After leaving Dancing Astronaut, Kunal Bambawale moved to India to pursue a career in dance music. He was lucky enough to have been involved in the planning of TATW 450. This is his story. Full live stream of TATW450 after the break.
The first time I saw Above & Beyond perform, at EDC 2010 in Los Angeles, I was 19 years old and clueless about what to do with my life. That night, under the balmy summer sky, A&B created something I’d never experienced before. Their music was beautiful and mysterious and somehow made me feel safe. They showed me that maybe the world could be a better place if we all set aside a few minutes of our lives to celebrate music and the wonderful way it connects us all.
The eighth time I saw Above & Beyond, at Trance Around the World 450 in Bangalore, I was 21 years old and employed full-time at India’s leading dance music promoter, Submerge. In the 29 months since EDC 2010, I’d become fully invested in the idea of dance music and its endless possibilities. I’d devoted myself to the promotion of this music, this music that me and so many others feel emotionally and spiritually drawn to. I was a part — a very, very small part — of the team that brought Above & Beyond to celebrate the 450th episode of their old radio show, and begin a new chapter in their career with the first episode of Group Therapy Radio.
So what’s it like, working behind the scenes at an A&B event? First off — it’s exhilarating. Watching thousands of people pour through the gates and towards the stage of an event you helped create is a rush unlike anything I’ve ever felt — a rush that is not wholly pleasant. It’s also nerve-wracking and stressful, particularly when things start to go wrong.
I spent most of the day running around, putting out small fires. My walkie was buzzing all afternoon — counter A was running out of alcohol vouchers, bar B needed to be restocked, entrance Y was short on VIP wristbands, credit card machines in sector Z were temporarily down, VVIP guest X was waiting at the gate for too long, security point Alpha 3 was taking too long and the line was growing impatient. I did more things wrong than right, caused my bosses plenty of stress and grief, and received an earful from A&B’s tour manager, Seamus, for neglecting my responsibilities.
I didn’t really have time to soak it all in and enjoy the Anjuna magic — I spent about half an hour at the stage area, total. But every time I found myself feeling physically or emotionally drained, all I needed to was walk back towards the main stage and be amazed by the fact that I was a part, however small, of the team that made this happen. To the fans from abroad who thanked me personally — Karentina, Robert, and everyone else — you made my day in more ways than you can ever know.
Seeing the smiles on people’s faces, that giddy, incredulous, I-can’t-believe-this-is-fucking-happening smile, the same smile I had on my face the first time I saw A&B, makes it all worth it. Because what I was doing, in whatever trivial, minute way, was helping Above & Beyond bring people together to embrace our shared humanity and spread a little more love and joy into a world that sorely needs it. The world was listening to our event — the entire world! No matter how many shows I attend, as a fan, a journalist, or an event manager, one image never ceases to amaze me: the sight of innumerable of hands in the air, silhouetted against a brilliant screen, a thousand hearts beating together, a thousand minds joined together in the moment.
When fans think of Above & Beyond, they think of Tony, Paavo and Jono on stage — faces beaming, arms aloft, transcendently spectacular. But Above & Beyond is more than just these three incredible musicians. Above & Beyond is every person in the Anjunabeats team — every person who is hardworking and disciplined and professional and dedicated. Together, the Anjunabeats team has created a brand that actually means something. Their logo has indelible emotional value and a special place in peoples’ lives. Part of Above & Beyond’s success, I think, is treating every aspect of the business with the same meticulous attention to detail and thoroughness as production. Everything from social media to marketing to graphic design to artist management is handled with care. I learned something from every member of the team I encountered, particularly Dan, the production manager who taught me a lot about how to problem-solve with patience and persistence.
Most of all, I learned that passion and enthusiasm are not enough to succeed in the music and events industry. You need to be focused, tenacious, organized, confident, and relentless. You need to take responsibility for everything you’ve been tasked with, to follow up over and over again, and to be fully prepared to handle any task that contributes toward the overall fan experience. Do whatever it takes, no matter how much it takes out of you.
I also learned that people make the magic happen. No matter how giant the LED screens, how spectacular the speakers, or how colorful the confetti, it’s just stuff. It’s meaningless on its own. But when the venue is full of people, the stuff comes alive and has the power to liberate and inspire in a genuinely powerful way. Life really is full of small moments, and there were times on Saturday night where we took every fan on that field to somewhere else, somewhere timeless and not of this earth.
I would like to thank everyone at the Anjunabeats team for choosing Bangalore as the host city for this amazing event. Hopefully this was the tipping point for dance music in India to become the popular phenomenon it is in other parts of the world. I would also like to thank everyone at Book My Show, who made my so much easier. To Vince, Mayur, and the Greenstone Entertainment production team, I want to congratulate you on an experience that was superior to any Group Therapy show I have personally experienced, including Group Therapy LA at the Shrine. To my colleagues at Submerge, thanks for welcoming me into the family and covering for me when I mess up (I still have no idea how we did that).
Finally, I would like to thank my bosses, Nikhil and Hermit, whose lives would have been a lot easier had they fired me a long time ago. My respect for you both grows each and every day. Thank you for giving me this job — and yes, this is exactly what I signed up for.
Photos courtesy the Clique Photography. Words by Kunal Bambawale.