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The big black luxury SUV is somewhere between its departure from the photo shoot and the entrance to the Holland Tunnel when Avicii and his tour manager realize that the trunk is open. It’s a warm October Sunday afternoon in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. The street is mostly empty now, but it is not hard to imagine it packed with club goers navigating its cobblestones in search of a cab home 12 hours earlier. The truck pulls to a stop, unbothered.
After a few moments of inspection, the driver slams the back door home. Avicii, a 23-year-old Stockholm native, whose given name is Tim Bergling and who has slightly alien cheekbones and pale skin that make him a fashion editor’s dream, gives a nervous exhale.
“Yeaaaaah,” he says in the accented English of his native Sweden, which adds a faint “J” sound to the word. “That woulda sucked for sure.”
Bergling, one of the world’s most popular DJs and an emerging production talent, is a busy man these days. He is among the vanguard of musicians loosely banded together under the banner of electronic dance music, or EDM, a catchall term for a litany of subgenres (such as late model house and dubstep) that crank out the big throbby digital anthems currently popular among the adolescent and college sets, and with those charged with marketing everything from luxury coupes to their operating systems. Bergling’s original single, “Levels,” released in late 2011, is one of the surest and viscerally pleasing anthems to come out of the scene, and he has played about 300 shows in each of the last several years.
Which is all to say, if the small collection of bags that contained his touring gear — most importantly his computer and hard drives — had happened to spill out undetected onto a lower Manhattan street, his itinerary would have been thrown into disarray. Two nights earlier, Bergling had played to 50,000 fans at the Austin City Limits Festival in Texas. In early September, he opened at a series of shows for Madonna at Yankee Stadium. In September, he sold out two consecutive nights at Radio City Music Hall. Press materials at the time proudly declared that it was the first time an EDM act headlined the storied venue.
“I’m just travelling around with a USB stick and headphones, like I can have two, three shows in one day if I want to, and I have,” he said.
Bergling’s ascent has correlated pretty neatly with the rise of EDM in America. At one of the Radio City shows, it was easy to read the appeal. The crowd, made up mostly of New York-area kids in their teens and early 20s, was a dancing mess of tennis ball-bright tones, face paint, torsos and glow sticks. Bergling’s set consists mostly of big hits from his electronic forbearers such as Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta, pleasure-center-targeting classic rock samples and lots and lots of crescendo.