Days after the ABGT Weekender at The Gorge Amphitheatre, I am still glowing as I reflect on the memories. I had the opportunity to reconnect with Anjunafamily I met at ABGT250, connected with at Anjunabeach, and others I got to meet for the first time despite chatting online for over a year. So it makes sense that when I look back, the most precious thing I took away from the Weekender was the love I shared with my Anjunafamily.
Though I’ve been festing since 2001, it was the first time I’ve rented an RV with friends as the weather was supposed to be in the mid-90s. Luckily for us, the temps dropped to mid-80’s over the weekend as our RV was a lemon and the A/C only worked half the time. My ragtag group of 11 made the best of it and we started our journey by rocking out to Anjunabeats Worldwide 632 with Grum on our way out. It was the first time we had all come together for a ravefam trip since 2018, and it was my boyfriend’s first Anjuna event ever, so excitement was high in our RV. All but our trusty driver celebrated with Jell-O shots I’d made for the Elliptical Sun Recordings party that night as we discussed who we were most looking forward to. For me, that would be the G.O.A.T. Andrew Bayer. DUH.
As soon as we landed in our bougie Terrace camping spot and got set up, the sun was setting. After some dinner as a base for the night, calls were made, plans to meet up were set, and we all got ready for the night. With Jell-O shots in hand, we were about to leave when we ran into Cali Anjunafam setting up camp right next to us. My dear friend Hayley Mix was doing festival hair every day before the event for her business and I knew she’d be busy so I made sure to get hugs from her at every opportunity. A few steps away, there were more Portland friends, and on and on, until we finally got to Premiere after many stops over the next hour. It was then I knew my weekend would consist of countless interruptions when recognizing online friends, exchanging hugs, Kandi, and taking pictures. Unlike most festival experiences where you’re in a sea of strangers, at Anjuna events, you’re surrounded by a crowd of friends you simply have yet to meet.
I already know some of you are wondering why I wasn’t making my way over to the Silent Disco in The Meadow at the venue, and the answer is simple. It’s over a mile walk, there were only 900 working headphones for which there was a huge line, and I’ve learned that I appreciate Anjuna more when I don’t hear it all the time. In fact, I’d purposely listened to Techno all week prior so I’d be blown away for the Weekender.
The Elliptical pre-party was impossible to miss in Premiere, what with Adrian Alexander on the decks when we arrived. The tunes were bumping, they had lasers and lights set up, and Sunny Lax was cruising around chatting with anyone who wanted to say hi. Again, another thing to love about Anjuna! Their artists love the fans and are almost always down to chat about tracks, sets, or anything music. After an hour of trying to dance, but mostly hugging and catching up with friends, security sadly came by to (very nicely) shut down the party. Admittedly, it was pretty late, so we turned in.
Anjunabeats Day One
The next morning I made breakfast for the fam and then immediately went to work getting my peeps ready. A large portion of my group had landed on a Saturday pasties theme, so I went to work applying. Once I was costumed and topped off with a curly pink wig that made me feel like the foam off a bottle of uncorked bubbly, we headed into the venue. The security line was long but everyone was polite, and of course, I ran into more friends while waiting. We found the rest of our group when Tinlicker was on stage. I had the immense pleasure of seeing them in Vancouver, B.C. for the Anjunabeats North American tour, and what I love most about them is how honey-smooth their sound is. My one hope for their set was that they play “Nothing Without You“, which they did, and it was the first time I teared up that weekend. The lyrics are from a lover who realizes how much they value their partner and never want to lose them because “This world is nothing without you.”
I stayed for a bit of Grum‘s set before heading over to The Meadow where Jason Ross was talking about becoming part of the Anjunafamily and how he was discovered. I was struck yet again by how much Anjuna works at connecting artists with their fanbase. We wandered off to refill our hydration pack and got wrangled into taking pictures. I heard Grum’s “Shout” remix and hurried us through our chores so we could get back to the mainstage. We made it back in time for some of my favorite “boys” in Trance, Gabriel & Dresden.
Dave Dresden and Josh Gabriel are some of the friendliest artists I’ve ever had the privilege of talking to and they simply ooze talent. Playing together since 2001, I caught wind of them when Tiesto dropped their remix of Way Out West‘s “Mindcircus” at a show in Seattle a few short years later. In beautiful form, they opened with a remix of Rüfüs Du Sol‘s “Underwater” and followed it up with Tinlicker’s remix of their track by the same name. Well done gents, well done! But hold on, they weren’t done yet, cause then they slid right into their absolute classic “As the Rush Comes“. The real cherry on top of their set for me was an ID remix of Jefferson Airplane‘s “Somebody to Love“. I have an older father than most people my age who bestowed his love of 50 and 60’s music on me. Yet again, G&D blew me away with their ability to create an expressive, cohesive, and beautiful set mixed impeccably.
Next up was Jason Ross, and I was a bit nervous as he tends to play tracks many would consider mainstream EDM and not in line with most Anjuna music. As “Higher Love” played, I looked over and caught my friend Eevee sobbing. Apparently, it was the track that her friend who’d died of an overdose last year was singing when they met. We hugged and had a moment of reflection while I made sure the tears had dried up before letting go. In a total turn of emotions, shortly thereafter my friend Amy lost her MIND cause how dare Jason drop “Ocean“, a non-Anjuna track he created with Seven Lions. I told her I actually love that track and her response was, “I did NOT need to hear that Sandra!” WOW. Tough crowd!
As I was with my boyfriend who’d never attended an Anjuna event before, I did my best to reserve judgment so he could form his own opinions. After the havoc that ensued when Jason Ross didn’t live up to my friends’ expectations of an Anjuna artist (admittedly, we’re kind of Anjuna snobs), I wasn’t looking forward to Audien‘s set considering his set in Vancouver at the Anjunabeats North American tour. Luckily, he stepped up and played some of his old Anjuna tracks which seemed to mollify most of the snobs. However, he did play about 28 tracks to G&D’s 11, so there was a lot of jumping from track to track which I despise. What can I say? I’m old school! I like expressive build-ups.
Sharing the jaw-dropping scenery of The Gorge for the first time with my Vegas buddy Tommy was one of the highlights of the weekend. The same awe I feel every time I’m in the venue was written all over his face. But what truly makes it special is experiencing it surrounded by cherished friends who are all experiencing the same joie de vivre as you. Ear-splitting smiles, laughter, hugs, and love are all around. Tommy spoke of being an atheist, yet expressed doubts when seeing a panorama from a lofty perspective that’s so gorgeous it feels surreal. Equally as pleasing as the music was hearing people’s exclamations at seeing the beauty spread before them for the first time.
FINALLY, my G.O.A.T. Andrew Bayer was up! He started it off with “In My Last Life” and kept it rolling right into “Tidal Wave“. Andrew Bayer’s “In My Last Life” album is full of luscious tracks with lyrics that stick with me long after the song ends. Eventually moving into his absolute BANGER of a track “Magitek“, he got the entire Gorge jumping and dancing. Andrew brought it back to his newest album and played “Immortal Lover“, one of my absolute favorites.
Now, I’ve teared up, but never actually cried at an Anjuna event. I’m ecstatic to be there, dancing my face off, and living my best life. But in May, I found out I lost Cassi, one of my best friends to an accidental Fentanyl and alcohol overdose while she’d been struggling to get clean. As I sang the lyrics to “Immortal Lover”, tears streamed down my face. “I have unfinished business in this life, Not ready to go to the other side, your Immortal Lover.” For whatever reason, I hadn’t shed many tears over her death, but they started coming out as I sang, and continue to fall as I write this. When Andrew played “Open End Resource“, it was as if Ane Brun sang “Love isn’t limited gold, No, it’s an Open End Resource” right to me, reminding me that I’d given Cassi every ounce of love within me over the years. This music and dance scene that brings so much joy and light has a dark side. As Tony says when he closes out his ABGT podcasts, “Take care of each other.” As I found out the hard way, you never know when you’ll lose those dearest to you.
As I wiped my face dry, ALPHA 9 and Spencer Brown took the stage. Thank goodness! I needed some bounce and lightness in my life. Those guys hit us with so many IDs I kept asking, “What is this?!?” and receiving a whole lot of shrugs. UGH! I don’t like waiting a year for new tracks! Spencer dropped his “Windows 95 on Acid” and ALPHA 9 graced us with “Before the Dawn“. But the track they played that will stick with me was Arty‘s remix of London Grammar‘s “Hey Now“. Something about it is visceral in how badly the singer wants more from someone who won’t give it, so she burns the letters she’s written. Their set was a perfect break of levity between Andrew Bayer and Above & Beyond.
The boys came out and got right to it with their messages of love, hope, loss, and life began stretching across the screen. When they dropped “There’s Only You” with a ballerina in a jewelry box spinning on the screen, I started tearing up again. Guess I’m one of those Anjuna people now! *wink wink* I was quickly brought out of my tears when the boys dropped their new collab “Show Me Love” and typed “Thank you Armin Van Buren” on the screen. There was quite a pause before they added “for showing us where to clap” and my mouth dropped open. I still can’t figure out if A&B were firing a shot at AVB or if it was a bit of a tease due to Armin’s signature clapping over his head?!? YOU get to be the judge! What I will say is that when two behemoths in the industry get together to produce something for the first time, we should be WOWED. “Show Me Love” is formulaic EDM trash. It has a kind of interesting beginning, a slight build in the middle that goes nowhere, and a total let down of an ending. It’s amazing how much mediocrity they fit into a whopping three minutes. All in all, I’m sorely disappointed. I expected more out of the boys.
My next highlight was when I heard the opening beats of i_o‘s remix of “Alchemy“. I turned to my friends who’d introduced me to that King of Techno Demons and we all let out a collective OOF! If you haven’t seen i_o yet, do yourself a favor and get yourself to whatever city he’s playing next to get demented in the best way. The man’s version of Techno is mind-bending and unforgettable. He took Above & Beyond’s track of beautiful heartbreak and twisted it into the dark betrayal of abandonment. In my mind, i_o’s anguished version matches the treachery expressed by the lyrics.
Never ones to dwell in the dark for long, the boys brought us back into the light and soon after, we were “Flying by Candlelight“. This has quickly become one of my favorite A&B tracks of recent memory. Not only does it remind me of Peter Pan, a story I LOVED as a child (thus my Tigerlily moniker), it also speaks to who I am at the core. I always strive to burn bright. To lead those with troubles out of the dark. To bring levity to the souls of those dwelling in misery. To help them rediscover their wings. I jumped up and down at the pinnacle of the track grinning from ear to ear right in time with everyone around me.
“Sun and Moon” began and I got to see someone’s year made with the simple act of pressing a button. The new track with Seven Lions came up and I knew there could only be a couple of tracks left. Sadly, we were about to “See the End“. As the strains of “Sun In Your Eyes” off Above & Beyond’s new “Flow State” album started, I breathed out a sigh of contentment. It was a fantastic set by the boys and I loved every moment of it. Their messages were on point as always, the visuals were the right mix of psychedelic and beautiful, and I enjoyed it all with people I love.
Ilan Bluestone ended the night with his always bumping choons. The pit was starting to empty so I went down with my best friend Steph who was at her first big Anjuna event. We danced our hearts out to “Will We Remain“, one of my favorite tracks off his “Scars” album as I considered how my spark had turned to fire over the last couple of years. We took some pictures, reconnected with friends, and began making our way back to camp. Ilan never fails to wrap things up with energetic bangers that make us dance ourselves right out of the venue!
Anjunadeep Day Two
A bit sunburned and more than a little tired, we were slow as molasses going into Anjunadeep Sunday. When I walked into the venue, I made the conscious decision to treat Sunday differently. On Saturday I cruised the venue a bit meeting up with long-distance friends and danced in the terraced area, which allowed people to find me easily. This meant I was waylaid every 20 feet by people hollering at me, or coordinating meet ups. Sunday I forced myself to chill, let everything go, and soak in the music. Thankfully, my crew rented some chairs and scored a large area at the top of the hill in the shade. I got to focus on them and be more present in the music and moments.
Though I was heartbroken about Eli & Fur‘s cancellation due to illness, I couldn’t wait to see Cubicolor‘s live set. Ariaan Olierook of 16 Bit Lolitas performed my favorite Deep day set of ABGT250, so I was dying to hear the difference. From what I’ve witnessed, live performances of Electronic Dance Music are either fantastic or appalling. Thankfully, Cubicolor WOWED! The guitar and keyboard made appearances, were played immaculately, and their sound was smooth as silk.
The fresh face and stylings of Ben Bohmer were possibly the Deep-est of the day. His choons put me in a bit of a trance as I fully relaxed into my chair. With eyes closed and head tilted back, Ben’s music inspired a journey as “After Earth” played. Like flying in my recurring dreams, I saw our beautiful, life-giving planet from above, post-mankind; from the plains of Africa to the fjords of Norway. I soared between the walls of the Grand Canyon, saw nature take over Manhattan, and as I opened my eyes, I took in the stunning Columbia River far below.
I came out of this neither here nor there state of mind to the words of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements being spoken to me. And here I thought I couldn’t love Jody Wisternoff and James Grant any more than I already do! As with everything Anjuna, they encouraged us to live our lives honorably, truthfully, and impeccably. Then they launched into their usual grooving, moving, Deep House magic. As I listened, I couldn’t help thinking that their set toed the line of Beats over Deep and it was a bit unusual. I mean, they even dropped a Nero ID! As the sun was inching toward setting, we kept moving our chairs to follow the shade, and around the middle of their set, I couldn’t see, but only hear them. Which didn’t bother me a bit.
I noticed my boyfriend in the same melting position as I’d been earlier and squeezed his hand. He leaned over and said, “This is the most relaxed I’ve felt all year. Maybe even in the last 12 months!” I knew this meant a lot to him and just smiled and said “I’m so glad you like it!” Bringing a Bass enthusiast to his first Anjuna event was a bit nerve-wracking as I wanted him to love it as much as I, so that comment made my day. What he expressed later was that the vibration of love and calm alongside the smooth sets brought him an inner peace he hadn’t felt in a long time.
The mustachioed man was up next and as it had cooled down a bit, the crew moved down to the terraced area for a better view. Normally, Luttrell isn’t one of my favorites as his sets sometimes lean toward great lounge music, but he really let us have it! He picked up the pace and dropped in a few new tracks I hadn’t heard before. Well done, fine sir! I’d love to hear you play more energetic sets in the future!
Last but not least was Yotto. He played several tracks off his recent “Hyperfall” album, much to the joy of the crowd. Keeping the energy of the day at a high until the very end, I was stunned to hear a Bootleg version of “The Rhythm of the Night”, that mid-90’s classic. But he wasn’t done busting out the old school tracks! Yotto graced us with Layo & Bushwacka’s 2002 hit “Love Story”, something I hadn’t heard for many years and he wasn’t close to done yet. His bootleg of Bon Iver’s “Holocene” had me in tears as the original is connected to one of the most difficult periods in my life that was marked by great loss. Knowing you can’t leave your fans crying for too long, Yotto quickly dropped an upbeat ID. And suddenly, all too quickly, the last set of the weekend was over.
Never ones to disappoint, Above & Beyond walked on stage to close the Weekender. As usual, they asked if we’d enjoyed ourselves and were met by whoops and applause. The boys spoke of the stunning beauty of the venue, how they fell in love with it at ABGT250, and announced they were making the Weekender a biennial event. The raucous cheers from the crowd rattled my eardrums and I immediately began planning two years into the future.
Joined by my friends from around the world, we left the venue to continue the party at the Anjuna Kitchen’s souped up food truck in the campgrounds. The chatter I heard on our return trip warmed my heart. There was talk of moments of love, healing tears of release, laughter enjoyed with strangers, and generosity of spirit from everyone; all the things that make Anjuna so unique in dance music culture. I’ve witnessed countless times Anjunafamily show up for each other in times of need. As Tony urges, we truly do take care of each other. So if you’re in need of some group therapy in 2021, make your way to The Gorge Amphitheatre for the next Weekender!
*Featured Image Via Jody Wisternoff IG*