It’s easier to appreciate anything when you have a little bit of context or background.When you know the story behind it.One case in point: I don’t really watch sports all that much. But whenever I get to watch NFL football with my buddy Josh who can tell me every single player, coach, and referee’s life story, it adds some depth, context, and story to the event that I can latch on to, and makes the whole thing more interesting.Same thing with travel. I’m not the best at doing pre-research when traveling to historic cities, sights, or destinations. But I do like to shore up on a bit of history.Anthony Bourdain put it well:
"On the plane, I like to read fiction set in the location I'm going to. Fiction is in many ways more useful than a guidebook, because it gives you those little details, a sense of the way a place smells, an emotional sense of the place. So, I'll bring Graham Greene's The Quiet American if I'm going to Vietnam. It's good to feel romantic about a destination before you arrive." - Anthony Bourdain
So now, maybeyou've seen Above & Beyond listed as a headliner for one of the festivals you’re about to go see.Or maybethey just announced a gig in your town (I'm looking at you, Vietnam).Or maybe you’ve seen them pop up on your Spotify Discover Playlist (Epic, epic algorithm btw. Good work, Spotify.) and now you’re curious about what this is all about.Whatever the case, fear not, young musical adventurer. Let’s give you that touch of romance before you arrive.Here’s a quickbeginners guide to Above & Beyond.
So, I’m not the biggest A&B veteran around by any means.These guys have been around for the better part of 15 years, so there’s most certainly people more qualified to give an elaborate history of their evolution over the last decade and a half than I.Still, it’s always good to understand who you’re dealing with in any situation, so here’s my (breif) background with Above & Beyond.Finding Group Therapy.Early last year, maybe around February 2014 or so, I was listening to a bunch of earlier (2008-ish) Deadmau5 and was looking for similar progressive house music to work to.I like listening to music when I work, and at the time Deadmau5’s older progressive house and classic, bouncy“blip” sound fit the bill for what I like to zone-in to when I’m working.But, love him as I do, there’s not that much of that older progressive Deadmau5 around, and while I love his more recent sound (especially live. god I love that shit live), the bassier/dubbier electro stuff hit a little harder then I look for when I’m working.So it didn’t take long for me to crave a little more variety, and after a little bit of digging, my search lead me to Above & Beyond’s weekly Group Therapy podcast, also known as ABGTThe ABGT Hustle.Pretty quickly, ABGT took over as my go-to working music.The dreamy stretches of progressive house and blissful vocal trance featured heavily throughout ABGT put me, for the most part*, in the exact zone I like to be in when I’m working.(*I say “for the most part", because ABGT can also turn heavier with darker stretches of harder hitting electro that, like newer mau5, hit a bit harder then I’m looking for when I’m work, but those stretches are easily skippable.)I was also endeared to ABGT because it balanced my paradoxical desires for both consistency and variety.By that I mean, I like to listen to the same type of stuff, the same type of sound, but not necessarily the same exact songs over and over and over. Variety is the spice of life after all.It’s this paradoxical desire for both consistency and variety that first attracted me to jambands like Phish and The Disco Biscuits back in the day - with those bands aswith ABGT, we get the benefits of both familiarity and variety at the same time.Today, I estimate that ABGT makes up about 50% of what I’m listening to when I’m working.They fit that well into my listening tastes, and the podcast format just makes it that much more accessible and convenient.Catching them live.One of the downsides about being a fan of an internationally touring artist like Above & Beyond compared to regional or national acts like The Disco Biscuits or Phish is that it’s much less frequent to see the group live.Case in point - being a Disco Biscuits fan in the mid-Atlantic or Northeast from the mid-2000s until about 2010 was ridiculous.We could follow entire tours up and down I-95, from Albany, Buffalo, or Boston in the north all the way down to the Carolinas or Georgia in the south, stopping at every city in between.It wasn’t rare for die-hard Biscuits fans to join the “century club” by hitting 100 Biscuits shows - the touring was that consistent and geogrpahically consolidated. A fanatic’s wet dream.With an international act Above & Beyond, whos shows span almost every continent and tours much more sporadically, the live experience is a little more rare.For me, that live experience was made a bit more rare by the fact that I moved to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in February 2014.South East Asia, it turns out, is not a heavily-toured market for the big international DJs just yet.Long story short here: one day, we came to find that Above & Beyond was billed at the Djakarta Warehouse Project music festival in Jakarta, Indonesia in December 2014.Jakarta was an affordable round-trip flight from Saigon, and we had a good friend (sup Alan!) living in the city, so we got a crew of about 8 homies together and made the trip.
While the show was good, it was a (relatievly) quick 60-minute set, (relatively) early in the evening around like 7pm or so if I remember correctly.Though the rest of the festival certainly delivered (Skrillex, Martin Garixx, Steve Aoki, Nicky Romero, Kaskade - all good fun), it definitely left me craving a bit more Above & Beyond, who was far and away the act I was most excited to see.International acts being elusive as they are, it wasn’t until about 3 weeks ago that I had another chance to see A&B live, at Moonrise Music Festival in Baltimore, MD. This time, with a 90 minute set to close out the festival Sunday night, they hit the money.
All the big-room trancey pads, smooth housey drops, singalongs, feelsey lyrics, and lovey-dovey big-screen messages (see above: “you are surrounded by your future best friends…") came together into a super refined and memorable live concert experience.Apparently I’m a sucker for all that stuff, because I’m forever hooked.Now look at me. It’s all down hill from here :pSo, with this background out of the way, let’s get you started with a brief introduction to Above & Beyond.
Above & Beyond’s sporadic tour dates & locations being elusive as they are, I’d go as far as saying that their weekly radio show Group Therapy really serves as the heart at the center of the group.
The show, also known as ABGT, is a weekly broadcast that’s streams live at 7pm London time every Friday at http://youtube.com/aboveandbeyond/live.ABGT started in late-2012, and replaced A&B's former weekly show, Trance Around The World, which started in 2014 and was retired after 450 (!!) broadcasts.At the time of this writing, there have been 143 ABGTs, all of which are available on their YouTube channel or as a podcast on iTunes.The shows are made up of mostly house, progressive house, trance, electro, and techno.Each show tends to flirt back and forth between the opposing ends of blissful/ethereal house/trance and darker/heavier electro and techno.Each show is made up of A&B tracks new and old, as well as tracks from other artists, including a healthy dose of tracks from A&B’s record label, Anjuna Records.At the end of each show every week, Above & Beyond hands over the decks to a guest DJ for the 30 minute “guest mix” to close out the show.The show, including the guest mix placement, is often used as a platform for exposure for A&B’s stable of up-and-coming artists on Anjuna Records, as well the platform from which Above & Beyond announces new shows, festivals, and special events.Speaking of special events, every 50 shows (ABGT50, ABGT100, etc…), A&B broadcasts ABGT live in a big special event. Most recently, A&B hosted ABGT100 at Madison Square Garden in October 2014 (link to show below).
The show sold out within minutes of going on sale, and tickets were said to be reselling for as high as $700-800. (Nuts. That set was epic, by the way.)This September, Above & Beyond will be hosting ABGT150 live from Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia.
ABGT HighlightsPersonally, I keep coming back to the ABGTs that I first found, back in early 2014:
Of course, ABGT100 from MSG wasan incredible broadcast, and isone of my favorite go-to sets:
And finally, ABGT50 from London:
As of mid/late 2015, Above & Beyond's show is an epic singalong, with lots of beautiful/ethereal vocal trance, progressive house, and some dirtier/darker electro drops woven throughout.Sing along with the hitsThey tour heavily on their latest singles/album, as well as their fan-favorites and classics. For any new fan heading to an A&B show, I’d recommend shoring up on their top 5-6 hits in heavy rotation, and you’ll set yourself for a good time:
Anjuna loveLike the radio show, A&B’s live shows feature a lot of tracks from artists on their label, Anjuna Records. Lately, Jason Ross has stood out as one of the more distinct sounds.A&B have been loving Ross's tribal anthem-esque tracks Atlas, Solaris, and Cairo. You can hear them throughout most of the recentABGTs as well as Above & Beyond's live shows.Push the buttonEvery show, Above & Beyond will queue up a drop on their CDJs, ready to be dropped at the push of a “Play” button.Then, they pick a lucky fan (or fans) from the crowd, and pull them on stage to “Push the button,” dropping the beat, and getting the crowd jumping again.
At every show, A&B fans bring elaborately decorated signs and work their way to the front of the crowd for a chance to Push The Button. It’s a fun fan interaction that people go crazy for.
In January 2014, Above & Beyond released “Acoustic” - which took 13 of their classic tracks and reworked them with an orchestra and live instrumentation.
They’ve played just 2 live shows with the acoustic band, once at the Greek Theatre in LA, and the other live from Porchester Hall in London.The latter show was broadcast live, and the videos are incredible. The arranagements are increidbly rich, full, and beautiful.My personal favorites from the acoustic broadcast are Sun and Moon and “You’ve Got To Go."
Here’s a link to all the YouTube videos, including the full show and all 13 individual tracks:
While you're at it, it's worth taking a lil peak behind the curtain...Above & Beyond were interviewed (with their manager and agent) at EDC's EDMBiz conference this year.The interview offered some really cool insight into the significance and evolution of a lot of the things I’ve mentioned, from the radio show, to the story behind “push the button”, through the acoustic shows, and more.
More thananything, the EDMBiz talk offers just a great glimpse into how seriously Above & Beyond takes their art, business, and fans.
I’ll close this little guide off with a couple of my favorite sets that will give a good overview on the evolution of Above & Beyond:EDC Vegas (2015) - Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) comes on to push the button for the A&B favorite, “Walter White". An epic, epic moment in A&B history.
ABGT100 from MSG (2014) - ABGT’s 100th broadcast from MSG. Sold out in a few minutes.
Essential Mix 2011 - Voted “Essential Mix of the Year” for the second time
TATW350 from LA (December 2010) - Live from Hollywood Palladium, LA
Essential Mix 2004 - Voted “Essential Mix of the Year"
The dialed in live experience, the fanatical focus on detail, and the consistency of the ABGT podcast combine to make them some of the most successfulelectronic dance musicians around today, and far and away my personal favorite in the genre.So if you have that chance,whether is billed on a festival you're heading to or if they've announced a show nearby, go forth with the romance, story, and context.Get theirclassicsdown, sing along with them when they drop, and you're sure to have an awesome Above & Beyond experience :)