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Arts in Review

Above and Beyond — Group Therapy 250



EDM belongs in an amphitheater. If I get to be picky about it, it belongs in an open-air amphitheater, under the stars, at the top of a cliff overlooking a rocky canyon.

When I heard English trance trio Above and Beyond would be celebrating the 250th episode of their podcast Group Therapy Radio at the Gorge Amphitheatre just outside of Seattle, I bought tickets the second they became available.

As my first EDM show ever, Above and Beyond had always held a special place in my heart, and in my study playlist.

It’s hard to be into electronic music and to not have heard of Above and Beyond. DJs Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, and Paavo Siljamäki have won numerous awards for their brand of progressive trance, and a spot in DJ magazine’s top artists list since their debut 13 years ago.

In addition to being good at everything trance, the Above and Beyond members also host their own weekly podcast, Group Therapy Radio, which is a two-hour-long music collection of the trio’s recent top track picks, along with a little of their own newest works. The show features a guest artist, usually following in the trend of trance and deep house, with the occasional EDM artist thrown in.

Every 50th episode, the podcast is replaced with a live show at an international venue. The guest DJ mix is subbed out for two days of top artists from around the world.

The show has previously been housed in some absolutely stunning locations, such as Madison Square Garden in New York City, and the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam. But nature can often do it better, as is the case for the Gorge. The pristine view of the Columbia River Valley and world-renowned natural acoustics were a perfect pair for the melodic and, at the risk of sounding cliché, euphoric sound that Above and Beyond brought to the stage.

There is a palpable sense of calm and wonder at the Gorge. Surrounded by miles of desolate, empty farms, you really feel as though it’s just you, your friends, and the music.

Above and Beyond’s show featured some of their old classics, including “We’re All We Need” and Grum’s “Price of Love,” and kept the crowd singing with Marty Longstaff’s “Tightrope.” But, sticking with the spirit of the podcast, the trio worked in some more recent hits from around the world. The show saw the return of Richard Bedford with an energetic new track “Northern Soul,” as well as “Signs of the Fall” by Spencer Brown.  

And, of course, an audience member was chosen to come on stage and given control over when the drop would happen in “Blue Sky Action,” becoming a king for a day before 20,000 fans screaming “Push the button!”

The Group Therapy Radio podcast is amazing. It’s worth a listen; the group is uncanny at picking out the next biggest trance hits. But when you’re there, standing before a natural wonder of the world, it’s obvious that trance is meant to be listened to in the open air, surrounded by friends.

In the eternal words of Above and Beyond artist Paavo Siljamäki: “Let music unite us all. That’s what it’s all about.”

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