By James Noonan (#DMMDanceOff Captain)
Well, where do I start? Let’s cut back to the 25th June 2012 where, not long after announcing their plans for the UK and European summer tour, djs Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso & Steve Angelo, known collectively as the Swedish House Mafia, announced to the world their intention to split up. In a statement on their official website, the trio explained:
“Today we want to share with you, that the tour we are about to go on will be our last. We want to thank every single one of you that came with us on this journey. We came, we raved, we loved.” Swedish House Mafia
Fast forward to the morning of 14th of July where myself and some of my best friends excitedly boarded the coach at the Manchester Coach terminal with one destination in mind – the Milton Keynes Bowl Arena. Sharing banter and reliving memories on the journey, we all speculated about what was going to happen; what tracks were going to be played, what bombs might be dropped, what the crowd reactions were going to be like and what the overall experience would present to us.
We arrived at the Bowl at 1.45pm where we were greeted by a horde of policemen concealing a snaking sea of people who, like us, were eager to get inside the Bowl and get their rave on. Once our bags had been checked and we were inside, we headed to the bar to stock up on drinks to save the need to go back until later on that night.
How to describe the Bowl? If you have never been to the Milton Keynes Bowl or have never seen an image of it, imagine it as just that… A bowl. A huge crater surrounded by a sort of circling hill with an abundance of trees and plant-life on the outside and grass/mud on the inside. Once we went up through the wooded outskirts of the bowl and arrived at the top (greeted on the way by what can be said to be some of the funniest images I’ve ever seen in my life… Put it this way, I can now say I’ve seen a girl go for a number one and a number two at the same time) we were greeted by what I can honestly say is one of the greatest sights I’ve ever seen (I’d forgotten all about the shameless men and women at this point). The scene was of some 60,000 people, all jumping and raving to Example, as if they were just a huge sea moving to the beat of the music being produced from the enormous stage in front of them.
The sun was shining, the people were still pouring in and spirits were high as Example’s set came to a close. Whilst the band began to dismantle their instruments and make way for the dj booth that Madeon would be occupying in a matter of minutes, we started to chat to people around us as well as amongst ourselves. From what people were saying we gathered that we weren’t the only ones who were as excited as youngsters on Christmas day.
Madeon’s set consisted of heavyset electro sounds which the crowd reacted well to, despite one clear technical mistake which cut the music briefly. A quick recovery got the show back on the road but maybe the young dj’s nerves got the better of him following that mistake in front of his biggest crowd to date as his mixing thereafter was quite poor and was clear that some tracks were not beat matched, but over all his set was fairly good and his new track FINALE went off!!
Before the start of Alesso’s set we had journeyed to the front of the crowd to get the best view possible and to get our rave on. Alesso, Calvin Harris and Pete Tong all played hour and a bit sets, warming the crowd up to the frenzy by dropping some absolutely class tunes as well as getting choruses of ‘Seven nation army’ and Zombie Nation’s ‘Kernkraft 4000’ going from the crowd, raising spirits and making people dance like they’d never danced before.
Alesso took the day to a whole new level with an awesome set, but gutted not to hear his collab with Dirty South – City Of Dreams get a play out, Harris also had a great set and built the crowd to a frenzy dropping both tracks to please everyone, but sadly Pete Tong let the lineup down, playing mostly tech which lead to a huge thinning of the crowd throughout his set and managed to bring it back towards the end with Eric Prydz’s new track Everyday!
At 8.15pm a huge black curtain was dropped, covering the stage in order to prepare for the Swede’s arrival to the crowd. A ‘Class Photo’ of the crowd was taken with one of the highest resolutioned cameras in the world, which would allow each member of the audience to clearly see themselves online in said photo, even if they were at the far end of the bowl (check it out for yourself).
While addressing the crowd and introducing SHM, Tong was thanking all the acts from that day for performing getting loud cheers as he mentioned their names, No_ID, Example, Madeon, Alesso, Calvin Harris. But when mentioning his own name, Pete Tong…..the crowd answered with Boo’s, not very good for the guy who is supposed to be the ambassador to British Dance Music.
But then it happened; , the huge black curtain dropped and in front of our eyes was what can only be described as a huge black tower. When it hit. The unmistakable sound of the start of SHM’s ‘Greyhound’, the tower displaying some incredible LED graphics and the crowd going wild. The music rose even higher, building to the crescendo until the drop kicked in.
The crowd went insane! Bouncing around like they were mere ragdolls and throwing some of the most amazing shapes ever witnessed by man. The huge towering structure started to split horizontally from the middle (the top section rising) to display the three Swedes in a haze of smoke and lights, heads bobbing, yet mouths open at the incredible sight before them. It has to be said, that this was raving at it’s peak. In all my time raving, I can honestly say I have never experienced a gig or a set like it. Everything was perfect; from the crowd around us to the superstars themselves, from the music to the cheering. It was honestly one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that nor I, nor my friends will ever forget.
The Swede’s played big! Smashing out not only their own hits and remixes (One, Antidote, Save the World and their own remix of Coldplay’s ‘Every Teardrop is a Waterfall’ included, at which point the LED screens displayed an amazing Union Jack and Axwell hopped on the decks to “raise the flag”), but also Axwell’s own ‘In my mind’ and Dirty South’s ‘Walking alone’.
The air around us was buzzing with the spark of electricity and amazement as the neons fell over the crowd, the multicoloured flamethrowers rose in front of our eyes and as we all raved in unison, yet at the same time as a separate entity. The feeling was indescribable, but was one of the greatest highs I ever had! Looking around, you could always spot someone who had dressed up as a comical character (such as the Mario brothers who were right near us at one point) or people who had brought little trinkets of humours (such as the guy with the ‘I Love a one night stand’ cardboard notice). Even our unofficial mascot ‘Smelly’ the hand puppet made an appearance! But it was just little things like that that made the overall experience even greater. My friend Chris and myself had bought a pair of monkey masks, which we donned mid-performance with comical bowler hats and fez’s to get a laugh from those around us, adding glow sticks under the eye holes later on for the cameras!
Not wanting the night to end we raved into the night throwing amazing shapes and even initiating comical dance offs between ourselves and some cheeky girls from Essex, when all of a sudden the music stopped and Axwell got on the microphone to thank us from himself, Steve and Sebastian. The speech seemed as though they were truly grateful to all their fans who had turned up to celebrate their last UK gig and was full of emotion and compassion for their fellow ravers. He then announced that the night was drawing to a close (this was met by lots of booing and jeering), but that they had one final surprise in store for us.
As a way of saying thank you to all their fans around the world and especially to us who had turned up that night, they were going to premier their newest (and unfortunately last) single, ‘Don’t you Worry Child’ to all of us there at the Bowl. The crowd went wild as the intro played into our ears and we were met by the sound of what could be one of their best tracks yet. It featured vocals from John Martin (who also did the vocals to ‘Save the World tonight’) as well as some amazing piano and guitar accompaniments. Hearing it back now I still feel like I’m back there, raving in my wellies whilst jumping up and down with my arms around some of my best friends in the world, all my worries gone and just living in the moment.
Then just as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. The music faded down, all three djs got on the microphone to personally thank the crowd for not only coming out, but supporting them throughout their career as the Swedish House Mafia as well as letting us know all their fans will hold special places in their hearts… A bit soppy but it was good to hear.
That was it. It was all over. The lights came up, we surveyed our surroundings, a huddle of girls crying, a crowd running over to the wall just near the stage to have that pee they were so desperately craving (luckily it was just lads this time…) and the faces of the crowd, who, like ourselves had contorted faces of pure astonishment as if the spectacle they had just witnessed was some sort of amazing dream that was too good to have take place. I still remember every minute detail, even now, two weeks later. It was honestly one of the greatest spectacles I have ever, and will probably ever witness. As I sit here writing this, I set my mind to the Creamfields bank holiday in August where I will be spending three days doing what I did that day, but honestly worried that it won’t compare.
I hope this article (I know its long and I apologise, but shh…) gave you an inkling as to what it was like to be there that day and doesn’t make you too jealous. It’s sad to think the Swedish House Mafia (in my opinion one of, if not the greatest collaborating acts in the history of dance music) might never reunite and tour the UK again, but I can honestly say I’m glad I was there to share with them ,as well as the 65,000 other ravers around me, the magic that was that night.
[*Edit - "Ever so slightly gutted I wasn't here but glad Mr Noonan had such an awesome time and a huge welcome to the DMM team!" - James]
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