#tatw400 with Above & Beyond: Review + Pictures

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So, the mayhem is over, the 8-hour ‘trancerathon’ is over, I’m back in my apartment in Dubai after a great few days spent in the Lebanese capital Beirut. Time went by really quickly as I was rushing from one place to another, but it was still a fantastic experience, although I did not get to listen to all the tracks (Sound distortion in the backstage areas). Thankfully Above & Beyond have provided the sets to be downloaded for free, check out iTunes for the podcast of TATW400!

Having hung out briefly with the ‘Anjunaboys’ and their entourage prior to and after the event, it was rather visible and understandable that they were a bit tense and stressed out, after all, this was one of these career defining moments. TATW 400 was a massive milestone in its own right. After all, after almost 8 years of broadcasting one of the most popular trance radio shows on the planet, the ‘world’ was predictably expectant.

TATW 350, the previous milestone for the Anjunaboys was held in Los Angeles just under a year ago, had millions of listeners that tuned in live and the event’s official hashtag twitter (#tatw350) was the top trending topic on that eventful evening. TATW 400 had a lot to live up to and it certainly did. Now it is true that the turn out at the legendary Forum De Beirut (Or is it Beyrouth? Whatever floats your boat) wasn’t up to the organizers expectations (Expected more than 8 thousand ravers, my guess is that the actual number of people in there was around the 6 thousand mark) but heck, who cares? Quality before quantity! Now I’m not saying the crowd was perfect, but it was better than previous events I’ve been to in the Lebanese capital. The nature of the producers and DJs here at this particular event meant that the crowd was a bit more on the mature side.

Since I could not listen to the whole sets properly (Rememeber the sound distortion and the slight issue of being one of the photographers on the night), I will sum up the sets in a rather brief fashion. Jaytech’s set started at 10pm Beirut time sharp in front of a slowly growing crowd. Usually events tend to get going behind schedule, but this wasn’t your run of the mill event, this is a spectacle (albeit audio one, mainly) which had pre-set and pre-announced and confirmed set timings. It HAD to go on time. The set (By Jaytech) was on the techy side, no surprises there. During the set I had the opportunity to finally meet the founders of German record label Euphonic who go by the name Kyau & Albert. It was the first time I see them live, although they have been amongst the first trance producers I fell in love with. It was hard not to with their distinctive sound and combinations of vocals and melodic tracks. They (Kyau & Albert) played a set of old stuff that was remixed and newer tracks and remixes for 90 minutes of beautiful trance. They were also the nicest DJs amongst the bunch, very laid back and very talkative. I hope I will get to see them again, I had a chat with Steven and requested a couple of tracks (One was an old one which is unfortunately forgotten by now and the other is a Rafael Frost remix of an old collab). He responded to the latter request saying that it was a bit too uplifting for their set, they were playing right before Above & Beyond and they just couldn’t take the tempo (bpm) too high. I am sure they’d blow the roof off if they were headlining any event with utter ease.

Moving on to the main act, the headlining artists and the legendary producers: Tony, Jono & Paavo aka. Above & Beyond. Despite their abovementioned jitters before the event, they were cool and took to the stage at 1am sharp with aplomb. Their set combined everything, the uplifting trance stuff, the world exclusive productions, a few classics here and there and the interactive work on the big screen behind them to work up the crowd (Which worked to quite a good effect to be honest). They made the lives of fans much easier by updating their twitter feed with the track IDs as they were being played, pity I couldn’t check that on the spot as my phone’s battery characteristically died, but the tracklists of the sets are out anyway for me and other fellow track ID-ing freaks :). It was a great 2-hour set, wish it could have been longer but alas.

Gareth Emery came up next, by the time he went on the nerves were calmed as the main act (Anjunaboys) were done. Gareth recognized me I think in the backstage area, this was the fourth time I see him in the space of 14 months! Good set, very predictable of him as he tends to stick with the tried and trusted. I am not a big fan of the fact that he insists on playing his mashup of Tiesto’s overplayed, over abused and overrated Lethal Industry, but hey, to his credit it (sadly) always get people going on the dancefloor. The crowd was thinning out into his set as it was edging towards 4am. There were a couple of unfortunate power cuts during his sets, but also to his credit he managed to get things back on track after the issues were sorted. It obviously disrupted the flow of the set, but hey, these things are bound to happen anywhere around the world. He wrapped up his set at 4:30am.

And finally on to Mat Zo, Mat is a young British DJ & producer whose name is very, very familiar to all Anjunbeats fans due to his productions which caught the eyes of Andy Moor, Markus Schulz and of course, Above & Beyond. I think that his productions are featured at least every other week on TATW (If not every week). The guy looks very Lebanese (Could be due to the fact that he is Jewish? He has a typical Jewish last name after all, which is Zohar if you are wondering). When I saw him in the backstage area he was simply minding his own business and actually even looked and dressed like a couple of people in the organizing crew. I admit that I never even checked out his pictures before, so that did not help, but anyhow, Mat took on the decks after Gareth at 4:30 and played a very, very lively and energetic set for an hour and a half. Comically though the last 30 minutes of the set was played before an empty venue. The police forces forced almost everyone at the Forum to leave as the roads were set to be closed in the wee hours of the morning for Beirut’s annul marathon, and thus, they wanted to make sure that everyone got home on time. Police tried to make Mat Zo finish his set earlier, but that was rightfully rejected as the broadcast was still going strong with several million people still tuned in. He wrapped things up at 6 sharp. I stank of the smell of cigarettes by that time and was very, very exhausted and hungry but I had to stick around for a bit to find something (More on that below).

Music and event aside, the photography bit was fun. Being able to get very close to the DJs behind the booth was very exciting. It was a pity though that none of my shots were put up on Above & Beyond’s facebook page (The other 2 photographers had shots put up, albeit the main photographer had 98% of them, but still). Was my work crap? Not necessarily. There was a miscommunication issue regarding how the shots of ravers should be taken (With a TATW 400 sticker). Sadly I was never given any of these stickers and only found out after Jaytech’s set was over. My attempts at redeeming myself (once I found the lovely stickers) led to nothing, heck, the SD card of my ‘smaller’ dslr camera was ‘lost’ for a good 3-4 hour period and was only miraculously found by Above & Beyond’s tour manager AFTER everything ended. It was a bit annoying as I could not take as many fish-eye shots as I’d have liked to (Especially behind the djs in the booth), but at the end it mattered little as over 1,000 shots were taken on both cameras.

It was great meeting new people who basically were the men (and women) behind the scenes of TATW 400 making sure that everything is going according to plan. It was nice chilling with Jono, Tony and Paavo shortly after their set finished and even sharing some banter with Tony (I love his sarcasm and his occasional mutterings).

To sum things up, photography glitches aside, it was an unforgettable experience with great music and great new and old friends. Thank you Beirut and a big thank you to Johnny Rizk as well since he made this photoshooting opportunity possible :). I heard rumors of another event in February, but nothing is confirmed yet regarding the specific dates and the DJ(s) and artists.

On this note, I’ll leave you with these lyrics from one of Above & Beyond’s biggest tracks from their Group Therapy album. It’s called “You got to go”. Enjoy!

“You got to gather up what you need,

You got to choose a direction,

And when the moment is right for you…

You got to go.

You gotta keep your ideals high,

You got to know that the sky belongs to no one,

and you know you got to go