Can Music Change the World?

Above & Beyond believes it can

Jared Skolnick
Nov 1, 2016 · 12 min read

I’ve always been a fan of EDM, but only recently discovered Above & Beyond. A friend and colleague invited me to a show and told me that the experience would be life changing. I listened to some of their tracks and really enjoyed it, but didn’t see how it could be as powerful as he said. At the same time, I was more than willing to give it a try, so I bought a ticket. He began peppering me with interesting, but odd, statements about my Anjuna Family and how I needed to prepare for my journey to the other side. I wasn’t sure if he was crazy or if I was completely missing the point.

I soon found out the truth. And you should explore this, too.

Music is the Only Language We All Understand

The event we attended was Halloween weekend in NYC at a venue called Pier 94. They effectively renamed it Pier of Fear for the holiday and I was prepared to see the usual EDM costumes plus even more since attendees were invited to dress for Halloween as well. I wasn’t disappointed.

But first, our small group of four gathered at Kevin’s apartment to get into the mood. There I met Erin and Bailey and I immediately connected with both of them — which is a good thing since I was the newbie in the group. We had a little wine, put on some flash and glitter tattoos, and packed our pockets with electrolytes and vitamins before preparing to head to the venue. One last thing — before departure Erin lead us through a round of gratitudes and we all committed to the group so each individual could feel safe and comfortable in the journey ahead. I found the group commitment to be a valuable and wonderful component as you’ll soon understand.

My Anjuna Family

Knowing that we’d be in a hot, sweaty, swarm of bodies most of the night, we dressed in light and comfortable clothing determined to fight the chilly night as we waited outside to pass security checks. It was cold out there, but worth it as we were much more comfortable the rest of the night inside. And I still don’t know how the folks in polyester fur costumes do it!

So let’s get the first curiosity out of the way now — Anjuna Family. Kevin had kept referring to our group as our Anjuna Family and I really had no idea what he was talking about. I could have looked this up on the Internet, but I didn’t. I now know that A&B’s record label is Anjunabeats and Anjuna is a place in India where Trance festivals take place, so there’s a spiritual connection to the music. Our 4-person Anjuna Family became very tight, very quickly as we entered the venue. Whenever we moved around, we always held hands to ensure we stayed together. This was part of our earlier commitment to the group and was the first of many powerful moments for me as I could feel each of them through our contact. It was unique — connecting so strongly to these three other people, two of which I just met. Yet it felt very natural and very comfortable. Suddenly the energy of the 3,000+ people in the venue felt like a small part of our group rather than a mob that might act against us.

Small Moments and Favorite Frames

My wife often asks me about my Favorite Frames — the specific moments that make something extra special. A good example is when a loved one unwraps a present and their expression of surprise and joy is truly pure. That’s a favorite frame. I had many of these over the course of the show and I’ll mention them as they come up. Clearly, that moment we all bonded together at the venue to push through the crowd to find our spot was a favorite frame. And favorite frames fit nicely with A&B’s message LIFE IS MADE OF SMALL MOMENTS LIKE THESE.

Reframing can also be important. We found a spot and started to drop into the music of Grum, one of the opening acts. We were enjoying the music, but as A&B’s set approached, more people were jockeying for better spots closer to the stage and we were getting bounced around like pinballs. This is pretty typical at a sold out show like this, but can also become really distracting and annoying. After grimacing a number of times as people plowed through us, I looked to my immediate Anjuna Family and said, “We’re all in this together and from this point forward, when I get bumped or pushed, I’m going to take that energy and channel it into my enjoyment of the show.” Reframing this really helped — the shoving didn’t stop, but my mood was quite a bit better!

The Tide is Turning

Grum’s set was complete. There was screaming, cheering, clapping… and a notable push as each person tried to get a few inches closer to the stage. A woman behind me complained to her friend and he replied, “it’s going to get much worse!” That statement had the potential to really harsh my buzz. But there wasn’t a chance…

Before the crush became unbearable, Above & Beyond took the stage. Everything stopped. Everyone was still. It was only for a few seconds, but in those seconds, my Anjuna Family of four became an extended Anjuna Family of 3,000+. When the bodies started to move again, they were all moving to the music.

TONIGHT IS ALL ABOUT SHARING OUR LOVE FOR THE SAME MUSIC

And in this initial moment of sharing, that statement felt so true and so real. We were not moving together, we were not moving in time, we were not a single source of movement; yet our movement was part of the music and no matter how each person was moving, the entire audience felt it — and it felt good. There were still bumps, there were still shoves, but most were the product of overly enthusiastic dancers savoring the music they’ve come to love. And suddenly all the bumps, all the contact — it felt good! Each contact was another moment where the energy of the crowd was passed from one to another and on to the next. The physical touch and the energy between us became our bond. There was a oneness with the music and with each other, even if we each moved and danced differently. (Favorite Frame!)

A Little Levity

Before I proceed, here are two Favorite Frames that add a little levity to the event, and to this post.

First, during the time we were getting bumped around, there was a moment that Bailey got bumped pretty hard. She sort of bounced off of me, looked up, shrugged, smiled and went back to dancing. I loved the reframing of that moment.

Second, I would often turn around to find Erin behind me completely focused in her own zone. She wasn’t holding any water and I always had some. On several occasions I held a bottle up to her face. At first she’d sort of dance with the bottle. Then, in a moment of clarity, her eyes opened wide, she nodded vigorously, took the bottle, drank and said the word LIFEFORCE. This happened many times throughout the night.

Same Same But Different

Same Same But Different is a phrase commonly heard in Thailand. I’ll skip its true meaning here, but some in the EDM community have adopted this to mean that we’re all the same (enjoying the music, dancing, desiring oneness at the show) yet we’re all different (ethnicity, geography, careers, life goals). It’s a simple statement, but a profound one, too. I felt very SAME SAME with 3,000+ people who were very BUT DIFFERENT and this was a very, very satisfying feeling. Around the time this feeling was pouring over me, the following two messages came on screen:

And in that moment, there was no doubt that I was not alone. And no doubt that the power is within me to never feel alone in any challenge ever again. (Favorite Frame!)

A New Consciousness?

I want to be very clear here — the feelings I took away from this experience are my own — they do not belong to Above & Beyond. The messages from A&B didn’t change my mind or change who I am. But they did change my perspective, and that’s so important! What A&B does is create the ideal atmosphere for internal exploration; a time, a place and an energy that invites each person to look inside themselves to explore who they really are — and who they want to be.

“These messages didn’t change my mind, they changed my perspective”

See, I tend to be very pragmatic about life and, for me, the A&B experience is explained somewhere between the mystical and the scientific. Maybe I’m being too grounded, but for me, if I allow something to be truly mystical, truly magical, I begin to lose touch with who I am. And, again, perhaps this is simply how everyone handles a shared experience similarly, yet differently.

Is It Alchemy?

Let’s get another perspective — here’s how Erin sees it…

“I’m listening to Anjunabeats Volume 7 again and thinking ‘I wonder if it’s because they KNOW people roll their asses off at these things. Do they feed the already euphoric crowd with positive messages with the intention of raising consciousness?’ Because I honestly think they raised mine. It takes… everything… for me to say something like that. But I’m over here knowing without a shred of doubt and with nothing but joy that everything I desire to do, have, and give is going to happen. It’s just around the corner if it’s not already here. I’m experiencing a relationship to a certain kind of magic I’ve never felt so authentically and to my core. I never expected it. It’s either that night or some powerful cosmic alignment that landed at the same time as such a sweet and beautiful few hours that’s shifting something.”

F — king beautiful, right? After I read this, I texted Erin that she should go back and listen to the song Alchemy. Then I shared the chorus with her:

It was alchemy
To sing to me your freedom song
To make love where there was none
Alchemy ~ now it’s all gone
And she is the golden one

I think this blew her mind. (Favorite Frame!)

What’s most interesting to me is how our views of this experience aren’t all that different and the outcome (the joy, the hope, the love) truly are the same! We got to the same place in different ways; personal ways. Maybe this really is alchemy.

The Oneness, Yet Independence

Everyone experiences this in their own personal way. And despite the fact that A&B shows are known to be transformative, I’m sure there are plenty of fans that never experience the transcendence. Even in our family of four, there were clearly two very different experiences playing out over the course of the event.

Kevin and Erin were sharing an experience that was very much introspective. I often saw them in a powerful embrace, eyes closed, bodies moving to the music. Whether the beat was slow or fast, they were in their zone. They were still part of the collective, but their energy was focused within.

Bailey and I were sharing an experience that was “extrospective” (yes, actually a word) eyes wide open, exploring the stage, the crowd, each other. We danced together, we danced apart; sometimes all four of us commenced a group hug and dance, but even then, our focal points were very different.

Was this bad or confusing? Not at all! For me, this was the perfect example of how there’s a oneness/sameness in the collective crowd, yet we’re all following our own paths. For me, it was nothing short of a Vision Quest and, for me at least, that journey required an outward view to build the collective trust needed to let my inner self explore freely.

So, Can Music Change The World?

At one point there were a series of messages about the world at large. Without any political statements, the message was clear that our world is a mess. But the message wasn’t negative, it was directional — telling us that we can change the world.

A message said that the world needs more diversity while the song We’re All We Need played. What followed was, for me, the most powerful moment of my journey.

As the house lights turned to illuminate the crowd, this message was displayed:

YOU ARE ALL SO COLORFUL

Followed by:

LOOK AROUND YOU AT ALL THE COLORS

Then the screen flashed a series of words representing those colors: PINK, BROWN, RED, BLACK, WHITE, PURPLE, etc.

I looked around me and saw so many incredibly different people and, again, felt the oneness from each of them. How could there be such pain in the world? Here was a place where we were all sharing such positive energy, such love, such joy, and, most importantly, such hope! (ABSOLUTE MOST Favorite Frame!)

Is This Home?

I set out documenting my experience walking a razor fine line between two key points. First, this experience, this journey, was powerful and will stay with me for a very long time. It was mystical, and it was euphoric. Second, to bring clarity to my friends and family that saw “oddly worded” posts on Facebook about my transcendence and Anjuna Family. I want them to know that I didn’t join a cult and I’m still the same person that I was a week ago.

But there’s a problem here. My experience does sound like a cult and I may never be the same. Yet I still think I hit the mark because there is no cult and I’m still the same. I’ve just unlocked something from inside me. Something wonderful and something incredibly important these days as we face a strange and challenging world.

So is this home? That’s personal and individual. For me, I think I’m still in a lifelong search for the fullest, most complete home. For me, it’s a bit like Buddhist Nirvana — never to be achieved, but always to be reaching for. I think I will have found Home only when the statement “you are so colorful” truly has no impact because the entire world fully values its diversity.

It’s Your Life

As I said earlier when I referring to alchemy, I believe everything that I experienced came from within — it just needed a path to get from my internal darkness to external illumination. And that is why I’m confident that I’m still the same me, even if I seem quite different.

Same Same But Different.

In the end, it’s your life and you will always make the choices you want to make. Nothing can take away who you truly are. Not friends or family, not Above & Beyond, not drugs or life experiences, not politics or war, not a religion or a cult. Nope. They can steer you, they can guide you and they can open (and close) your mind. But ultimately, what makes you, YOU, is what you chose to do with these experiences.

What Do You Choose?

I choose hope.

I choose joy.

I choose LOVE.

I leave you with my favorite verse (from We’re All We Need) which kind of sums up this whole experience for me:

I told you of a place that I had been
It was dark and I was supremely alone
No matter now if the compass fails again
‘Сause in your love I built a home

Jared Skolnick

Written by

I cycle, I think, I rave, I dream. I dream of diversity, wealth distribution and universal happiness. Occasionally I have something to say worth sharing.

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