LAS VEGAS — Last week, MTV News offered up a fun little James Bond number from British DJs/producers Above & Beyond to promote the launch of their Group Therapy summer residency at the Wynn, and we decided that private jets, fast cars, beautiful women and lavish parties sounded pretty nice — so we headed down to the Strip this past weekend to see if we could be part of the action.
Unfortunately, the A&B private jet and Lamborghinis weren't available to get us to Vegas with as much swagger as the faux double agents, but we quickly forgot about that once we arrived at the full-production club show at XS Nightclub on Friday night, followed by a pool party at Encore Beach Club on Saturday.
We also had a chance to have an exclusive chat with two of the three members of the group, Tony McGuinness and Paavo Siljamäki, who were clearly thrilled about the project, as well as the overall EDM explosion in Sin City.
"It feels like Vegas has really been evolving over five or six years," Siljamäki said. "We were just last night talking about how it's becoming the American Ibiza and how it really has so much of the same characteristics because it's a real destination."
No matter what you think about EDM taking over the desert, it's undeniable that Vegas has cashed in on the genre's explosion, booking the world's biggest DJs to spin any space with a booth on the Strip year-round. The Wynn has even hired Steve Angello as the hotel's "musical chef," to curate playlists for Andrea's, a sexy new Asian-themed restaurant at the Encore.
"The parties are getting — every time we come here — better and better, and the production of shows is really changing," Siljamäki said. "Here at the Wynn this year, just last night, we did XS, and it felt like it was the first time that we could really give people sort of an authentic show, not just rocking up at a nightclub in a DJ booth. We had our stage production there, and it creates a sort of unique atmosphere, and we love it."
Many of the new superclubs on the Vegas Strip have upgraded their production to festival-level status, adding massive LED walls and full light shows. For those who prefer a little sunshine, A&B also played a packed poolside set at Encore Beach Club on Saturday.
"You can tell it's early in the season. People are looking fairly sort of British out there," McGuinness joked about the pasty partygoers. "When you come back in July and August, everyone is looking ridiculously tan — except us, of course, because we're working all the time."
Among the celebrity guests in attendance were Chris Brown, Kevin Hart and Adam Brody. Brown, incidentally, is featured on will.i.am's controversial "Rebound" track; Above & Beyond's label, Anjunabeats, claims the Black Eyed Peas mastermind didn't get permission to use an Arty & Mat Zo sample, but Brown still came to show support for A&B at the pool party.
"The pool is a bit of a leveler, really," McGuinness said. "I think because you're looking out and seeing all these people in bathing suits, it kind of gives it a certain vibe, and of course it's daytime, so you can see everybody and everybody can see you. So it's more of a personal experience than the kind of late-night show. They've both got different vibes, and I enjoy them both for different reasons, really."
Sharing personal experiences with their fans is perhaps the most endearing quality of A&B and is the driving force behind the success of their Group Therapy franchise. You'd only need to listen to a few shout-outs on their weekly Group Therapy Radio show to realize people don't just listen to party to the music, they're also getting valuable venting sessions. Shout-outs on the show range from listeners using the music as motivational tools for running marathons or studying for final exams to dedicating songs to deceased loved ones.
"It's amazing when you sort of make music and you come up with these ideas and launch them onto the world how they really take a life of their own," Siljamäki said. "And in the case of Group Therapy, people started calling our [previously titled] Trance Around the World show their 'weekly group therapy.' "
"I think the way that people consume our music, listen to it, how it works in their lives is really what the whole Group Therapy thing is all about," McGuinness added. "When we do a show, we're a small part of the family of people that are in the room listening to the music at that time. What the audience brings to it is really most of why we do it. So the shouts on the show is a way of reminding us and everybody else that it's really all about them and their reaction, their love of the music that keeps us doing it. So the deeper they are, whether it's somebody has passed away or somebody's not well or they're going through chemotherapy and they listen to the radio show or it's helping them get over a breakup, that sort of stuff is kind of how I use music in my life. That's really what we've always wanted: to be making music that has an emotional resonance for people. And that's a really nice way of reminding us that sometimes we're right."
If you're in need of some Group Therapy, you can catch Above & Beyond at the Wynn on these dates throughout the summer:
» May 26 - Surrender Nightclub
» June 21 - XS Nightclub
» June 23 - Encore Beach Club
» June 26 - Surrender Nightclub
» July 5 - XS Nightclub
» July 7 - Encore Beach Club