It’s been a little over a year since the last time Above & Beyond came to Minneapolis. They rang in 2018 with a spectacular New Year’s Eve set at the Armory, which brought in Above & Beyond as just their second show since reopening.
The show was an incredibly positive experience, with words of affirmation directed to the crowd constantly, typed live through the video board for all to see. And, in a special “Push The Button” segment that occurred right before midnight, a the lucky few that were picked from the crowd got to ring in the new year by pushing the button to usher in 2018 as the clock struck midnight.
How’s the sequel going to be?
The New Year’s show was a night to remember, so I found myself wondering, how would a usual tour show for Above & Beyond turn out? It turns out it was just as good, if not better than what I had experienced before. I think part of that is having experienced a much larger portion of EDM culture since then. It’s given me an appreciation for groups like Above & Beyond that are so unapologetically themselves. They generate a brand of positivity that is uniquely theirs inside the electronic music scene.
What do I mean by this? In a world where EDM has become more corporatized and leveraged as another way to make money, where KFC can pay for 5 minutes on the mainstage of Ultra to use the EDM community as another vector for their advertising, there remain few DJs/groups that can reach a sustained amount of success in the industry without comprising themselves in search of more fame or money. You can look at many of the big names and see instances of meteoric rises and falls all within a couple of years.
A Different Generation of Music
What Above & Beyond brings to the table is strikingly different than a lot of the huge acts in the EDM scenes. They’re unique in their positivity and the way they present it. Sure, you can say “you are looking so beautiful today” or “this is the best crowd I’ve ever had,” but a lot of that will come off as meaningless platitudes more than anything.
Above & Beyond let their words do the talking through their video board, and they’re overwhelmingly positive and unique. All their music doesn’t sound like the hard headbanging music I’ve heard time and time again at festivals, but instead sticks to the trance formula. You’re not going to be screamed at to “bang your fuckin head when the beat drops” at one of their shows.
Positivity Is Timeless
This formula makes the group standout among the many, many acts of EDM today and gives them a decidedly old-school feel. The visuals were simple in comparison to the more elaborate works of artists I’ve seen like Excision and Rezz. And, the trance music itself gives the vibe of music that built the base for the music that came after it. From my general perception of things, trance has taken a back seat to other genres of EDM that have risen and fallen in recent history. Trace gave way to dubstep in the early 2010s and then led to a multitude of different subgenres to emerge in the late 2010s.
However, the fans that stuck with trance, and the new initiates alike, are very into the genre. You could see it in the crowd at this show especially. It wasn’t a New Years Eve show this time, so the people here were definitively here for Above & Beyond. There was a multitude of signs asking Tony and Paavo to let them push the button. And when that time came, a few lucky fans were whisked up onto the stage to usher in the final part of the set.
You could see the pure joy on their faces before, during, and after being up on stage. The Above & Beyond’s set was closed out with a shower of confetti that drove home the last few moments. Some fans were even brought to tears.
The Best Parts of the Culture
In an era of uncertainty for many of us, performances like these are the moments that make all of the trials of life worth it. It was 2 hours of pure, unadulterated positivity and great music to accompany it. There was no mention of the outside world, no music that encouraged aggressive behavior. It was merely a time to be happy, enjoy each other’s company and take in the lights and people around you.
I couldn’t stop smiling at the end of the set. The energy was contagious, and the emotions that came with it were fantastic. Watching all these incredibly happy fans that were young, old and diverse is one of the main reasons why I cover shows. This show was a demonstration of the culture of electronic music at its finest and it showed why Above & Beyond continues to be purveyors of some of the most positive aspects of the electronic music culture. They brought together thousands of fans who have nothing in common other than the music and put them all on the same, euphoric, level together.