Considering Steve Angello’s work with Swedish House Mafia and recently emphasizing his traditional DJing background, Saturday’s Size in the Park concert, at the Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, could have gone in one of two ways: an effort to prove his DJing roots or a long string of hits. Angello and his other Size Records artists – Third Party, Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano, and AN21 & Max Vangeli – straddled both extremes.
Starting promptly at 6 p.m., Third Party, making their New York City debut, began with a strong, dubstep-influenced buildup and bass drop. Synth melodies soon balanced out the early roughness, although transitions from one track to another – including their takes on Daft Punk’s “Around the World” and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Otherside” – were occasionally rough.
Third Party had the tough task of keeping the crowd engaged in daylight and with few visuals, save for a small screen in front. Yet, the crowd, soon enough, put their hands up and was engrossed in the less familiar sounds.
If Third Party ignited the event with a flash of melody and a few swift bass drops, Dutch duo Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano steadied the vibe with a heavy dose of rhythmic house, which, at times, had the swinging beat of a Danny Tenaglia techno set. Vocal-driven music, as well, was put on the backburner, with the duo frequently fracturing and stuttering a voice across the heavy beats. Percussion samples, in fact, grew progressively louder during their 45 minutes of stage time, segueing at one point into a marching band-like breakdown.
While Size’s up-and-comers caught the crowd’s attention with strong melody and rhythm, AN21 & Max Vangeli, who released their debut People of the Night a few weeks ago, brought out the hits, including the album’s title track and “Bombs Over Capitals.” Considering the nature of their debut, a set of vocal-focused house was inevitable, but while the melodies were certainly anthem-worthy, the duo attempted to squeeze too many tracks and too many production tricks into an hour-long set. Frequent buildups dissipated, giving the set occasionally a swift wind-up-wind-down quality.
Taking the same set template AN21 & Max Vangeli used but adding more DJing experience, Angello held back the overly-familiar melodies during the first half of his set. Lest concert goers forget that Angello was a DJ and label-manager long before Swedish House Mafia’s inception, Angello rapidly began his set with a percussive, punctuated crescendo and, unlike AN21 & Max Vangeli’s too-frequent bass drops, paced himself throughout.
For those unaware, Size in the Park was the Swedish DJ’s first Size Matters New York show in nearly a year, and at one point, he addressed the audience, saying he felt as if he were back home. After this introduction, verbal and musical, the familiar melodies – both his own solo and Swedish House Mafia tracks – began to float in, with the DJ lingering on one before smoothly transitioning to another. He closed with an exclusive remix of Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child.”
Angello seems to understand that both aspects of a DJ set – the familiarity and the creativity – must be in moderation: give the crowd the sounds they know without resorting to a “press play” approach. Lasers and basic background graphics supported his smoothness and consistency, and by the time a drizzle accelerated into a full-on storm during the last hour of Angello’s set, the light reflected off the millions of water droplets, creating a glittery sheen over the crowd.