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An Emotion Called Group Therapy – Part 1

Rohan Das & I had been waiting for November 2013 eagerly, ever since the British EDM giants Above & Beyond announced their Group Therapy India Tour earlier this year. Above & Beyond’s love affair with India goes back a long long way in time. That the trio love our country and it’s bizarre electronic scene, is significantly emphasized by their remarkable record labels – Anjunabeats & Anjunadeep – named after Anjuna Beach in Goa, India.

I’ve been a massive Above & Beyond fan for a couple of years now. It was heartbreak when they decided to choose Bangalore over Mumbai last year, for THAT monumental 450th edition of their brilliantly produced radio show – Trance Around The World, which was also re-christened as Group Therapy on the same night. In all essence, Bangalore gave the world ABGT on 10th November 2012, just as much as Anjuna gave the world Anjunabeats in 2000. A few months later, I read Tony Mcguinness’ tweet announcing Group Therapy India Tour for November 2013 – a three city tour climaxing in Mumbai (which was later extended to a 4-city tour to include the neighboring city of Pune). @das_babu was fortunate enough to attend the gig in Bangalore last year, and he’s written a crazy-ass emotin packed piece on it, which you MUST read at Some Much Needed Group Therapy. Some of the less fortunate ones like me, tuned in to their live broadcast and had our minds, hearts and souls molten and fused back together into what I now call ABGT.

I must confess my initiation to dance music was slow. For someone with deep roots in acoustic & rock music, the concept of producing music on a console sounded outrageous to me. It’s only recently, that I have understood what producing electronic music truly consists of, and have begun to appreciate and love the sound in its true sense. Above & Beyond and their nerve shattering radio-shows have come a long way in helping me fall hopelessly in love with electronic dance music. My obsession with Above & Beyond grew tenfold since the inception of Group Therapy.

The newly re-branded radio-show celebrated it’s 50th edition on 26th October with a massive 6 hour long broadcast which also included sets from GuyJ, Boom Jinx, Andrew Bayer and an absolutely orgasmic one from their in-house Russian, Arty. The fact that the broadcast began in the middle of the night for me, meant I was practically up for the entire night jumping and dancing in my bed, celebrating 100+ hours of Group Therapy.

Just a couple of weeks before the ABGT50 celebrations, Above & Beyond produced a couple of shows, which, for me, were easily the summit of their musical genius – I speak of the 2 ABAcoustic shows produced by Above & Beyond at the Greek Theatre in LA. On stage in the company of a supremely talented 13-piece band, led by arranger Bob Bradley, the trio engineered an amazing transformation of the British trio’s renowned EDM tracks into a soul-wrenching symphony of strings, piano and vocal euphoria. These intimate shows, by far are a massive innovation in the electronic scene and A&B easily come out winners in spite of a somehow awkward and confusing presence on stage, which was severely compensated by sheer genius of their compositions, enriched by Bradley’s brilliant direction. I’m not the only Anjuna faithful who cannot wait for the acoustic albums to hit the stores in January – I promise this will be my first expense on music next year – the snippets I’ve been able to catch off Youtube & Soundcloud links has already frozen my brain into a new degree of dementia.

Coming back to the India tour. We couldn’t do anything right for a few days before Tony & Paavo were scheduled to fly into India. @das_babu once again, was fortunate enough to fly out for the Bangalore gig and then back to Mumbai to have a double dose of Group Therapy. In between the two gigs, the lucky boy was also fortunate enough to catch up with Tony at a meet & greet event, courtesy of sponsors Jack & Jones. I, on the other hand, was furiously building myself up to my first Group Therapy experience by digging up forgotten tracks & mixes of the trio.

Finally when the BIG day dawned, we made our way to the venue Kamalistan, a little apprehensively. The venue was new to most of us Anjuna faithfuls and we weren’t sure what to expect. A shoutout is due to Submerge India at this point, because the venue as well as the production was absolutely beautiful (barring the alcohol, which frankly is always piss poor at these gigs). Lush green grass and surprisingly well-organized pass counters awaited us. The queues weren’t long and the walk to the main stage was even shorter (and all covered in grass). Thumbs up to the organizers who seem to have learned so quickly, that audience convenience is paramount for such events.

As we walked in, Pearl was working her magic on stage. It was a good set with loads of fresh stuff, though unfortunately by the time we got in she was nearing the end of her set. But then, as the sun began to go down on us (yes, pun intended), the biggest surprise of the night was due. Opening act duties for the entire tour were shouldered by the effervescent Jeff Montalvo – much MUCH more popularly known as Seven Lions . Till this point, my only exposure to Seven Lions was his mad-ass dub-mix of Above & Beyond’s You Got to Go and this orgasmic mix I heard just a few days before the gig, when I learned Seven Lions was to feature for the show. The sixty minutes of his set was an absolute brute. Melodic dubstep never sounded so good in my life before. Coupled with intriguing visuals and a stage presence reminiscent of his erstwhile metalhead days, Seven Lions set the perfect precedent for the highlight set from Tony & Paavo.

Seven Lions

Seven Lions Killing It

At exactly 8pm, the screen flashed to announce the arrival of 2 of the most beloved names in the electronic scene. When they opened with Mat Zo ‘s Sky, we were right at the back of a packed, euphoric crowd. Pushing and shoving our way to the front, we managed to get as far ahead as the 2nd row, and from there on, things simply went berserk. Members of the Anjuna Family were celebrating the moment, as usual, with beautifully crafted messages, begging for a chance to Push The Button and screaming their hearts out for a special touch. Very little needs to be said about the set, except that it consisted of a lot of new stuff, including Mariana Trench, which has been a firm favorite on my playlists for a while now. All hell broke loose when Paavo asked who ‘W.W.’ was on his ever-present laptop. You know you’re witnessing something special when a crowd of 6000 semi-drunk adults can out-sing a PA setup meant for a stadium as they sang “I’m sorry baby, you’re the Sun & Moon to me…”

I’ve attended several gigs across different genres, but none comes close to leaving behind a legacy the way this one did. I’ve never been enthusiastic enough to push myself to the front, subjecting myself to endless physical molestation & foot stomping; but if ever a show deserved it, this was it. The set ended, just like last year, with an acoustic version of ‘On a Good Day’, and I wasn’t surprised to feel goosebumps on my skin, and moisture in my eyes.

If ever there was one disappointment in the entire affair, it was the fact that we couldn’t have the privilege to watch Andrew Bayer, Arty or Mat Zo, two of whom were massive revolutions at ABGT01 last year. In fact, Andrew Bayer’s set that night remains one of my favorite sets on Group Therapy shows, and I was really hoping to see him spinning track after track of exquisite, Bayergasm for this show, but Seven Lions clearly compensated in plenty for the lack of these three stalwarts from the ABGT family.

It isn’t difficult to imagine why Above & Beyond and their music connects with you in the way it does. Simply put, it’s a celebration of the entire spectrum of human emotions. Never perfect, nor can be; because it isn’t a destination. It’s a journey – a constant evolution from anguish to elation, from pain to celebration. Much of everything Above & Beyond have achieved is down to the fact that music is much more than just music for them & their fans. Much of the fact that they have created such a massive brand out of ABGT is down to their ability to create an experience for every single loyal follower. That they are amazing marketers, is a separate story worthy of being used as a case study in a top business school.

@das_babu , who was fortunate enough to witness the enigmatic transition of Group Therapy from the very first episode, has written a separate piece on his love affair with the Group Therapy Experience over the course of the last one year, and you must, MUST read it at An Emotion Called Group Therapy – The Sequel. I know that’s one post too many, but well, we Anjuna faithfuls can be obsessive sometimes, and the experiences both of us had over these gigs were so unique and distinct, that two is the minimum we could do!

If You Missed this, you’re probably still incomplete…

Rohan Das & I had been waiting for November 2013 eagerly, ever since the British EDM giants Above & Beyond announced their Group Therapy India Tour earlier this year. Above & Beyond’s love affair with India goes back a long long way in time. That the trio love our country and it’s bizarre electronic scene, …

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