For many New Yorkers, the feeling of attempting to navigate through Pacha's jam-packed dance floor is, uncomfortably, a familiar one. In a city that boasts some of the most impressive lineups weekend after weekend, sacrifices must sometimes be made to take full advantage of all that New York clubs have to offer. So last weekend, we decided to venture out of the confines of Manhattan and explore some new territory.
When word first spread that Above & Beyond was to play at Mixx, one of the two clubs in Atlantic City's highly-esteemed Borgata hotel, a road trip down the turnpike seemed like the only logical plan of action. While most usually associate our neighboring state with MTV's favorite fist-pumping clubbers, AC has always stood out in a distinct way of its own. And lately, after the launch of a massive new advertising campaign, it is clear that the identity of the city has shifted from that of a shady gambling mecca to more of an epic destination. Visitors are urged to "do AC," a vacation spot that is all-encompassing, and one that offers less of a predetermined culture and more of a clean slate. It is here that experiences are created, and whether spending a weekend at the heartbreak hotel or hitting the jackpot for the first time, AC can mean anything to anyone at any time.
The night started with slots, cocktails, and club tickets that cost half the amount they would in New York. As stiletto and suit-clad fans began to fill up the casino floor, the vibe of those in attendance was the first thing to stand out. Trance events typically attract more of a veteran crowd, and that, mixed with the absence of neon attire, was welcomed and refreshing. As everyone filtered into the club, Mixx's resident DJ took the decks and kicked the night off with some crowd-pleasing house. The energy in the room was mounting as a Friday night feel swung into full force, and everyone who had seen Above & Beyond before had some idea of what they were in for. Some. But it wasn't until the lights were raised, the orchestral synth blared, and A&B members Jono and Paavo took the decks, that the vibe in the room notably shifted and the night really kicked off.
In their usual fashion, the two members representing the English trance trifecta opened on a high note, with Arty, BT, and Nadia Ali's new single, "This Must be the Love." The energy in the room was palpable as A&B began their set of deliberate song choice, poignant overhead messages, and perfectly synched lighting. As they transitioned deeper into their set with some original material, they asked the crowd if they were ready for some Group Therapy, referring to their much loved artist album which has taken on its own identity and carries great significance for the artists and fans alike. The answer, clearly unanimous, was responded to with some of A&B's classic and epic tracks. The crowd belted out the lyrics to every song, went crazy during the breakdown in their "Thing Called Love" club mix, and took an almost religious demeanor as "On My Way to Heaven" played through the speakers. The duo perfectly balanced bangers with classic trance interludes, and maintained the journey-like feel of their set for the hours that flew by like minutes. When "Sun in your Eyes" came on to close and it was clear the set was winding down, everyone in the room looked around at one another wide-eyed, exuberant, and satisfied, yet still wanting more. Jono and Paavo responded to this unspoken request with the opening notes to "On a Good Day," the massive collaboration from their side project OceanLab and Gareth Emery, and sent the crowd into a euphoric, energized state that was the only appropriate way to finish the night.
Having the opportunity to check out of the real world and into a land of room service, high rollers, and world-class amenities made Atlantic City the perfect escape from New York City life. The "city that never sleeps" might have a lot to rival with Atlantic City's round-the-clock atmosphere; after A&B's set, some of the crowd went to continue their night with free-flowing cocktails and non-stop gambling, while others kept the party going with Mixx's resident DJ back on the decks. For those who needed a rest, the plush white beds only a few stories above offered perfect solace from a night of hard partying, with the option of a morning spa visit comforting them to sleep. And as for the music, seeing Above and Beyond in a club rather than on a stop of their recent festival run added so much more dimension to the show. The vibes were intimate, the sound quality outstanding, and the sparklers on the seemingly never-ending bottles of vodka only added to the perfectly timed effects shooting across the room. Not to mention the feeling of walking out of the club and into the singalong that occurred by the slot machines when Armin van Buuren was played over the casino speakers; true fans made the vibes memorable, and the new frontier that is Atlantic City will forever stand out as a bar above and beyond the rest.