Last September, more than 12,000 trance fans filed into the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam. That night, Above & Beyond's Paavo Siljamäki randomly selected Ciarán Smyth, a cop from Belfast, and Xenia Lee, a graduate student from New York, to take the stage and ceremoniously "press the button." The group's Jono Grant and Tony McGuinness, who stayed back to handle the controls, looped a beat so Smyth and Lee could press the button, release the loop, and let the track ride. Fans make signs and beg for the chance to be king for a day, and that night, Smyth and Lee were the chosen ones.
"When Paavo came down from the stage, he walked past me and picked Xenia," Smyth remembers. "Then he came back to choose me. It was so loud that Xenia and I didn't talk onstage, and I didn't see her again that night."
Smyth and Lee arrived and exited the Ziggo Dome as strangers, but their story didn't end there.
They later connected on Instagram and began talking regularly. He traveled to see her in New York, where they caught another Above & Beyond show at Pier 94 in Manhattan, and she later visited him.
"When she came to visit me, we did touristy things. We visited the Guinness factory and saw Big Ben, but honestly, I would've been happy if we'd never left my house."
Since then, they've become a couple, Facebook-official and in love. It's no surprise that the members of Above & Beyond — who exude love and optimism — were able to bring these transatlantic lovebirds together.
The backdrop at Above & Beyond's shows displays messages that could come from personal-growth books: "The Future Really Is in Your Hands," "You Look Amazing Out There," and "Life Is Made of Small Moments Like This." No other DJ/production team is better at promoting optimism. The productions and music feel positive, warm, and endearing.
"In today's world, it's so easy to look at news and think the world is all going wrong and that things are so terrible and we're so divided," Siljamäki says. " But if you look at facts and statistics, you discover that you are most likely surrounded by good-willed and loving people... Things are not quite as horribly wrong as they might seem, and I want people to have hope. What we need is calm, good conversation and some love in the world. That's what we really need."
Above & Beyond has performed yearly in Miami since 2006, when the trio made its debut at the now-defunct Club B.E.D. on Washington Avenue. Back then, Grant had a full mop and WMC cohabited with Ultra in relative peace. Over the years, the group's annual spring pilgrimage to Miami has included shows at Nocturnal, Karu & Y, Ice Palace, and Mana Wynwood before moving to its current location in 2016.
"Last year, we moved to the RC Cola Plant. It has a real warehouse vibe, which is perfect for our sort of thing," Siljamäki says. "We like warehouses. Our roots are in the field raves of England and the forest parties of Finland. When I first got into the scene in the '90s, some of us were different colors; some of us spoke different languages. We might have had different religious or political beliefs, but there was always respect for people individually, and if you were there for the music, that's all that mattered."
Miami Music Week is a busy week for the London-based team of 25 that operates the Anjunabeats and Aujunadeep machine. Above & Beyond will also perform at Ultra, while Anjunadeep Miami is set for Saturday, March 25, at Gramps, and Anjunabeats Miami will happen Sunday, March 26, at the Raleigh Hotel.
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But back at the RC Cola Plant, fans will clamor for the chance to take part in the ritual that brought Smyth and Lee together. Pressing the button is more than just two lucky people standing high above more than 6,000 fans. It's about Above & Beyond's long-standing mission of uniting a crowd of people through a message of love and kindness.
Above & Beyond
With Eric Prydz, Yotto, and Eli & Fur. Thursday, March 23, at RC Cola Plant, 550 NW 24th St., Miami. Tickets cost $86.63 via wantickets.com.
With Dom Donnelly, James Grant, Jody Wisternoff, Kidnap Kid, Luttrell, Moon Boots, and Yotto. Saturday, March 25, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St,. Miami. Tickets cost $47.10 via wantickets.com.
With Cosmic Gate, Andrew Bayer, Ilan Bluestone, Fatum, Genix, Sunny Lax, Grum, Jason Ross, Jaytech, and Spencer Brown. Sunday, March 26, at the Raleigh Hotel, 1775 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $44.05 to $55.93 via wantickets.com.