Armin van Buuren brings ASOT 600 to Madison Square Garden, New World Punx perform for the first time as a duo
Armin van Buuren stands backstage at Madison Square Garden, half of his body cloaked behind the large black curtain that separates the Garden’s staff tunnels and a crowd of photographers. His calm, almost unnatural so; his breathing, measured. It’s an unlikely demeanor for a man about to perform in front of a crowd of thousands at Madison Square Garden. Before Ferry Corsten and Markus Schulz as the new superduo, New World Punx, close out their set, Armin steps out from behind the curtain and slowly approaches the stairs leading up to the twenty foot high platform. Cameras flash, Armin smiles, placing one hand on the railing – turning only for a second before he makes his ascent into history.
A State of Trance’s latest tour, The Expedition, has been host to an endless supply of epic moments throughout its worldwide movement. Celebrating the 600th episode of ASOT, Armin took his band of trance producers on a trip across the globe, performing for hundreds of thousands of diehard fans. In 2011, Swedish House Mafia made history by becoming the first electronic act to perform in Madison Square Garden and, as DJMag‘s Number 1 DJ in the world, Armin van Buuren is the first solo artist to ever perform at the venue, an achievement that will likely remain exclusively his for years to come.
Only a month earlier, the Swedes had sold out the very same room, but for A State of Trance 600 the crowd was noticeably different. Stripped away were the fair-weather attendees and pop-house junkies, replaced instead by the most devout and unique fans in all of electronic music – the trance family. Armin’s legion of dedicated followers exude an energy that is unparalleled elsewhere in EDM, they have a profound sense of love for their choice of music and the artists that deliver it – true fans in every right, those who associate themselves with the trance family are passionate, dedicated and at times, positively and endearingly obsessive.
By 8pm the Garden was teeming in a sea of neon and outrageous outfits, a multicolored swath of fans from all walks of life. Despite the night ending at 1am, the technicolor crowd showed little restraint for opener Alex M.OR.P.H.’s performance, dancing and jumping as if he was the night’s headliner.
Alex was quickly followed by Armin’s most promising proteges, W&W, who have been quickly rising through the ranks with the release of “The Code” and their collaboration with the man himself on “D# Fat.” The two up-and-comers displayed an air of supernatural poise behind the decks, especially given the circumstances. Most artists dream of a chance to perform at Madison Square Garden and these two were doing it just a few years into their career and only a few months since they exploded into the spotlight. Opening with “Lift Off” the duo left little on the table during their hour long performance, mixing between their heavier trance productions and electro house tracks that did well to create a balance of melodies and energy that vibrated throughout the crowd. Even when a malfunction caused half of the Garden’s speakers to go out, the duo shrugged, kept their composure and continued to spin – raising the volume in the back half of the arena to break the momentary silence.
Next up were Markus Schulz and Ferry Corsten, performing for the first time ever as their new collaborative project, New World Punx. One of the most exciting collaborations in recent memory, Ferry and Markus opened with one of their first releases as the tandem, “Romper,” before moving into their bootleg of Binary Finary’s “1998” and the collaboration that started it all “Loops and Tings.” Delivering their more aggressive brand of trance to the sold out crowd, New World Punx stayed true to form, teetering between electro and trance, toying with the crowds energy with tracks like “Kudawudashuda” and Cosmic Gate’s “Storm Chaser,” their anime avatars flashing to the beat across the Garden’s massive LED screens. The crowd grew silent when the familiar opening monologue of “The Digital Punks of Gotham” appeared behind the duo, simultaneously blaring its message from the stacks.
“A revolution is taking place, are you a part of the uprising? Join us trance warriors – We are New World Punx.”
As the two closed out with “The New World 2013,” Armin watched calmly from backstage, the massive crowd packing close together all in an attempt to be as close to their hero as possible. What Armin has created with the A State of Trance brand is something truly awe-inspiring, he has transcended that of a DJ and become a dance music institution, a man practically canonized by his fanbase as a saint, one who works his miracles from behind a mixer instead of a pulpit.
Opening with Arnej’s “Adagio,” Armin moved into an ID and Beat Service’s remix of “Waiting for the Night,” a track that has seen heavy rotation throughout The Expedition tour. Opting for the lesser known, piano-driven remix of “Clarity” by Andrew Rayel, Armin ignited a stadium wide sing-a-long, the crowd’s screams echoing off every surface.
Leaving little room for naysayers to argue that “he always plays the same sets,” Armin took a very different approach than he had at Ultra Music Festival, curating a unique experience for his New York fans – many of whom, judging by their fading tans, had seen him only a week earlier. Leaning more towards ethereal trance, Armin artfully toyed with the vibes in the room, shaking its foundation as he bounced between Gaia’s “Humming the Lights,” his own “Tuvan,” and Dash Berlin’s collaboration with Band of Horses “The Funeral.” Paying homage to electronica icons, Activa’s bootleg of “Born Slippy” followed Bjorn Akesson’s “Gunsmoke,” creating an interesting dynamic between old and new. Always an artist willing to explore and experiment, Armin moved into the final portion of his set with his three-way mash up of Josh Wink’s “Higher State of Consciousness,” Photographer’s “Kervansaray,” and the acapella from Daft Punk’s “Revolution 909.” Closing out the historic event, Armin treated fans to his proteges W&W’s remix of “This is What It Feels Like,” leaving listeners with the name of W&W ringing in their ears – testament to both the duo’s talent and Armin’s confidence and support.
As Madison Square Garden quickly emptied out onto New York’s busy streets, the brightly-colored crowd continued to buzz and hum, anxiously recapping their nights while attempting to reunite with revelers lost in order to plan their next move. For a Saturday in New York the night was still young and with history already made at MSG, the Trance family embarked on the short trip uptown to Pacha NYC – a legion of neon in tow.