On November 5th, independent record label Anjunadeep hosted its Open Air showcase event at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. This marked the second stop of the series this year, before it moves on to similar events in Bali, Tulum, and Goa.
Artists at the forefront of the imprint mesmerized a packed crowd for nearly nine consecutive hours. Many seasoned concertgoers wondered aloud how they had danced for so long as they filed out of the historic venue.
Since its founding in 2005, Anjunadeep has been home to some of the brightest stars in lower-BPM dance music. Tickets began selling quickly before a lineup had even been released. Loyal fans knew the label would hold nothing back for their first Red Rocks show. And they were right.
Opening the afternoon was a relative newcomer to the label, Nicky Elisabeth. Her “melodic techno with a twist” offers a refreshing take on the electronic music genre, combining the driving rhythms and pulsating beats typical of techno with a keen focus on melody and soundscapes. This fusion creates a unique sonic experience that’s both dancefloor friendly and emotionally engaging.
While newer to the imprint, Nicky Elisabeth (real name Nicky Kastelijns) has quite the résumé. Early attendees of the showcase were in for a treat. Her exquisite productions and excellent DJ abilities have led her to play some of the biggest stages in Europe. That energy and talent were apparent as fans quickly began to fill the seats of the amphitheater.
After what felt like only a moment had passed, the second artist of the evening suddenly appeared.
A Man of the People
Three-fourths of the stands had been filled by this point, and it was just past 4:00 PM when fan favorite Marsh took the stage. The bespectacled producer and DJ is seldom seen without a giant grin on his face. He exudes a passion and dedication to electronic dance music in every live set. He’s known for his renegade sets and atmospheric soundscapes. The crowd roared with excitement when he entered stage left.
The artist played a mix of the his typical ethereal textures and intricate production. But there was something else. Something darker.
Unbeknownst to the audience, Marsh (real name Tom Marshall) was preparing them for the absolute dance party that was to follow. As the sun began to duck beneath the foothills, the harder sounds of trance and techno began to take hold. Marshall slipped in an, as of now, unreleased track featuring Leo Wood that sent many into motion as dusk set in.
Once natural light had nearly vacated the awe-inspiring venue, a visual of flames flashed across the screens. This was only the warmup. In the absence of sunlight, Marshall played his somber yet upbeat ballad “Everything” featuring ALLKNIGHT before handing the decks off to Anjunadeep heavyweights Eli & Fur.
The Cosmos Appear
Jupiter and Uranus appeared above the twinkling Denver skyline on the eastern horizon as the London-based duo took over. Their musical style is characterized by sultry, emotive vocals, hypnotic melodies, and finely crafted, groove-driven beats. Their ability to infuse their music with a strong emotional core sets them apart.
Towards the beginning of their set was the slow, ephemeral drawl of Dee Montero’s edit of “Headspace” featuring Meliha, set to a visual of calm, open waters while orange lights illuminated the weathered rocks behind the stage. It gave viewers a feeling of weightlessness. It would be one of the last lower-tempo moments in the set.
Though having an extensive catalog at their discposal, Eli & Fur (real names Eliza Noble and Jennifer Skillman) took a journey through beloved club tracks. Alongside some of their punchier numbers, they played favorites from the likes of Marco Lys, Yousef, CamelPhat and Irenee S.
As Noble and Skillman played Tassilo Hagström’s tech anthem “Berlin,” the label bosses appeared on stage.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
James Grant founded the Anjunadeep label with EDM magnates Above & Beyond in 2005. It is fair to say that none of this would have been possible without him. Jody Wisternoff has a list of achievements any artist would strive toward but is now known for being one of the world’s foremost talent spotters in the genre. Together, the duo are known affectionately as James and Jody.
The two innovators, partly responsible for the imprint as well as elevating artists such as Lane 8, started off slow, offering solace to a crowd who had danced for nearly three straight hours.
They opened reminiscent of the way they open many of the brand’s yearly compilation albums. Very low-tempo tracks set to inspiring, droning vocals set the stage for scenes to come. The two men painted a masterpiece of progression throughout the set.
Showing off their experience and ability, the storied duo took the crowd on a journey through 18 years of Anjunadeep releases. They touched on different eras in the genre and the label.
It’s Party Time
Closing their set at a high tempo with a bootleg of Eric Prydz’s “Opus,” James and Jody passed the torch. Luttrell and Yotto are in the new guard of the genre. On paper, their back-to-back performances make sense. In practice, they find a way to exceed every possible expectation.
These two artists treated the audience to their synergy. Not only did their interpretations of techno and house merge seamlessly, but their camaraderie was evident on stage. This symbiotic relationship brought a palpable energy into the venue.
As the temperature started to plummet, the duo decided to turn up the heat with a veritable smorgasbord of remixes and mashups. It began with Yotto’s edit of Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek,” which had the whole crowd singing along. It reached a fever pitch when a mashup of Cirez D’s “On Off” vs. Masters At Work’s “Work” played.
That level of intensity persisted through the “It Goes Like Nanana” super-mix that closed out their set.
The Time Has Come
For the first time in the more than four hours that had passed since the sunset, the house lights turned on. Light from sources other than the stage lights or lasers finally touched the crowd.
Hydration was attained and bearings were regained as the headliner’s live equipment replaced the four CDJs and mixer that had previously graced center stage. Within five minutes, Tinlicker brought their live performance to life, and the lights dimmed for another hour and a half of dance.
The Dutch duo’s live setup consists of a computer that plays much of the backing bass lines and kick drums of their songs. Both have small digital synthesizers that play melodies. One Behringer Monopoly analog synthesizer is used for white noise and atmospherics.
One of the primary goals of their live performances is to push the boundaries of their arrangements while challenging themselves to keep things fresh. With this in mind, they reinvented many tracks in their discography beloved by fans. Some highlights of tracks getting the live treatment were “Fractal,” “Starchaser,” and their remix of alt-J’s “Breezeblocks.”
The live experience of EDM opens doors to further the continuous exchange of energy between performer and audience. A new paradigm of music is revealed in the many iterations of the same songs across a live tour.
When Tinlicker (real names Micha Heyboer and Jordi van Achthoven) began their final song, their remix of “Hide U” by Sian Evans, the lyrics began with: “If you were in my heart / I’d surely not break you / If you were beside me / And my love would take you.”
It was the perfect love letter to close out the world-renowned Red Rocks Ampitheatre Anjunadeep event. Tickets for the 2024 showcase go on sale on November 9th!