I can’t remember the moment when I discovered Above & Beyond’s music - but what I do know, is how thrilled I was when I found out they would be stopping in Newcastle for their Common Ground tour. The trio (composed of Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, and Paavo Siljamäki) has been a cornerstone of the trance scene since 2000 - years before I’d come to realise I’m one of those people willing to listen to this sort of music turned up high at any time of day (much to the annoyance of my flatmates).
But I digress - the evening of Saturday, November 17th was upon me. Before making my way down to Digital, I thought I’d check the event page on Facebook. There was some confusion over whether last entry was at 11 pm - and it seems even the organiser, Rong Events, couldn’t give me a definitive answer - not the best way to start the night.
My friend and I made it with a few minutes to spare, and as soon as we walked in, we were surrounded by pulsing electronic beats in Digital’s main room. Spencer Brown, signed onto A&B’s label Anjunabeats, was on the decks and opening for A&B. Besides the music blasting throughout the room, what also hit us was the overwhelming amount of testosterone in the room - and the revellers aged 40 and above. I don’t know what it is about A&B, or maybe trance in general, but it seems that, for the most part, it definitely appeals to a demographic very different from mine. It could just be because the trio themselves are in their late 30s/40s.
Spencer Brown’s set was enjoyable enough, but I was not there to see him. At a few minutes past 12, the main act that I’d been waiting for finally took over the decks and the crowd, unsurprisingly, went wild. The guy who’d been carrying his 'Push the Button' sign unenthusiastically before was now frantically waving it around it front of the stage - hoping he would get called up to do the very thing that his homemade sign was asking for. For those who don’t know, pushing the button is a tradition of sorts in the A&B fan community, where die-hard fans practically fight over who gets to come on stage and drop the beat in front of their fellow fans. This time around, potentially due to time constraints, no one from the crowd got to push the button - not even the one guy who actually went to the effort of making a sign.
Funnily enough, my favourite bit of their entire set was when a non-A&B tune was played: 'Ghost Voices' by Virtual Self. Virtual Self is Porter Robinson’s alias, and his debut EP of the same name is one of my all-time favourites.
“Open End Resource” by Andrew Bayer, another Anjunabeats favourite, was another highlight of the set - I’ve been listening to it on repeat since the album In My Last Life landed on Spotify two weeks ago.
A&B’s own tracks didn’t disappoint either, with 'Northern Soul' and 'Happiness Amplified' off their most recent album ending their set with a bang.
Although I found the choice of venue quite odd considering how cramped Digital’s main room got, I still enjoyed myself for the two hours that A&B performed, and I’m pleased I got the chance to see them live. Next time, hopefully, it will be in a bigger and better setting - Tomorrowland, perhaps?