Occasionally you hear about an event which you know is going to make history, an event which will signify a poignant moment in our generation's historical timeline. This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending one of these special occasions. Above & Beyond celebrated the 100th episode of their podcast entitled Group Therapy, and to say it was a memorable night is a huge understatement.
Back in April, it was announced that New York City’s Madison Square Garden would be hosting ABGT#100, and as a true fan for most of their career, I knew I had to experience this. Not only was A&B showcasing an iconic episode, but it was also going to be their biggest headlining show in the USA to date. The powerhouse trance trio has a huge international fanbase, and they chose London’s Alexandra Palace as the venue for their 50th live podcast, so naturally they wanted to up the ante for their 100th. New York was the perfect location, being that the Big Apple represents not only the American Dream, but also symbolizes where you can make it big, and that describes Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, and Paavo Siljamaki to a T. Their career has spanned well over a ten year stretch, and they have risen to the top to be one of the most celebrated artists in electronic music history. In addition to everything else of significance, the three would be the first British DJ’s to ever headline MSG. Considered to be one of the most notable venues , “The Garden” seats over 18,000 and playing there is definitely a high point on any artists resume.
After arriving in New York, it wasn't long before we made our way over to 8th Avenue & 33rd Street, where it was all about to go down. The streets outside were electrified with excitement, as thousands of fans waited in lines which wrapped around the building. No matter anyone's age, race, or gender, one common thread was shared - the innate love and respect for the men waiting to perform inside. Everywhere you looked, you could see Above & Beyond snapbacks, shirts, signs begging the permission to be allowed to “push the button”, ribbons (which are symbolic from the Group therapy album artwork), you name it. Once we entered Madison Square Garden, the hype was huge, and you could just feel that it was a different kind of vibe, with a different kind of expectation. It wasn’t your normal festival or club feeling, it transcended well above that to pure joy and love for what was about to happen. It is worth mentioning [as I am a strong believer in a 21+ policy] that this crowd was one of the best I’ve seen for an 18+ show. These people were there for the music and to witness something special, and it was refreshing to see that that vibe still exists, as rare as it may be nowadays.
When the supporting acts were revealed in September, including ilan Bluestone, Andrew Bayer, and Mat Zo, it was almost too good to be true. We were not disappointed as these guys threw out their best during their opening acts and surprised fans with new remixes and favorites as well. ilan Bluestone's excitement over playing such a massive event was heartfelt, as he gushed about it all over social media for days prior, and took tons of selfies and pictures of the crowd during his set. His family attended, with his mom sporting a shirt proudly proclaiming that she was his mama.
One proud mum
For me, Mat Zo took the trophy for the best set out of the three, hands down. Both Andrew and ilan played their hearts out, and delivered ridiculous beats, but Mat Zo- are you kidding?! His set was insanely diverse and funky as usual, and he was all over the map, playing Cirez D to Deadmau5 to a straight run of trance back into deep and progressive house. He made it all work and left myself and thousands of others speechless. What an amazing warm up for the main event from all three artists.
The anticipation of the headlining set was palpable. Once Mat Zo left the stage, you could literally feel the entire stadium awaiting what was coming next. The second Tony and Paavo walked out on stage holding a huge Above & Beyond banner, every single human being in that crowd went wild. The guys dropped the banner, revealing Jono behind it, and they immediately opened with their new single "We Are All We Need", and swept everyone away. Over the next two hours, all 18,000 of us were treated on an energetic and uplifting musical journey.
For those who couldn’t make the trek to NYC, it was offered via live stream through their website, and that was notable in and of itself. Throughout the entire night, tweets with the #ABGT100 hashtag were shown up on the jumbotron, flashing up every twenty seconds or so. Understanding and seeing how much this event was affecting people all over the world was simply astonishing. Reading tweets that were being posted, such as “I’ve never seen 18,000 people lose their minds all at once”, “Love is radiating around the world, thank you Above & Beyond”, and “Speechless at what I am hearing right now”, and most of them coming from countries worldwide really made me stop and realize how privileged we were to be there, experiencing it live.
Once the familiar lyrics and gentle tune of “Sun & Moon” came from the decks, it was almost impossible not to feel a surge of emotion. Every single person sang those words as loud as they could and felt them from the depths of their souls, and almost twenty thousand music lovers united as one, no matter their background or personal story. For those few minutes we were all joined at the heart and connected in a way that only can be felt through music and true love of it. It was heartfelt, tear-evoking, and an experience that I’m sure no one will ever forget. The trio shared a message to the screen behind them which read, “For years we have dreamed of this moment. You are proof that dreams come true. So let’s do this together.” There wasn’t a single unfelt emotion in that place.
As they played “Blue Sky Action”, two lucky fans in the front were pulled up on stage to “push the button”, a tradition for all A&B livestream sets. Watching the happiness radiate from those two girls was a treat for the audience as well. There were various points during their set where I noticed each one of the guys take a step back, look around the packed, sold-out stadium, shake their heads, and just take the moment in. It was unforgettable and inspiring to watch them experiencing such a huge night, and reaping the rewards of their success. They have such a way of connecting and interacting with their fans and that is what separates them from other artists, the fact that they wear their hearts on their sleeve and allow you to see that all of this fame and glory means more to them than just another paycheck.
Two lucky fans "pushing the button"
They closed with “A Thing Called Love”, and it was almost hard to hear the lyrics over the thousands of people singing them with all their might. Red and white confetti shot out over the whole floor, and after they thanked numerous people, it was over. Two hours flew by as we witnessed a piece of history be written, and I can't say enough good things about it. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to attend many special events, festivals and memorable, groundbreaking performances, but I don't think any of them will hold such a place in my heart the way this did. It's something to treasure for a lifetime. That night was a series of moments, ones that will be remembered forever, and ones that made us feel connected and truly alive. They say that “Life is made up of small moments like these” and that was proven to the fullest extent last Saturday night. Looks like it's true that "We Are All We Need"… well, maybe that and a little Group Therapy, too.
Taking it all in
Relive it here:
Video Credit: Darshan Kapadia