Coachella 2012: Swedish House Mafia heats up the night


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Late Friday night, shortly after the Black Keys’ set growled to a halt, waves of cold festival-goers began surging away from the tents and VIP areas. For a split second I thought they were racing to get off the gloomy field, but quickly realized they were pushing to the main stage to dance up a sweat during one of Coachella’s rare, but increasingly prominent, headlining DJ sets.

A colleague of mine referred to the beats of Swedish House Mafia as ‘big, thumpy stuff,’ and he’s right. But big, thumpy stuff seemed to be just what the crowd wanted. As fine sprays of rain made a silhouette appearance in the glaringly bright stage lights, bodies wrapped in sweatshirts and blankets began to move, spin and bounce.


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In the much smaller dance tent, where DJs -- many more experimental than the trio of men that make up SHM -- have traditionally played, it’s easy to get a good look at the performers onstage, and to get a sense of how they are using rhythm and musical changes to work up a crowd. However, on the main stage, glimpsed through masses of writhing bodies, SHM looked like nothing more than tiny statues beneath an exploding pink-and-blue light show.

Meanwhile, on the field, mini-light shows of all kinds flared up like rockets as light sticks were cracked and flashlights spun in circles. And soon the blankets and sweatshirts that protected dancers from the dipping temperatures were shed, and the field looked as it has in years past: like a sea of bare skin dappled with sweat.


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-- Jessica Gelt