Above & Beyond visited the Warfield in San Francisco last Friday night on their Group Therapy tour and it was an emotional and physical experience that left me short of words but full of happiness. It is not often you get to connect with those around you on such a level, where you are all lost in the music and part of one larger moment. This was no concert or dj set, but something bigger, an experience. ‘Life is made of small moments like this’ is an Above & Beyond catchphrase if you will, and Friday was a perfect depiction of that, everyone lost in the moment together.
The San Francisco stop on the Group Therapy tour was announced in phase two of their tour, and when tickets went on sale, they sold out in 12 minutes. 12. MINUTES. They sold nearly 200 tickets a minute as the Warfield has a capacity of 2,000+ and demand was so high that a Thursday date was added as well. Fortunately, nearly 25 of my friends were able to get tickets so it was truly Group Therapy for us. With such high demand, you knew this was going to be a special night.
Andrew Bayer opened for A&B, riding on the success of his recent ‘It’s Artificial’ album. After missing him due to time conflicts at EDC, I was rather excited to see him. His eccentric, melodic electronica/techno/progressive house was the perfect way to set the mood and build the tension for Above & Beyond without stealing the spotlight from them. Tracks like Keep Your Secrets, Nexus 6, Counting The Points and From The Earth were standouts in a set that was funky and progressive. I would recommend seeing Mr. Bayer as his style is not something you hear often but is still very enjoyable. You can preview his album here.
As Bayer ended, the lights suddenly dropped to complete darkness and everyone in the building knew that it was time. You could feel the electricity and the excitement. Suddenly, this video (with a couple tweaks) appeared on the screen:
This of course, just happens to be Above & Beyond’s new track, Small Moments Like These, which they are now giving away for free on facebook. It was an incredibly powerful opening and everyone was rather excited. From there it was off to the races with Stealing Time (Duderstadt Remix) followed by Mozart, which really got the crowd going. We attempted to sing along to Mozart (if you can consider yelling doooo do doooo dooooo dooooooooooooooo do do do dooooo rather loudly singing) and the dance floor was just going off. The main front dance floor has never been that crowded in all the times I have been to the Warfield and it had to be nearly 100 degrees down there. Sweaty and grimy, absolutely perfect for some uplifting trance.
Everyone was feeling it, and Paavo and Jono were on fire. They dropped bombs like The Sky, Miracle, On My Way to Heaven and Language, along with some tracks I did not recognize. One of the highlights of the evening was seeing Paavo on stage. I have seen A&B three times previously and every time it has been Tony and Jono, who are great. Paavo brought a different level of energy to the stage though. He was jumping around, dancing, and looked to be more excited about the music then we were! You could just feel his passion for what he does and it took the crowd energy to another level. He and Jono were feeding off of our energy, and we were feeding off theirs in return. It elevated everyone’s game.
When they played Alchemy, it really stood out to me. It was beautiful.
I feel like this is a track that I overlooked on the album and it took me experiencing it live to really appreciate how good it is. Not that any tracks that Above & Beyond make aren’t good, but I had a whole new level of appreciation for this track after Friday night. Also, I think I am falling in love with Zoë Johnston’s voice. Just incredible how pretty it is, and how well it fits A&B’s music. Soon after, they played Thing Called Love (Club Mix), which is my favorite track A&B has ever produced. The vocals and melodies just are stunning and convey such an amazing message. During this point my brother put me up on his shoulders, which as a dude is always fun since generally I am the one putting people up on mine (thanks Clay!) Looking around you could see that every person in the building was just captivated by A&B. Everyone was dancing, enjoying the music and caught up in the moment. So many people had made banners and signs, it was awesome to see.
At this point Above & Beyond threw us a curveball. It was absolutely the best curveball ever as they unleashed Eric Prydz remix of Personal Jesus on us. Totally a different direction then their tracks up to that point. The bass and the lights were just absurd, it felt like we were on another planet.
The crowd at this point was all reaching out and getting weird when that monster of a track dropped. They followed it with a rework of the classic Air For Life, and it was back to beautiful trance.
For you to get an appreciate of how good this crowd was, I present to you one of the highlights of the evening, Rebound into the incredible singalong better known as Sun & Moon. If you do anything in this entire post, please watch this video, it will make you understand the magic that was Group Therapy 6/22.
There really aren’t words to describe it. Two thousand people singing the same song louder then the sound system could have even played it. It is moments like this where I remember that music connects people in such a magnificent way. I have chills just writing about it now. Paavo said it best as he typed on the screen ‘Wow. Fucking Unreal.’ One of the coolest things I have ever seen any DJ/performer do is when Above & Beyond pulls someone up from the crowd and lets them drop Sun & Moon. It is such an experience for that person, and the buildup while they select someone from the crowd always is incredibly loud and full of energy. What a moment for the lucky person who gets to drop it.
Another thing Above & Beyond does so well is connect with the crowd without disturbing the music. Instead of getting on the microphone constantly and messing with the tracks themselves by speaking over them, they type up on the screen where everyone can see exactly what they are saying. It preserves the flow of the set they are playing and allows them to communicate with the crowd, either about new tracks, thoughts on the crowd/city or inspirational messages like the one above. It really brings the crowd closer to them, as you know what is going through their mind at any given moment.
As we headed toward the end of their set, you could just tell how much they were enjoying this, and how much the crowd was as well. Truly beautiful. They played Prelude, which in my opinion is their most beautiful track, and as confetti rained from the sky and fell upon the crowd through the yellow lights that were shining out, it was as if time was standing still. This was followed by Love is Not Enough. Up on the screen Paavo relayed that it was a tough time emotionally for everyone involved when they wrote this track, and that Zoe was in tears as she sang it in the studio. Paavo was as well. It was a touching moment and one of the more raw emotional instances I have experienced at a live event. They closed with On A Good Day (Acoustic Mix) followed by Sirens of the Sea which were both amazing. During this, Paavo came and sat down at the front of the stage and just soaked it all in. I do believe that he and Jono got as much from it as we did. The moment we were all dreading came, as they stepped offstage and a beautiful evening of Group Therapy drew to a close. Dreams DID come true in San Francisco.
As my friend Jamie said best ‘After the first hour, Above and Beyond turns into a beautiful inspirational workout.’ This was so true. Group Therapy truly is therapy, as A&B’s music allows you to deal with love, pain, and your emotions in general through dance and unity with the strangers that surround you. Their visuals, tracks and the entire experience is all about coming together, sharing these precious moments and living life to the fullest. It was a magic night in San Francisco, one I will not forget any time soon. Above & Beyond truly elevated this evening from a performance to an experience. Hats off to you Above & Beyond, I would do that every night of my life if I could. If Group Therapy is coming somewhere near you, I urge you to go be a part of it. I promise it will be worth your time.
Thanks to Jackie, Josh, Daniel and any others who helped capture some of the magic that made up this night. Thanks to Daniel you can hear the full set here.