Reviewed: Above & Beyond: Group Therapy Weekender
The Gorge Amphitheatre holds a special place in this writer’s heart. Having made the trek a little under two years ago for the trial run of the Above & Beyond: Group Therapy Weekender, via ABGT250, it seemed appropriate to do a follow up on the one of a kind gathering. With almost 20 years under their belts as a trio and their label Anjunabeats (Anjunadeep was conceived in 2005), they’ve built quite the empire. Spanning across an astounding number of genres between the two labels, Above & Beyond have managed to create a loyal following by maintaining a level of genuity that resonates with their fanbase.
This time around, a few changes were made. The biggest of them being that the second day of the Weekender for the Anjunadeep portion was moved to the main amphitheatre instead of having a completely different stage built in the meadow above. There were also non-music related activities like acro yoga, talks about the state of Anjuna, production lessons with Jason Ross and more.
While I personally wasn’t at the Gorge until around 2a Saturday morning, there were festivities planned for the early arrivals. At 6p, there was a welcome social in the meadow and a silent disco that began at 8p from some very familiar faces: James Grant went b2b with his brother Jono Grant. Plus, James held an extreme ping pong tournament.
Due to high winds, no one was allowed in the lower bowl until around the start of Gabriel & Dresden’s set. With Qrion up to bat first, the fairly new artist to the Anjunafamily showed her chops as she manoeuvred between a few of the genres she’s been working with lately. Check out her discography to dive deeper.
Tinlicker’s progressive tunes helped to stimulate the crowd, as more fans eased into the afternoon. They’ve carved out a nice little niche in the prog market with their signature sound that’s driven them to a favorable position in the dance music industry. Their massive remix ‘Need To Feel Loved’ by Reflekt & Delline Bass on Anjunabeats Vol. 14 among others delicious goodies went down splendidly with the wind and afternoon sun. The Anjuna staple Grum was a nice segway as his genre spanning releases make him a versatile weapon when placed on any line up. One track that stood out was ‘Price Of Love’, which I recall hearing during Above & Beyond’s performance last time here at the Gorge.
I’ve seen the pioneers Gabriel & Dresden spin a few times over the years but this hour slot from 5-6p was a different experience. The entire time, the duo’s expressions were of pure bliss. Sneaking in a few Tinlicker remixes of their tunes (‘Underwater’ and ‘As The Rush Comes’ (Twitter)), Jefferson Airplane’s iconic ‘Somebody To Love’ followed by an update of a classic of theirs ‘Tracking Treasure Down Revisited (Gabriel & Dresden On Mix)’, plus some other gems set the tempo for the rest of the night.
Jason Ross’ return to Gorge sees him djing solo without Seven Lions, but without the lack of influence the two have shared on each others’ sounds over the years. A nice blend of progressive dubstep and psytrance, with a splash of progressive for good measure was selected with the tempo increasing as well. Earlier this year in late April, there was some heated debate on the tune selection Audien had presented for the Denver stop on the Anjunabeats NA Tour. From the general consensus, he redeemed himself. On top of hearing him play his tunes ‘Higher’, ‘Hindsight’, ‘Wayfarer’, ‘Iris’ and his collab with Arty ‘Never Letting Go’, all which are on Anjunabeats, he also spun a few more Anjuna selections mixed into more tasteful mainstream choices.
The right hand man of Above & Beyond, Andrew Bayer brought his ‘In My Last Life’ tour to the Weekender and with that Allison May: one of his collaborators and vocalists, who joined him on stage to sing a few of their pieces. I could go on and on about this set, but beginning with ‘In My Last Life’, sliding into ‘Magitek’ and ‘Superhuman’ into the middle, and ending with ‘End Of All Things’ was quite the journey. His musical credentials and education express themselves vividly in his body of work; his discography speaking for itself as the range of expression is evident in the vast yet oddly joining way his productions come together.
ALPHA 9 and Spencer Brown came out swinging with a new collaborative effort ID followed by ‘Into The Light’. With the sun having set, the real grimy, heaving hitting portion of their catalog emerged. Spencer Brown laid down ‘Windows 95 On Acid’ and his remix of Deadmau5’s ‘Fn Pig’ in sequence and the crowd followed with a flurry of dance moves; their motions becoming more fluid as the set progressed.
The time had finally arrived for the main act. There had been rumors circulating around that Above & Beyond had been straying away from their usual feel good melodies and opting to move towards a harder style of dance music. This was a pretty accurate statement. Included in the first two thirds of the mix were loads of selections from Anjunabeats Vol. 14 like ‘IOU’ by Jason Ross and ‘All In’ by Fatum, Genix, Jaytech, and Judah along with an ID remix of Oceanlab’s ‘Beautiful Together’ and the devastatingly beautiful, aggressive i_o remix of the trio’s ‘Alchemy’. The last third was exclusively Above & Beyond material which near the end saw the chaps from London bring on Seven Lions to play their collaboration ‘See The End’.
At the Tony and Seven Lions talk on Sunday, Tony confirmed the working title of the new weekender instrumental they played later in their set is ‘Another Angel’. The question popped up whether or not all three gentlemen were going to play Saturday night. For most of the night, it was just Jono and Tony going back to back. Near the end, during ‘Northern Soul’, Paavo appeared from the shadows to help close out their time in the spotlight.
Ilan Bluestone was an obvious choice for the Anjuna camp to close out day one. With his two albums on the label, he touched on both with tunes from each, ending with his new remix of Armin van Buuren’s ‘In And Out Of Love’ with Maor Levi. As per last year, the after party at the food truck in GA camping was quite the treat for those not ready to be quiet at their camp sites just yet. Ophelia Records’ had a showcase where Seven Lions, Jason Ross and Dimibo played a few rounds of tunes. Duncan from the Anjuna office and Gabriel & Dresden also joined in on the fun.
There were some initial issues with starting on time Sunday morning but yoga with Paavo from Above & Beyond and Elena Brower was an illuminating and refreshing practice. The background atmosphere was taken from ‘Flow State’: the trio’s new album for yoga and meditation. Sublime in its entirety, the “panoramic journey of ambient compositions and warm, neo-classical soundscapes” provided a few moments of meditative calm and stretching before yet another busy day of dancing.
Due to health issues, Eli & Fur were unable to perform. In their absence, Spencer Brown & Qrion filled in for a deep set. Settling in quite nicely almost immediately after yoga, the two combined to make quite the pairing for the last minute substitution. This is not a coincidence as they’ve produced an EP together as well as a new single on Anjunabeats Vol. 14 titled ‘Foggy August’.
Marsh & Nox Vahn (formerly known as Fairchild) have been making large strides in their notoriety as of late, with their sounds being pushed and promoted by some of the biggest in the industry. The 1.5 hour slot allotted to them was more than adequate to prove why they’ve been selected to represent Anjunadeep that Sunday. 16BL came back this time as well, only he subbed out a DJ set and brought his live Cubicolor act. Toting tunes like ‘Got This Feeling’ and ‘Dead End Thrills’ energized the crowd, allowing them to experiment as almost half of the other tracks were IDs. A hint that there might be a second album coming the year.
After Ben Böhmer had a last minute cancellation due to travel issues for the Lane 8: TNH Summer Gathering in Colorado only a few weekends before, all of those who missed him then and everyone that was present in that moment witnessed a flawless performance. Being a fan for a few years now, he did not disappoint. Only a few days before, his collaboration with Luttrell and Margret titled ‘Gibberish’ was released and was a definite hit along with a couple of singles from his label Ton Töpferei.
Anjunadeep label head James Grant and his counterpart Jody Wisternoff presumably dropped a lot of unreleased material from the Anjunadeep Vol. 11 collection with this post from Instagram a few days after:
Ending with a track that took my breath away during ABGT250, Xinobi’s ‘Far Away Place’, the Jody Wisternoff & James Grant Remix never gets old. Always great to see these two on stage, having the time of their lives. Luttrell, who has had a stellar come up over the last few years, debuted his first solo album earlier this year, and a beanie and glasses combo to boot. Leading the crowd through the last remaining moments of sunlight as he played his remix of ‘Epoch’ by Tycho to full effect was mesmerizing. The album artwork for the remix almost matching the color palette of the sky and mountains.
The week of the Weekender, Yotto announced that he had launched his own record label, Odd One Out and debuted his tune ‘Shifter’ as the first catalog number. He dropped this second in his set. Again, lots of IDs, presumably new music by the Finnish personality, sprinkled in between his Dawn Remix of RÜFÜS DU SOL’s ‘Underwater’, ‘Fire Walk’, ‘I / Y’, Joris Voorn’s remix of ‘Walls’ and his bootleg ‘Rhythm of the Night’ by Corona were among the 20 or so selections he played out for the closing set of the Weekender.
To top the weekend off, before the dust settled and everyone left the venue Sunday night, the gang announced that they would be back in 2021. Of course, the food truck after party was in order to celebrate the good news. Comprised of Duncan and Gareth from the Anjuna office plus Luttrell, Seven Lions, Jody Wisternoff, James Grant, Dave Dresden, and Spencer Brown, they rounded out the weekend into the wee hours of Monday morning.
There is rumor that the Gorge sets have been recorded and will be shared in the coming weeks, so until then, there are freshly recorded videos from the Anjunadeep: Open Air London to tide you over.