As night began to fall on December 31, 2008, 50,000 New Year’s Eve revelers descended into downtown LA to celebrate the upcoming year, dance the night away, and see a show unlike any other at the time. Armin Only: Imagine, was a 9 hour feast for sense, featuring the one and only, Armin van Buuren. As exciting as the whole premise was, I don’t think anyone actually knew that the stars were about to align and this particular night was about to go down in Southern California as one of the greatest shows that this generation of ravers had ever seen.
Finally, after more than 5 years, and a canceled show in 2011, Armin Only will be returning to Los Angeles on May 9. As we gear up to once again be amazed by the man that has been dubbed the Trance God, and held the crown of the world’s number one DJ an unprecedented 5 times, let’s take a trip back to Armin Only 2009. If you were there, get ready to experience a massive dose of nostalgia, and if you weren’t, consider this a glimpse into the foundation that built the scene you are in today.
Imagine, Armin van Buuren’s third studio album, had been released in April of 2008, and spawned many classic tracks, including “In and Out of Love,” “Unforgivable,” and “If You Should Go.” The music video for “Fine Without You,” with vocalist Jennifer Rene was actually shot in Los Angeles and includes scenes from the Los Angeles Sports Arena and Armin Only.
“Armin Only at Together as One was probably the awe inspiring rave to memory. Listening to “Fine Without You,” live was the most memorable moment. Plus, every time I listen to the, “Imagine” album now I have a feeling of nostalgia and sense of happiness runs through my body. That's how you know it was a night to remember,” ~Lydia Traylor
The Los Angeles Sports Arena hosted Armin Only: Imagine, the massive structure offered a giant dance floor as well as stadium seating at the top. The venue was also an incredible backdrop for the massive production that was brought in for the event, the pitch black darkness of the arena amplified the lighting, and of course, the sound in there was immaculate. The entire place would rumble with every beat, sometimes I half expected pieces of the walls to start breaking off. This was the perfect place for a show of this caliber to be held.
“I vividly remember the curtain, a tall, circular curtain that hung from the ceiling and they occasionally showed Armin’s silhouette through it. Music-wise, he started very progressive, about 128 bpm, while the curtain was still up, and then the intro started… very epic sounding orchestral music, and a booming voice saying things like “Let your imagination run wild..” Everything kept building, and as the lights flashed, the curtain let loose and fell. Armin was standing there with his familiar ‘Jesus’ pose and the tempo instantly jumped to 135+. And being New Year's Eve, U2s “New Year's Day,” and clips of Obama, saying "Yes we can..” amid the booming voice counting down like a NASA liftoff until midnight. In my honest opinion, one of the best shows I've seen live, and a New Years I'll never forget.” ~Mark Keough
Whether Armin Only was there that night or not, on New Year’s Eve, midnight is going to be the biggest moment of the night, and this was one for the books. Not only was there an explosion of effects from lighting to lasers to confetti but the countdown also touched an emotional nerve with this young crowd.
Less than two months earlier, Barrack Obama, had been elected as President of the United States. Putting all political opinions aside, at that time, in those moments, the youth of America was buzzing with excitement. We felt like we had been part of a revolutionary and historical moment. We all believed that in 2009 thing were going to change, and that we were part of that. In a very poignant way, President Obama’s victory speech was mixed in with the music during the countdown, and it absolutely brought the house down as the crowd echoed, “Yes we can!”
“I remember that countdown being one of the most epic I had ever experienced at a New Year’s Eve event. The way they stopped the music and set the timer for 5 minutes before midnight is how it was and should be done for any New Year’s event. I remember Obama speech just made the whole arena go nuts. There was a great sense of unity and brought everyone together even more than just the fact that it was midnight on New Year’s eve. That party will without a doubt go down as my favorite New Year's event/TAO of all time!” ~Mike Sackrider
As spectacular and unforgettable as the countdown and midnight celebration was, it was only a tiny fraction of Armin van Buuren’s 9 hour marathon set, a feat that was pretty much unheard of at that time. The question of how one DJ could entertain for that long weighted on many attendees before arriving, but as the intricacies of the show unraveled throughout the evening, it was very apparent that this was a methodically planned and executed show, and it was done in a way that kept everyone glued in the Armin Only vortex.
“Although, I had my doubts about a 9 hour set, within the first hour and half of being there I was sure that the night was going to be special. What sticks out in my mind the most about Armin Only was the journey the show took us on. There were sections of the show… sight, smells, taste, sound, touch… and within their respective section each of these concepts was brought to life through the music. It was storytelling at it’s best. Everything about it just felt very real and pure.”~Angelo Sansonetti
Through the journey, Armin van Buuren, was joined on stage by live performers which included vocalists from this tracks, musicians and dancers. These types of performances was also a fresh concept to many of us that were in attendance.
“That was my first ever Armin Only show and I remember heading out there feeling the tummy butterflies floating around as they were getting prepared for being released. Armin killed it and the show was amazing! I remember it being very different then any other raves I had been to because Armin put on a complete show… brought out numerous, different live artists to preform songs that they had made with Armin, including his brother who played guitar.“ ~ Spayduh
The finally piece of what made the night so magical was the people that were there. All the DJ’s, production, and music in the world couldn’t have made this event what it was without the incredible vibes the 50,000 attendees were putting out that night. Unlike, today, (sorry kiddos!) we were a group that showed up to participate, and not to stand around and watch. We left our cell phones in the car and we stayed in the moment for all 9 hours. We were the final piece of the show and the most important one.
“I can't describe the vibe but it was good! In my opinion that vibe isn't around anymore. Not saying that Armin made the vibe extra special that night, I just think it was just better back then.” ~Jessica Mazza
Armin Only: Intense tickets for May 9th at the Los Angeles forum are available here. If you are going to be in attendance, please remember how important you are to the show and make it another night to remember just like in 2009