With Fatboy Slim, Skrillex, Buraka Som Sistema, Diplo,
A-Trak, Dillon Francis, Rusko, Brodinski, Egyptrixx, Dave Nada
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.
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.
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.
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.
Saturday, January 7
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
The crowd: 21-40 - generally mainstream party-people, as unpretentious
and friendly as you could get. Tight groups of friends. Lots of people
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;
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who wasn't around, presumably for obvious border control reasons, it