MaRLo’s ALTITUDE: An Ode to a Legend

Not many can transform a tennis stadium into an indoor lightshow.

Not many have the musical backlog to play for two-hundred and forty minutes straight.

Not many have the ambition to plan an entire event, production and all, and the ability to execute it.

But then again, not many are MaRLo.

On the 16th of September, a sold out John Cain Arena gathered to celebrate a great, and to, in MaRLo’s words, become “Stronger together”.

At the final stop of his global tour, the Dutch-Australian trance legend, backed by Symbiotic events, decided to grace Melbourne with his presence once more, playing for the second time in Victoria this year after Dreamstate back in April, and bringing back his ALTITUDE show for the first time in 2 years.

Excitement, for weeks prior, had been at a boiling point. I’ve never seen more instagram notes pleading for tickets to a show, or more ridiculous screenshots going around of tickets selling for more than twice the original retail price. But with every TikTok posted from shows from around the country, with every behind-the-scenes look on MaRLo’s socials of the preparation behind the show, detailing the intricacies of every single detail, it was clear that ALTITUDE was a spectacle not to be missed. With a smaller venue than previous ALTITUDE shows, and MaRLo’s fan base ever-expanding, demand and hype for this event was unlike almost any other.

John Cain Arena is an unorthodox venue for a rave. Elevated seating surrounds an open mosh, with a fairly even split in attendees standing and sitting. Venue regulations in place to protect the safety of performing artists also meant that all bottle caps on water bottles had to be removed, meaning staying in the arena for the entire set and not leaving for water was incredibly tough and potentially dangerous, perhaps a consideration for future events.

When we arrived at the venue at 9 pm, the mosh was already almost at capacity. The duo of Achilles and Oskah were the openers, and whilst their track selection, production and stage presence were certainly impressive, it was clear that the crowd could not wait for 10 pm to roll around. And when the first 3D visual of the night popped up, when those first notes of “Stronger Together” played, it was almost like a siren for the crowd to realise that this was the beginning of the main event. “Visions” started soon after, and as the crowd echoed the melody of one of MaRLo’s most iconic songs back to him, the two songs in tandem felt almost like the introduction to a movie; a musical journey guided by a pioneer of the trance industry.

Soon after, “Haunted” played, with MaRLo later claiming this to be the biggest sing-along of the tour. It seemed that every song would elicit an audible reaction from the crowd, testament not only to MaRLo’s track selection and deep backlog of hits, but also the crowd’s enthusiasm and knowledge of every track. In those moments, with the crowd screaming at the top of their lungs, the months of build-up and hype feel warranted.

Song after song, MaRLo delivered. Elation from tracks like “Atlantis”, “Take Me Away Again” by Hardwell, and “Enough Echoes” were highlights, with the latter producing one of the most jaw-dropping laser displays of the night. Prior to the rave, MaRLo had asserted that his show would bring the most lasers ever put in the John Cain Arena, and all were on display for one of the craziest moments of the night.

For those sitting down, they potentially had a better view of the lasers than even those in the mosh. The uncertainty of when the mosh would be closed meant that many were forced to settle for seats, which could be seen as a little unfair. However, videos I saw online show lasers almost hitting you at eye level, meaning that even if you weren’t in the standing area, your experience was not diminished in the slightest. This definitely would have been a consideration of the Symbiotic team in minimising the discrepancy in experience for those standing or sitting, and with affirmations from MaRLo and his team that a larger venue would be chosen in the future, hopefully the issue of attendees being forced to be in seats will be overcome.

But amongst the familiar emphatic melodies, the jaw-dropping visuals, the roar from the crowd, MaRLo tells a very simple story, one that connects us all: the story of being human.

Behind many of the songs played during the first portion of his set, the emotions captured, both lyrically and sonically, carry a sense of sombreness. A song like “Borderline”, a touching tribute to his late mother. A song like “Say Hello”, a reflection on losing a relationship with a loved one that still carries optimism for reconnection. A song like “Whispers”, a tale of regret for unspoken words of love. Each of these songs captures what many would see as pain, suffering, and sadness. Circumstances that could make anyone feel alone, distraught, directionless.

And yet, when an entire stadium of people sings along to those lyrics, when each and every person reacts so profoundly to these anthems describing painful experiences of bittersweet nostalgia and regret, you can’t help but feel that some of those people singing along might have gone through the same thing. There is comfort in realising that we are not alone.

Stronger Together.

And it is in those moments of vulnerability that MaRLo takes the opportunity to breathe energy back into us all to experience the highs of life. Many of the songs I first mentioned carry that emphatic glory, that feeling in your body that just gives you euphoria. But perhaps none other than arguably his most iconic hit, the ethereal “Lighter Than Air”, which remains his most streamed song on Spotify.

Yet, the meaning behind the song can be deceiving. A song that lyrically details being forgotten and discarded by another person strangely carries so much joy and freedom within its melody, and main lyrical motif of being “lighter than air”. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe through any of the tragic experiences that MaRLo may detail in his music, one can still find liberation, and maybe in that sense the pure elation in the crowd from that ecstatic drop makes sense. With the addition of the live vocal performance of Mila Josef, and lyrics displayed for the crowd to sing to, this was the emotional peak of the show. Rainbow lasers emitted into the stadium, and maybe every colour symbolised every aspect of the human condition, all coming together to create something truly beautiful.

MarLo’s set may last 4 hours, but its structure is clear. The switch from his regular set to tech energy 150 minutes in is obvious, but the layers behind this decision are what makes MaRLo’s set feel truly distinct from others, and create a sense of satisfaction through the roller-coaster of emotions he brings you on.

The concept of Tech Energy is simple. The BPM goes up, the drops get harder, and the crowd gets louder. Tech Energy is where MaRLo gets to have some fun, bringing in more music from other genres and his contemporaries. But, at the same time, the psychological voyage from the first part of the set almost lays the foundations for the audience to feel nothing but excitement and joy for the rest of the show. We were vulnerable together, and now we celebrate together. We went through the lows, and now we go through the highs.

Probably the most on the nose example of this was Ben Nicky and Distorted Dream’s “We Come 1”, which has one of the most easily recognisable melodies of modern trance music, yet many of the songs that have been played at countless other events this year had their time to shine. “Exploration of Space” by Cosmic Gate , “Push Up” by Creeds, and “FTS” by Showtek all popped up, with each song providing the necessary switch-up to keep a 4 hour set engaging and exciting. Even the unofficial Knock-Out anthem “Activation” by Aversion was played, a switch to a raw sound that is extremely distinct from MaRLo’s own music, yet shows his appreciation for other genres and an understanding of current trends to give his audience exactly what they want.

Throughout the night, the audience was greeted by uniquely designed 3D-visuals, each tailored specifically and intricately to the track it accompanied. MaRLo and his team are not merely concerned with meeting expectations, but instead emphasise creating excitement through innovation, and elevating his events to a new level in every aspect. In understanding the effect of these grandiose visuals on the overall experience, ALTITUDE was able to enhance the overall experience in a big way. Expect these visuals to only get better at future shows. For those curious, MaRLo occasionally posts behind-the-scenes footage of him working on these visuals on his social media.

As MatricK and Uberjak’d continued the vibes for the final hour and closed a night to truly remember, the best thing I could say about the event is that ALTITUDE Melbourne deserved a bigger venue for more people to experience it.  For a trance event, this is about as good as it gets, with a team of people eager to push the boundaries even further for future events. Amongst the Symbiotic team is co-founder Jano, MaRLo’s wife, whom MarLo even brought out onto stage at one point. She later recapped the event on Instagram stating that ALTITUDE had become “known for the best music, best production, best vibes, best sound, best all round show.” And, to be honest, she’s probably not far off. If ALTITUDE returns in the foreseeable future, expect even more from the “A State of Trance” legend, who continuously proves that he is far from done in making his impact on this scene.


Written by Josh Lopez – an enthusiast of all things live music, regardless of genre

Whilst he is currently an Engineering student, Josh has a passion for writing and music, originally growing up with influences in Hip-Hop and R&B before falling into the rabbit holes of Hardstyle, Trance and Techno music. Josh is a part of, a university social club which hosts events for young adults where popular DJs like Coone, Anderex and Colin Hennerz have previously played.

  • Oct 04, 2023
  • Category: News
  • Comments: 0
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