Show Review: Delta Heavy at Kingdom February 2, 2017

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of catching one of my favorite acts play at Kingdom in Austin. Delta Heavy is a UK based duo who trade in drum and bass and dubstep. After years of touring, they put out their debut LP, Paradise Lost, on RAM Records last year.

I had high expectations for this show based on my previous experiences with these guys. I first caught them at Electric Zoo festival in New York in 2012, where despite combatting technical difficulties, they threw down a wicked set in one of the riverside stages. When I saw them the second time, in 2014, they opened for Sub Focus at the Regency Ballroom – and blew his set out of the water. That was one of the best shows I have ever been to: they kept me thrashing to the music for the entire set, barely letting up for a minute to let me catch my breath.

Kingdom turned out to be a great venue for Delta Heavy. The Thursday night show drew about 100 people, all of whom were psyched and ready to get down to some filthy bass music. I prefer smaller shows like this at Kingdom because it gives you room to rage with your friends without having to worry about getting in other people’s personal space. The crowd who showed up was exactly what you could hope for – diverse, excited, and ready to work that dance floor. As the opener DJ laid out a high-energy drum and bass set sprinkled with throwback favorites like “Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against the Machine and Madeon‘s remix of Martin Solveig’s “The Night Out”, the crowd kept the energy up and the good vibes flowing, setting the mood for a fantastic night.

When Ben Hall from Delta Heavy took the stage around 12:30, you could feel the energy in the room amp up another notch. He kicked things off with a strong serving of drum and bass, and quickly dispatched with their classic remix of Nero’s “Must Be the Feeling” – possibly their best known song, even five years after its release. Keeping it in drum and bass territory for a while, Ben rolled out songs from The Prototypes (“Pop it Off”), Metrik (“Worldwide”), Zomboy (“Like a Bitch”), and of course, Skrillex (“Ragga Bomb”). From their own catalog, Ben played “Bar Fight”, “Kill Room”, and a bootleg of Zhu’s “Faded”, among other tunes.

About an hour into the set, he brought the tempo way down, making space for Flume’s “Say It” as well as DJ Snake’s “Propaganda.” At this point, I felt that the set started to lose focus. Between the shifting tempos and beat, some of the energy in the room seemed to burn off, and thanks to a few too many breaks, my thoughts started to drift away from the dance floor.

Nevertheless, I  came home glowing from the set (and, no doubt, the endorphins from a hard workout on the dance floor). Delta Heavy remains high on my list of favorite DJs, and I’ll definitely be catching them again as soon as I get the chance.

Hear the 5 Most Unforgettable Sets from Ultra 2016

Pendulum on the Main Stage at Ultra 2016. Photo © Drew Ressler/

Pendulum closing out the Main Stage at Ultra 2016. Photo © Drew Ressler/

The 2016 festival season kicked off last weekend with Ultra Music Festival in Miami, one of the biggest EDM events of the year. Ultra, rivaled only by EDC in scale and production among American music festivals, boasted a typically stacked lineup of headliners including Avicii, Deadmau5, Knife Party (and Pendulum), Armin van Buuren, Martin Garrix, The Chainsmokers, and many more.

With so many incredible artists playing simultaneously across seven stages, one person couldn’t possibly cover them all. What I can share with you is the experiences from last weekend that I will never forget. This is a list of the five most incredible sets I had the privilege to witness at Ultra 2016. I hope they hit you just as hard.

#1. Eric Prydz

Eric Prydz at the ASOT Stage on Sunday. ©️ J.T. Fales

Eric Prydz at the ASOT Stage on Sunday. ©️ J.T. Fales

Eric Prydz‘s hypnotic, thrumming techno set at the A State of Trance stage on Sunday night was augmented by a typically exceptional light show that gave the music shape and color. It was an hour of pure energy and excitement, propelled by the beats of Eric and his alter egos, Pryda and Cirez D. The set consisted mostly of newer material, such as “Rebel XX,” and, of course, included a few IDs. It was such an absorbing performance that I couldn’t peel myself away from the experience even as friends texted me warning that I was going be late to Knife Party’s mainstage closing show. I just couldn’t imagine being any happier than I was basking in the repetitive beats and dazzling lights of Mr. Prydz as a cold, light rain fell on my skin. By the time “Opus” started nudging its way into the set toward the very end, I knew I had just witnessed the best set of Ultra 2016.

#2. Deadmau5, ASOT Stage

Deadmau5 at the ASOT Stage Sunday. ©️ J.T. Fales

Deadmau5 at the ASOT Stage Sunday. ©️ J.T. Fales

You can always count on a last minute twist or two at Ultra – and odds are that Deadmau5 will have something to do with it. This year, it took the form of an unexpected hat trick by Mr. Joel Zimmerman himself. Already scheduled to perform on Sunday at the A State of Trance stage (a shock in itself, as host Armin van Buuren alludes to in the recording of his set), Deadmau5 was called in to replace the Prodigy on Saturday at the last minute. Then on Sunday, the the Mau5 was briefly trotted out onto the mainstage by Pendulum when they played “Ghosts n Stuff.

While I felt that his Live Stage set on Saturday night was disjointed (the highlight being when he dropped NOISIA‘s searing remix of the Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up”), Deadmau5 rose to the challenge of Sunday’s performance in the ASOT megastructure. Like Eric Prdyz, Deadmau5 went deep for this set, crafting a delicious techno treat that shied away from his own extensive oeuvre in favor of a consistent, subterranean sound featuring artists like Maceo Plex and Jooris Voorn. (Of course, it wouldn’t be a Deadmau5 set without some conspicuous trolling. He kicked off his otherwise coherent set with a furious metal track, apparently a reference to a joke he’d made on Twitter. Feel free to skip the first two minutes of the recording. Beware also a NSFW rant about 40% through his set when his DJ equipment briefly gave out.)

#3. NERO

Nero at the Live Stage on Saturday. ©️ J.T. Fales

Nero at the Live Stage on Saturday. ©️ J.T. Fales

On Sunday, dubstep titans NERO rocked the Live stage with an electrifying live set, amplified by drum pads, synths, and of course, the live vocals of singer Alana Watson. Despite the relatively simple stage setup (when juxtaposed with the overproduction of the Main Stage, Resistance Stage, and Megastructure), NERO managed to absolutely slay the audience with their signature bassy riffs. This was the rare live set that may even sound better recorded than it was live, as it is easier to tell where the songs were augmented from their studio counterparts.


Botnek at Stage 7. Photo © J.T. Fales

Squirreled away on Stage 7 was one of the most potent weapons on Friday’s lineup: bass music duo Botnek. Their high-energy, vomitstep set was far the highlight of my Friday at Ultra. Filled with remixes of 90’s throwbacks and dirty, dirty drops, Botnek got the crowd thrashing around and dancing with a visceral fervor. It was one of those special sets where the music wordlessly brought me together with other dancers to rock out to one special song or another, whether it was Botnek’s definitive remix of The Chainsmokers‘ “Selfie,” or an edit of Rage Against the Machine‘s testosterone-tastic anthem “Testify.” At the end, I even heard one dancer wonder aloud that he couldn’t remember “the last time I danced that hard sober.”


SNBRN at the Worldwide Stage on Sunday. Photo © J.T. Fales.

SNBRN at the Worldwide Stage on Sunday. Photo © J.T. Fales.

SNBRN played the Worldwide stage on Saturday in the mid-afternoon Miami light, a perfect setting for the captain of the “sunset house” movement. The only daytime set on this list, this one is a marked contrast to the techno and bass-heavy sounds of the immersive minor-key experiences of Eric Prdyz, Deadmau5, NERO, and Botnek. I was pleasantly surprised by SNBRN’s feel-good set, which was a well-mixed serving of groovy melodic house songs with considerable trap and hip-hop influence, including his hits “Gangsta Walk,” “California,” and “Raindrops.” While the others on this list left me feeling exhausted and fulfilled, SNBRN’s set recharged me and left me feeling good.

Show Review: Madeon’s Pixel Empire Tour at Emo’s

French electro-house DJ and former teenage prodigy Madeon visited Austin last Friday on his Pixel Empire tour, the most recent incarnation of his immersive live show originally known as the Adventure Tour. I was fortunate enough to witness the debut performance of the Adventure Tour at the Warfield in San Francisco last year, so I was looking forward to seeing how much had changed in the intervening year (and 1,500 miles!).

Madeon's Pixel Empire Tour features impressive graphics that make great use of his stage rig.

Madeon’s Pixel Empire Tour features impressive graphics that make great use of his stage rig. © J.T. Fales

The answer is: not much! Apart from some new material and some token trap beats thrown in here and there, the show sticks with pretty much the same live setup and feel as the Adventure Tour. This would be disappointing if I didn’t already think the Adventure Tour is one of the best EDM experiences you can spend your money on outside of a festival right now.

Because there’s no denying it: Madeon (a.k.a. Hugo Lerclercq) has not only created a dazzling, slick, powerful stage rig that leaves you feeling guilty every time you pick up your phone to take a picture; he has also developed a level of showmanship and verve worthy of a veteran rock star. (Oh, here’s your obligatory reminder that the kid is only 21 years old.)

The Venue

Emo’s is a large boxy space, something like a warehouse, located in the Riverside neighborhood of Austin. It was my first time there so I can’t compare the atmosphere to that of other EDM shows at this venue, although the people around me in the 20-minute line kept mumbling that this was the biggest turnout they’d ever seen for a show at Emo’s. That as may be, the space was big enough that, there was still plenty of space for shuffling in the back.

The diverse crowd was relaxed, with people wearing everything from collared shirts to sweatpants. I spent the first half of the night on one side of the room, where I gradually realized that the sound quality was impaired. After I moved to the back-center, the show sounded much clearer, and hit much harder.

Madeon, a.k.a. Hugo Lerclercq, is the soul at the center of the audiovisual extravagance who generates an electricity all his own. © J.T. Fales

A Pixellated Adventure

Despite the new name, the Pixel Empire Tour is substantially similar to the Adventure Tour I saw last year. The stage is exactly the same, and since Madeon hasn’t actually released all that many songs, you’re guaranteed to hear all of his hits (“You’re On,” “The City,” “Finale“… you know the rest). That being said, Hugo dropped at least two new tracks for us, which while not particularly mind-blowing, at least held up to the standard of the rest of his oeuvre. (A Youtube tipster calls one of them “Albatross”.)

What makes the Pixel Empire/Adventure Tour stand out among the many EDM tours going on right now is the many live elements Madeon brings to it. At the heart of the show are the Novation samplers that made Madeon famous in the first place, which he uses to delay, stutter, rearrange, filter, and generally explode his songs into echoes of themselves. Hugo showcases his remixing skills in the live mashup of his first hit “Pop Culture,” which throws in 42 samples from well-known pop songs. The impressive act demonstrates his ability to turn even dry old material into juicy, exciting new flavors. I also noticed his presence on the keyboard much more prominently this time around (although whether there was actually more of it or whether I was just more aware of it I can’t say for sure). These kind of live elements make every night unique, and in a culture where DJ’s just “press play” even (and especially!) on the biggest stages in the world, seeing a musician perform live music and mashups over his own tracks is refreshing.

But the true soul of Madeon’s show is the man himself. Hugo is a small, skinny guy, but like Freddie Mercury, he turns his lithe, little body into an asset on stage. You can see the passion radiating from every inch of Madeon’s body as he jumps, spins, and reaches toward the ceiling. He is as in tune with his own music as computer with its CPU; as the music rises, drops, and bends, so does he, an avatar of his own sound. One tiny example of this was when the screen behind him quickly went to black, as if a curtain had been dropped over it, just as the music went quiet for a moment. As the light moved down the screen, so did Madeon’s hand in front of it, like he was going down with it, or even pushing it himself. It was an effect that lasted maybe half a second, but it’s the tiny, perfectly synchronized details like this that make his show so captivating.

It’s hard to look away from Madeon’s performance. © J.T. Fales

I noticed an overarching story as the graphics evolved over the course of the show from large two-dimensional pixellated displays to ever-finer boxy images and eventually three-dimensional shapes, landscapes, and more traditional animations. The fantasy worlds depicted onstage very clearly resemble those of Porter Robinson‘s Worlds Tour, but this isn’t surprising given the duo’s close ties and perhaps decade-long association. His other biggest influence, Daft Punk, is equally as clear in the Pixel Empire tour, as samples of and homages to the robot duo’s electro-house backcatalog are scattered like easter eggs throughout the show.

Worth Seeing A Second Time

Madeon has developed a unique live rig for his shows. © J.T. Fales

If you’ve already seen the Adventure Tour, this show won’t be a surprise for you. But I personally think it’s good enough to see multiple times. We’ve all been to shows where DJ’s play the same sets you saw them play a few weeks or months ago, where you find yourself asking what you just paid for. With the audiovisual extravagance of the Pixel Empire and Adventure Tours, Madeon has given us a special, unforgettable experience that is worth revisiting for the energy and the details.

Show Review: Infected Mushroom at Vulcan Gas Company January 21, 2016

Thursday night offered a lot of firsts for me: it was my first time clubbing in Austin, first time seeing Infected Mushroom, and first time at the Vulcan Gas Company, one of the few venues here that gets big name EDM acts.

IMG_1325I’ve never listened much to Infected Mushroom, although I’ve heard their tracks here and there over the years. One of the few things I did know about them before the show was how unpredictable their music is, running over genre boundaries like a tank over barbed wire. This promised an interesting show, even if it’s not what I normally listen to. I also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them after hearing my friend Jon talk about the transcendental moment he experienced when he discovered them in middle school on the first episode of The EDMist Podcast.

The Venue

IMG_1341I was impressed with Vulcan Gas Company. Size-wise, it’s somewhere between a large bar (they all seem to be huge in Texas!) or a medium-large club. (San Franciscans can think of Public Works as the closest analog for a venue, but without the underground feel.) Vulcan is located on “dirty” Sixth Street in downtown Austin, stuck right into the heart of the seemingly endless row of college bars. This makes it highly accessible, especially because Sixth street is closed to vehicle traffic on weekend nights so you don’t have to fight with traffic to get there. I thought the online ticket price of $15 was a good deal, although the $30 price at the door seemed steep to me. Drinks were also reasonable ($5.50 for a gin and tonic), if a little dry. There are two bars in the venue, at which I had no trouble getting a drink. The industrial chic decor meshes well with the building’s exposed brick walls. Glowing columns of lights adorn the walls; I couldn’t decide if they were cheesy or cool. Finally, there is access to a rooftop deck where you can go for a smoke break (for those who partake) or a cooldown from the dance floor, which is definitely a sweet perk of this venue.

The vibe on this particular night was very relaxed, although since it was my first time I can’t be sure if it reflected the vibe of the club, the Austin scene, or the particular fanbase. (Infected Mushroom have been around for a long time and appeal to a crowd beyond the EDM-heads your “typical” dance music duo might draw.) I saw zero aggression for floor space, and there was always plenty of room to maneuver despite a fairly packed dance floor. People upstairs were even allowed to spin hula hoops and glowing poi. (This seemed like an accident waiting to happen but, hey, I don’t run the place.)

The Show

IMG_1306The opening DJ (whose name I didn’t catch) played an eclectic mix of trip hop and engaged the crowd with his own fervent dancing. He was followed up by Ram-Z, who served up the typical palate-cleansing pre-headliner house set that people nevertheless seemed to dig.

While Infected Mushroom are known for their wild stage setup, their performance on Thursday was only a DJ set. The Israeli duo came on at 12:15 to cheers, bringing their signature, genre-spanning sound with them. Early on they lit things up with the Zedd-esque riff of “Bass Nipple” before promising a psytrance set, which is of course the sound that they are best known for. While there was certainly plenty of it throughout the night, I heard influences as disparate as trance, hardstyle, dubstep, and electro mixed (or, rather, smashed) in as well. It was an energetic set whose driving beat switched tempos rapidly throughout the show. The fast pace of the changes kept things fresh and interesting, if a little unsettling. The energy really picked up about an hour after the set began, when the veteran DJs dropped the RIOT remixes of their own tracks “Kipod” and “Fields of Grey.” Both tracks brought the room down with their ferocious dubstep beats. See for yourself in the following video.

IMG_1316While I didn’t personally connect with the set, the crowd was clearly eating it up and I was able to feed off of their positive energy and have a good time. I would probably pass on seeing their DJ set again, but as a big fan of stage shows, I’d definitely give their live show a shot next time it comes around.

Show Review: Madeon’s Adventure Tour Debut at the Warfield

On Friday night, Madeon kicked off his Adventure Tour with a highly-anticipated show at the Warfield in San Francisco, with SF natives The M Machine joining him as openers. In fact, there was so much pre-show buzz that the venue was moved from the Regency Ballroom to the Warfield in order to meet demand, according to the promoters. It was an interesting change, as the two venues are very different spaces, but in the end a welcome one, as the tiered, theater-style seating allowed much of the audience a great view of the show.

The M Machine: Hometown Heroes, Hampered as Openers

The M Machine took the stage a few minutes before 9 PM. During their hour-long set, the duo (until recently, a trio) played their best songs from their Just Like EP, including “Just Like,” “Don’t Speak,” and “Pluck Pluck,” plus some of their classic material from Metropolis parts I & II. Most of these got the remix treatment, though they did play the lush and funky “Immigrants” in its full, original glory. Among the non-M Machine tracks they played was Valentino Khan‘s “Deep Down Low.”

The show was held at the Warfield, a theater space, instead of the Regency Ballroom.

The show was held at the Warfield, a theater space, instead of the Regency Ballroom.

I had been excited to catch the guys at a rare hometown show, albeit as openers. When I saw them play at Ruby Skye on the 4th of July of last year, the audience had been sparse but passionate, freeing them to play a weird and impressively hard-hitting set. That same atmosphere did not carry over to the proscenium stage of the Warfield, unfortunately. While a certain portion of the crowd was definitely into it — even chanting “M Machine! M Machine!” at one point — the majority of people bobbed along to Eric and Swardy‘s unique brand of house music half-heartedly while waiting for Madeon to come on. Swardy seemed to acknowledge the lackluster reception at the end of the set, saying, “I know it’s early…” in a way that seemed to be part admonishment, part apology.

Madeon: His Own Secret Weapon

After a brief break to clear The M Machine’s gear, Madeon took to the stage in a leather jacket, unleashing his massive energy

Madeon's Adventure Tour rig invokes Daft Punk and Porter Robinson

Madeon’s Adventure Tour rig invokes Daft Punk and Porter Robinson

on the audience to the sounds of “You’re On” (feat. Kyan). He’s a tiny guy (and still not even drinking age!) which makes his incredible stage presence and clear enthusiasm all the more striking. Part of a DJ’s job is to lead the audience in energy, and even with a light show as elaborate as Madeon’s, if the DJ isn’t into it, the audience won’t be either. But from the second Madeon, a.k.a. Hugo Leclercq, strode on stage, it was clear that he was there with us and for us, just as excited for his tour’s debut as we were. Just moments into the show he was taking power stances, throwing his arms up into the air, leading the audience in rounds of clapping, and even throwing his arms out to the side in classic Armin van Buuren style. His intensity was on the level of the greatest of live DJs like Seven Lions and Skrillex, and like Skrillex inside his mothership, Madeon served as the beating human heart of the epic stage rig, from which all the energy in the room ultimately flowed.

Touring Under the Influence (of Daft Punk and Porter Robinson)

For the tour, which supports his brand new, #1 albumAdventure, Madeon has built a stage rig to rival the most famous setups of EDM stars like Feed Me and Sub Focus. The stage itself, all angles with diamond structure surrounding the DJ, seems to invoke Daft Punk‘s unparalleled Alive 2007 rig. In fact, it’s clear that Daft Punk is this fellow French producer’s biggest artistic influence, from his funky electro-house sound, to the live triggering that makes up the backbone of his show. There was a moment where I was sure he was going to drop “Robot Rock,” and, as the video below makes clear, some of the lighting effects on his rig seemed to be a direct homage to the androids’ Alive tour (compare to footage of Daft Punk’s live “Television Rules the Nation/Crescendolls” mashup).

The rig also strongly resembles Porter Robinson‘s Worlds setup (another influence and a close friend of Madeon’s). The main difference here is that Worlds is an artistic statement in which Porter strives to distance himself from his electro-house past, while Madeon fully embraces his sonic origins with the Adventure Tour, bringing you a stunning spectacle that is ultimately all about dance music.

A Stage Show for the Ages

IMG_8987The stage rig included what seemed to be a couple of laptops, three midi controllers (including the Novation Launchpad that helped launched his fame with his “Pop Culture” Youtube video), a keyboard, and a microphone. Madeon performs with the midi controllers tipped towards the audience, which is an awesome touch. It of course helps show off the undeniable technical ability that sets him apart from “button pusher” DJs, but I also like that it celebrates the small, beautiful wonder of midi controllers themselves: you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on building fancy stage setups, but at the end of the day, most of what’s coming out of the speakers is reproducible on that one tiny, light-up device.

Welcome to the Madeon Show

The song selection was almost all Madeo and included plenty of live exclusives. One of the age-old criticisms of DJs is that, unlike instrumentalists, they’re not creating anything onstage – just reproducing things. Madeon knocks down that criticism handily, crafting one-off remixes of his tracks using his midi controllers as a canvas. He went most wild with “Technicolor,” leaving aside the melody of the recorded version to improvise the lead onstage.

Song selections included “You’re On,” “Cut the Kid,” “Imperium,” “The City,” “Raise Your Weapon,” “Pay No Mind,” and “Finale.” (I was secretly hoping to hear him drop some Lady Gaga, whose recent album ARTPOP he contributed to but alas, it was not so.) The audience cheered loudly when he dropped “Pop Culture” itself in a deftly reproduced live mashup.

Madeon kicked off his Adventure Tour at the Warfield in San Francisco on April 10th

Madeon kicked off his Adventure Tour at the Warfield in San Francisco on April 10th

One of the best surprises of the night was when he brought the energy down low, turned to the keyboard, and started to sing over the smooth tones of a Rhodes to “Home.” It was a special moment, even if I couldn’t make out the lyrics due to a buzzing crowd.

A Show for the Ages

Madeon brought his A-game for the first night of the Adventure Tour, and I’m confident that his passion will continue to make this show come alive for all audiences over the coming months. It had everything you want in a live show: great music, spectacular visuals, high energy, and an excited crowd, plus live creations and exclusives. The tickets for this show got pricey ($52 for the most expensive seats), but if you can scrounge up the cash, I highly, highly recommend going for the experience. You will not regret it.

Below is the Snapchat story I took during the night, including The M Machine’s and Madeon’s performances. If you want to catch these stories as they happen, follow me on Snapchat at theedmist.

Show Review: Max Graham at Audio SF | March 21, 2015

The light wall at Audio.

The light wall at Audio.

Back in December, Max Graham played a 5 hour set at Audio in San Francisco. Though I was excited for the show, I ended up passing on it, for one reason or another.

That was a mistake.

For weeks afterward, I watched on Twitter as he and the attendees of that show glowed about the incredible atmosphere that blossomed that night. Max went so far as to immortalize that evening in his profile pictures on Facebook and Twitter. (He posted part of his set from that performance as episode 185 of his weekly show, Cycles Radio.)

Max Graham at Audio.

Max Graham at Audio.

When it was announced that he was coming around to do it all over again, I made it my mission to attend.

Max’s set on Friday totally lived up to my high expectations. While the music selection was, of course, excellent (more on that in a bit), I think a big part of the magic came from the club itself. Audio is arguably the best venue in San Francisco. It’s small in an intimate way, gorgeously decorated with a truly sublime wall of lights that pulses behind the DJ, and a crowd that tends towards more discerning music fans, rather than casual clubbers (perhaps attributable to the excellent roster of performers they bring in). The audio quality is also fantastic, as it rocks a Funktion-One sound system. In short, it’s an environment perfectly suited for just the sort of dreamy techno and house that Max Graham specializes in.

When I arrived at 11, the dancefloor was full and grooving, though happily not crowded. The crowd swelled gradually until about 1, but for the most part kept its relaxed and respectful character. All night, Max kept the tunes deep and smooth, fostering a dreamy, friendly vibe that made time flow by like water in a hot shower.

IMG_8652_2I go to a lot of shows to hear songs that I know; I came to see Max for the opposite reason – to get lost in the beat without wondering about the artist name, song title, or other trivia that I’m always half-thinking about when I go out. In fact, I could only name a handful of songs that he played, most of which came later in the night. (I made a deliberate effort to keep off of Shazam, although I caved a couple of times. Some songs you just have to pocket so you can relive them later.) At one point, I was surprised to hear Andrew Bayer‘s “Bullet Catch” slinking into the set, since its harder set-opening sound didn’t match with the sound Max had been crafting all night. However, he merely plucked out the beautiful piano breakdown, mixing out before the song ramped back up into high-energy territory. Other tracks I recognized included a remix of an old Above & Beyond track, “No One On Earth,” and a couple selections from Cycles 6. New to me was “Trommer Og Bass” by Andre Bratten, which I thought recalled Shiba San‘s huge tune from last year, “Okay.” The beat practically set the room on fire.

For a deep set, it had more drops than I was expecting. Max spiced up some of the builds by playing around with the high pass filter, creating an effect not unlike sticking your thumb over the speaker of your iPhone. It’s kind of a cheesy tactic, so I prefer to see it done sparingly, but the audience was definitely feeling it.

Max Graham at Audio.

All in all, it was an excellent night full of smooth and entrancing beats. Max himself compared the atmosphere to “a living room house party 👌👌.” If dark and groovy house music is your jam, you won’t want to miss this man the next time he returns to San Francisco – which doubtless won’t be too long.

Update, March 29th: Max posted the first two hours of his set from this night on Soundcloud, so in case you missed out, you can experience some of the magic for yourself.

Show Review: Above & Beyond at Bill Graham Civic Center | March 14, 2015

Above & Beyond at Bill Graham Civic Center. Photo credit: Drew Ressler/

Above & Beyond at Bill Graham Civic Center. Photo credit: Drew Ressler/

There’s one element that makes an Above & Beyond show more than just an EDM concert.


Photo credit: Drew Ressler/

Photo credit: Drew Ressler/

Newcomers and veterans alike will attest that the energy at an Above & Beyond concert is unlike any other. Friendship, compassion, and goodwill all combine into a sort of gravity that pulls the crowd together.

This is true on most nights, but on Saturday, I found it especially so.

Jono Grant, one third of Above & Beyond, revealed two weeks ago that his sister had died very suddenly. He pulled out of the North American tour temporarily to go back to the UK. During his time there, he helmed a poignant episode of ABGT (#121), dedicating two songs to his sister: Above & Beyond’s own “Good for Me,” and London Grammar’s “If You Wait.”

On Saturday, Jono was back in the US, along with Paavo Siljamäki, to man the decks for the second night of San Francisco performances on the We Are All We Need Tour. The venue was Bill Graham Civic Center, the massive performance space just next to city hall, often graced by acts as large as Skrillex, Bassnectar, and Hardwell.

Anjunabeats newcomer 16 Bit Lolitas served as the first opener, warming up the crowd with his cool and relaxed sound. The vibe was, of course, the total opposite of the second opener, Seven Lions, who laid out a blazing hot set as if he himself were the headliner. Kicking things off with his emotional remix of Velvetine’s gorgeous classic, “The Great Divide,” Seven Lions, a.k.a. Jeff Montalvo, weaved together eclectic tracks that ranged in style from his signature melodic dubstep to big room EDM, drum & bass, and even psytrance. (That last one came in the form of his divisive one-off, “Lucy.”) I personally find his melodic dubstep sound more appealing than the patchwork of styles that he favors in the large settings where I’ve seen him perform, so I came away somewhat disappointed. Even so, watching him live is always a treat. There’s no denying the sheer intensity Jeff brings to the decks, his leonine mane swinging as he enthusiastically headbangs to each monster track he throws down.

Above & Beyond at Bill Graham Civic Center. Photo credit: Drew Ressler/

Above & Beyond dropping “Sticky Fingers” toward the beginning of their set. Photo credit: Drew Ressler/

Above & Beyond took the stage to the opening track on their new album, “Quieter is Louder,” which soon morphed into the dark and powerful “Sticky Fingers.” Their set was a predictable rundown of Anjunabeats stalwarts and newcomers, with the necessary hat tips to Ilan Bluestone and Jerome Isma-Ae (“Tension” vs. “A Thing Called Love“), Andrew Bayer (a new track from his Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep EP), and Mat Zo (“Pyramid Scheme“) – although, I was surprised not to hear any Myon & Shane 54 productions all night. Other tracks from the new album included “Blue Sky Action” (the “push the button” track), “Out of Time,” “Peace of Mind,” “Counting Down the Days,” “Hello,” “All Over the World,” and, of course, the titular “We’re All We Need.” I was hoping to hear them drop the Tony McGuinness-voiced “Excuses,” but no dice there.

Above & Beyond at Bill Graham Civic Center. Photo credit: Drew Ressler/

Paavo Siljamäki and Jono Grant of Above & Beyond. Photo credit: Drew Ressler/

The community feel was in full effect at all times. As usual, the boys kept the atmosphere intimate through through typed messages onscreen, sharing memories of the first time they came to SF – then well into their OceanLab phase – along with more generic, uplifting messages such as “You are all we need;” “This moment is all there is;” “This is your year;” etc. During the encore performance, they played the club mix of “Good for Me,” touchingly dedicated to Jono’s sister, Charlotte. (On last week’s ABGT, he had said that the track summed up his relationship with her perfectly.) Finally, they ended with the closer track on their new album, “Treasure.” The lyrics – “Treasure is measured in units of love, which means you may find you are rich beyond your wildest dreams” – although terribly cheesy, were nevertheless a nice note to end on. It’s a different sentiment, but just as impactful as the longtime unofficial motto of Group Therapy sessions: “life is made of small moments like these.”

Above & Beyond at Bill Graham Civic Center. Photo credit: Drew Ressler/

Photo credit: Drew Ressler/

And, it wouldn’t be a proper Above & Beyond concert if I couldn’t say that I made new friends at the show, with whom I expect to share many more small moments and little treasures for years to come. ✋

Above & Beyond at Bill Graham Civic Center. Photo credit: Drew Ressler/

“We Are All We Need.” Photo credit: Drew Ressler/