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Live: Holy Ship! With Fatboy Slim, Skrillex & More, January 6-9

Live: Holy Ship! With Fatboy Slim, Skrillex & More, January 6-9
Photo by Ian Witlen

Holy Ship!
With Fatboy Slim, Skrillex, Buraka Som Sistema, Diplo,

A-Trak, Dillon Francis, Rusko, Brodinski, Egyptrixx, Dave Nada
MSC

PoesiaJanuary 6-9, 2012

Check out a slideshow from the cruise here.

Better than: All my pre-Holy Ship!

expectations -- this was pretty special...

Arriving at Port

Everglades on Friday afternoon for embarkation and only the most very

churlish could not have felt a sense of event excitement. Maybe there

was still a sense of kinetic from the previous night's feel-good Mad

Decent pre-party -- which featured somewhat of a coming-of-age

performance from Dillon Francis, a brutal DJ Craze set and a stripped

down Diplo-lead Major Lazer party. Alternatively it's just the

combination of a sense of the unknown and pure expectation of seeing an

impressive array of key electronic artists, private island parties and

the beauty of the Bahamas.


Friday, January 6

It's apparent your average

Ultra kid or very recent EDM fan doesn't fly across the country, spend

$1,000+ and book six months in advance just to party, and it was a

friendly, highly international (respect to those who flew all the way

from Australia) and ultimately a music-loving crowd who seem to be

battling through hangovers, ringing ears and a torturous line through

check-in onto the MSC Poesia.

More than anything there was

a strong sense of upbeat California in the air and it seems as if about

half of the 2,500 cruisers travelled from the Golden State. One of the

event producers, HARD, is well-established out there and they seem to

inspire an impressive live event loyalty. While most were getting settled

on the impressively modern and comfortable ship, Diplo held court

around the main pool area and introduced the Mad Decent Scavenger Hunt.

In reality, many of the tasks seemed only really possible for the truly

dedicated or those that just don't give a fuck (eg. 'Receive a Mohawk

from Rusko' - 3 points) but these kind of activities / challenges that

seemed intrinsic to the sort of spirit that Holy Ship! was about.

A

quick introduction from Gary Richards of HARD, aka Destructo (who was

highly visible and vocally appreciative throughout the weekend)

followed, and he passed straight over to Diplo for the sail away show.

In fairness, it didn't explode as one might hope, wish and expect. Maybe

everyone was still getting their sea-legs and it took some choice

Moombahton cuts and the sight of the indefatigable Steve Aoki

precariously dancing on the mixing table towards the set's conclusion to

get everyone really down.

Live: Holy Ship! With Fatboy Slim, Skrillex & More, January 6-9
Photo by Ian Witlen

During the last half an hour

of Diplo's set, the distinctively slight figure of a white-shirted

Skrillex was seen at the back of the stage holding a Macbook and

furiously connecting his set-up to the parallel mixing desk. With the

cancellation of German producer Boys Noize, due to personal reasons, the

dubstep phenomenon of 2011 from L.A. clearly relished the opportunity to

take this newly vacant Friday spot. With little hesitation he launched

into his biggest hit "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites..." and about a

thousand people on the drained out pool deck, that constituted the main

stage, lost their shit in impressive style.

Going from

this to the really quite grandiose and well designed Teatro Theatre to

see about 30 people loitering for Buraka Som Sistema was slight

unnerving, but it took less than five seconds after breaking into

'Hangover (BaBaBa)' for them to reveal themselves as a uniquely dynamic

live band. Their raw energetic beats, energy and absolute stage

charisma from their triple pronged vocal attack of Andro Carvalho

(Conductor), Kala and Blaya made them quite unlike anyone else that

played on the cruise.

Although Buraka gradually got a

crowd, one sensed that some artists struggled for people throughout due

to pure logistics. It's a big ship with five different stages and

despite the approach towards eclecticism in the line-up, it's still

primarily a dubstep and electro oriented production. This was rarely a

problem on the main outdoor deck, which was the standard organic

accumulation point for many, and Laidback Luke and Rusko delivered tight

well-received sets as two of the big-hitters on Friday. Hearing the

latter drop in Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing" was somewhat of a

beautiful, unexpected and poignantly greeted surprise.

Live: Holy Ship! With Fatboy Slim, Skrillex & More, January 6-9

Saturday, January 7

 

The

precise details of what exactly happened when the MSC Poesia ran aground at 7 a.m. on Saturday

morning are probably still clouded in ambiguity. Some cruisers

definitely thought the ship was going to sink but for many, they just

didn't notice it. Either way, the tenders which were meant to be taking

cruisers to Port Lucaya in the Bahamas from 8am didn't leave until after

noon. And there's a sense of mild discontent that emanated from some of

the passengers with extensive terra firma day-plans ahead. Obviously

many were clearly still asleep or others are diligently caned

hypoglycemic awakening and hangover curing Bloody Marys.

Port

Lucaya itself is a very lovely, colorful and friendly place and those

who made it onto the beach, where all the cruisers are directed, seemed

to enjoy a glorious Caribbean beach day. It also offered a break from

the pounding electro in the form of the solo calypso singer playing

steel drum covers of Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" and Cee-Lo

Green's "Fuck You" on the Port Lucaya jetty. He delivered his material

with a great deal of panache, yearning and passion and it would be

wholly decorous if he was upgraded to play on the boat next year.

Live: Holy Ship! With Fatboy Slim, Skrillex & More, January 6-9
Photo by Ian Witlen

Essentially

the Holy Ship! experience never really felt focused about one thing. If

you wanted to hang with some of the biggest names in EDM, then this was

also the cruise for you, and for many these little chance encounters

and strange community moments seemed to define the experience and

offered interesting viewing. Skrillex really does seem an incredibly

enthusiastic young man who's enjoying the time of his life; Laidback

Luke seems, well, pretty laidback and chilled; Diplo is everywhere and

gregarious, so is Steve Aoki, as is A-Trak and Brodinski (who also seem

inseparable); people from California are really quite friendly; Fatboy

Slim hasn't aged that well.

Due to the various problems

with the boat and perhaps more just the time of day, Destructo played to

a fairly empty early evening crowd. He does throw down some good old

school house that is punctuated between the desperate tugs away from the

sand-bank and he seemed to be having a blast throughout. A-Trak

produced a big early Saturday evening set -- he seamlessly moved between

hip hop and huge electro-house tracks and with the boat now liberated

and many cruisers having been drinking all day and now adorned in full

pirate garb, a sense of nautical infused craziness seemed to arrive.

It's

difficult to know where to start with Fatboy Slim -- he's undoubtedly

the "de facto" headliner of the event and his headline set was clearly

eagerly awaited and for many, I'm sure, highly enjoyed. Opening with a

looped version of "Praise You" is a smart move, but his set seems to

eagerly dissipate into anemic and inoffensive good time Euro house.

Surrounded by, essentially, a different generation of artists,

one couldn't help feeling as if he was a reminder that electronic dance

music has progressed well beyond 1998-1999 in a good way.

Now seemed like the ideal time to catch the much discussed Dita Von

Teese burlesque performance in the Teatro Theatre. She drew a packed

theatre and looked stunning, and her performance of her signature

Martini glass routine (as seen in the Marilyn Manson "Mobscene" video)

surrounded by a bunch of ravers is just quite a weird and hypnagogic

experience. But it lasted about five minuted and there was an undeniable

sense that people were expecting something more extended.

In

the meantime Skrillex threw down his second performance of the

weekend on the pool deck; joined by A-Trak who offers some scratching

and drawing probably the biggest crowd of the weekend. During the past

year, Skrillex has been an easy target for many but the intensity,

tightness and more than anything, enthusiasm of his performance just

can't be disputed. You sense this guy would happily play for 24 hours

straight to ten people and he'd still approach it with the same relish.

Sunday, January 8

On

Sunday, Holy Ship! just kept on giving with the incredibly eagerly

awaited private island party that started at the heady time of 10 a.m.

This perhaps also explains why many worthwhile and interesting artists,

such as Arthur Baker, Jason Bentley and Egyptrixx were playing to

miniscule crowds very late on Saturday night, but it wasn't the time to

complain. There was something quite amazing about being ferried out to a

private island at 10.30am and seeing a giant constructed wooden pirate

ship which was the party infrastructure where the DJs played (about 60

feet in the air). The sweet bass heavy Moombahton sounds of Dave Nada

were heard as we approach the island and about twenty very early-risers

are already dancing in the absolutely idyllic Caribbean Sea.

Live: Holy Ship! With Fatboy Slim, Skrillex & More, January 6-9
Photo by Ian Witlen

Dillon

Francis took over as more and more people arrived and the place

gradually developed into a full 2,500 person beach party. It was about

12.30 p.m. when Diplo assumed his position at the top of the pirate ship

and he delivered an A-game set that sent everyone wild. When Fatboy Slim

arrived for his second set, a bright red kamikaze-esque helicopter did a

planned fly-by, hovering literally feet over the thousands of ravers.

It all amounted to a huge amount of exotic and slightly strange party

fun.

 

Buraka Som Sistema, who have been the word-of-mouth

act of the cruise since their explosive set on Friday, were given main

stage status for a final sail away show and they delivered a wired and

intense set as the boat sets sail back to Florida. An extended version

of M.I.A. collaboration track 'Sound of Kuduro' caused crowds of

disparate people into waves of wild chanting and it all felt like a very

special moment.

Throughout the day, rumors had been

flowing around as to the identity of the special guest who is going to

be the main draw for the Teatro surprise party. Some said Deadmau5,

others Major Lazer, I told a couple of horrified party youths from

Massachusetts it was going to be will.i.am. And it was difficult not to

feel both surprised and completely underwhelmed when it turned out to be

the new self-proclaimed inventor of dubstep Jonathan Davis from Korn --

apparently now calling himself J. Devil -- throwing down some terrible

dirty bass tunes, cheered on by Tommy Lee from the side of the stage.

Maybe

it's just an L.A .thing, but either way it was a good time to leave and

as the night drew to a close, it was difficult not to feel reflective

upon the entire weekend. In the low-ceilinged and usually empty Pigalle

Lounge the Fool's Gold rap party captured a big crowd as Brodinski, DJ

Craze, Nick Catchdubs and others played through some classic hip hop

singalongs and back at Teatro,

Mad Decent duo Alvin Risk and then

Dillon Francis -- like where it all started at the pre-party at

Revolution -- destroyed another busy room with their bass heavy jams.

There

was never a dull moment at Holy Ship! and a strange indescribable and

modern hybrid of absolute pleasure, relaxation and intense musical

experience characterized the three days on-board. A huge party, but also

somewhat of a collection of a broad community there's the tangible

sense that plenty of people here -- whether it be the organizers, artists

/ DJs or fans -- had quite an unreal time.

Critic's Notebook

The crowd: 21-40 - generally mainstream party-people, as unpretentious

and friendly as you could get. Tight groups of friends. Lots of people

from California.

Overheard in the crowd #1: "These guys

are my new favorite band" - loads of people, during and after both

Buraka Som Sistema sets.

Overheard in the crowd #2:

"[insert a variation on lots of people looking for a girl called Molly;

who wasn't around, presumably for obvious border control reasons, it

seemed]."


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