-five/hug before walking up to the booth.

“Who was that?” I asked my friend. It was Boys Noize, and soon enough I realized what a big deal he was, because when he put on his headphones and started pressing buttons that triggered enormous waves of bass and assaulting synths, the crowd went nuts. I felt proud to have just high-five/hugged him. I ended up in the DJ Booth with him and a handful of other people that night, and despite not being familiar with the music, it was an experience I was glad to have, and it felt like a big deal, like an important thing that was happening that I just kind of stumbled into. I stayed as long as I could, but this show did not stop. I left around 3 or 4 in the morning.

The next day, Swedish Mafia House would perform their last ever show, and it would be a much bigger deal. It was the reason I flew to Miami and the legendary electronic act partnered with Volvo for a stage production that would put most shows of any genre to shame.

But this happened on March 24 and there is a reason that I’m just writing about it now. You see, I didn’t know how to cover this event because I wasn’t there. I never made it to the show.

That afternoon, I went to pick up my wrist band before spending the rest of the day frolicking around Miami, going to an empty art museum, eating dolphin, and crashing a wedding in the botanical garden. Right before leaving for the show I got a phone call. There was a mix-up and I was given the wrong wrist band. I couldn’t get into the show. The solution: a live stream.

I ordered a bottle of champagne to the hotel room, pulled up the stream, and watched an entire EDM show for the first time ever. There were many things I didn’t understand, including this heart-shaped hand symbol that members of the group and members of the audience held in the air every few minutes, but a weird thing happened as I watched comments littered with <3’s and :(‘s feed through the sidebar of the live stream—I started to realize the importance of what was happening just a few miles away from me.

As Swedish House Mafia performed their very last show, I was sitting in a hotel room, watching my very first electronic music concert.

As an outsider who picks and chooses random songs and artists to get into, EDM has never held the gravity of rock, pop, or hip-hop in my mind. But as I watched the light display, the fireworks, the production, and the overwhelming reaction from a massive audience made up of people from all over the world, I felt how impactful acts like Swedish House Mafia have been over the years. There’s a whole world of electronic music that has formed a powerful culture over the past decades, and as entire cycles of scenes, genres, and artists are coming to an end, people like me are just catching on. As Swedish House Mafia performed their very last show, I was sitting in a hotel room, watching an electronic music concert for the first time in my life.

It’s an obvious observation from an oblivious American, but it was never more evident to me than on that night: electronic music has officially blown up. You can feel it in music from all genres, you can hear it on the radio, and you can see it at every big festival across the globe. It may be the end for Swedish House Mafia, but it’s clear that this is still just the beginning of something much bigger for EDM.