Ibiza-ness As Usual

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This past July, several of us from DJ Times had the pleasure of spending a week in Ibiza, exploring what the indisputable dance music mecca had to offer clubbers in its 2012 season.

As of late, bloggers and reporters alike have been trying to herald Las Vegas as the “New Ibiza,” but we can safely adjust that notion. Certainly, Vegas remains a major tourist destination that’s embraced DJ-driven dance music like no other North American city. But, for the time being at least, nothing can substitute for the tranquil scenery and never-ending supply of tan, beautiful people that Ibiza has to offer by day, or the breadth of dance music revelry that visitors and residents experience by night. While summer 2012 was a bit slower in attendance than past seasons—spiraling Spanish and Greek economies are most likely to blame—this year’s iteration remained unrivaled, with the added bonus of more dancefloor room to get your freak on.

The summer season and the early stages of proper beach warmth in Ibiza begin in May of each year, with beautifully sunny days and perfect temperatures. Progressing through June and September, rainfall is delightfully scarce, and in August and September temperatures can reach over 85. The warm water—usually between 70 and 80—draws sunbathers like flies to honey. Oh, and did we mention that these Spanish beaches are topless-friendly?

Our flight arrived on a breezy Wednesday afternoon—a welcome break from the roasting that Italy had just put us through. We had a taste of what was to come walking through the airport, but nothing would compare to what we were about to witness. As the taxi took us inland from the airport in Sant Jordi, we were greeted by billboard after billboard advertising the various weekly club nights, attractions, and destinations on the island.

Subliminal, F*** Me I’m Famous, Paradise, XXLERATOR, Channel Zoo, People of the Night, Vagabundos, Colors, Supalova, Judgement Sundays, Be, Cream, Ibiza Calling, Cocoon, Ovum, We Love, Pornographic, SupermartXé, Eden, DC10, Ibiza Rocks, Sankeys, Es Paradis, Playa d’en Bossa… the list goes on and on. The veritable onslaught of advertisements instantly brought us to the realization that DJs own this island.

After an unexpected hotel upgrade due to capacity issues, and with just enough time to stow our bags in Ibiza Town, Ibiza’s largest city, we made our way down the coast to Ushuaïa Beach Hotel to catch “Swedish House Mafia Wednesdays.” Unlike a typical nightclub, Ushuaïa is a posh hotel that features DJs performing from 5 p.m. to midnight in its central area, which is half pool, half dancefloor, and is enclosed by villas that you probably can’t afford. In stark contrast to Vegas, and quite bizarrely, Ushuaïa and other Ibiza hotels will almost never let you in the pools during their pool parties, though Ushuaïa did supply a kiddie pool of sorts—for the most inebriated to play in.

From July 4 through August 29, Sebastian Ingrosso, Steve Angello, and Axwell took turns helming the party, with the full trio gracing Ushuaïa with their presence once a month. This week’s edition of Swedish House Mafia’s Wednesday residency featured Ingrosso repping his Refune label with openers Otto Knows and Alesso.

Ushuaïa’s décor for the night was magenta, representing Ingrosso’s “dot.” If you’re not familiar with SHM’s marketing campaigns, they have been using a variety of objects grouped in trios. Ushuaïa’s promo materials consisted of cyan, yellow, and magenta dots, each representing a different SHM member.

Stage production was top-notch, with scantily clad dancers, acrobats aplenty, and trios of massive fireballs dancing into the air at peak moments. Occasionally, during the set revelers were even treated to an epic low-flyover by a jet arriving or departing the island. Vroom.

Over the course of the night we heard all seven SHM singles and remixes released up to that point—Eric Prydz’s remix of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” Bingo Players’ “L’Amour,” Pendulum’s “The Island,” among others. It was quite a festival headliner-style set, and a few weeks later we heard a suspiciously similar closing pyrotechnics-synced segment from the full trio at Tomorrowland. Ingrosso—amidst chants for “one last song!”—fittingly concluded with his and Alesso’s summer hit, “Calling (Lose My Mind).”

On Thursday, we dove deep into Ibiza’s techno underbelly. After a long relationship with Sven Väth and the Cocoon family, Richie Hawtin presented his first solo Ibiza residency at Space Ibiza—located right across the street from Ushuaïa—in the form of ENTER. Running July 5 through September 20, ENTER. was based on four principles: music, Sake, technology, and experience. ENTER.Music showcased an expansive lineup curated by Hawtin in the ENTER.Sake and ENTER.Air (Space’s rooftop terrace) rooms, and his collaboration with Space to fill the main room (dubbed ENTER.Kehakuma).

ENTER.Sake was the official club pre-party, beginning at an early 10 p.m. This particular Thursday showcased the sounds of Hito and the one and only François K, with Hawtin serving up free Sake and conversation to anyone interested.

Our favorite cocktail of the entire week, “The Minus,” was available during ENTER.Sake, and was so good that it begs to be recounted: First, the mixologists filled a tall glass with large ice cubes, added two circular slices of orange, and one lime. They then added mixer, ginger, and inserted a miniature hookah tip into the drink, lighting a vanilla scented tobacco, and covered the top of the glass, letting the smoke infuse with the drink for approximately one minute. They then released the cover and immediately added hot Sake. Yum.

But enough about drinks; where’s the technology aspect, you ask? Well, Hawtin served that up in the form of ENTER.Interakt, a musical art installation that patrons could interact with via the “Smudge” iPhone app, created by Liine. Each individual Smudge device began with a black dot on a white background—the minimalist theme used throughout the ENTER. experience. The shape of your Smudge determined what type of sound and light would be triggered within the installation, and the app continues to work outside Space as a collaborative or standalone sequencer.

Following ENTER.Sake and ENTER.Interakt, we bounced around for the rest of the night, buzzing to Edu Imbernon’s hefty bass, catching our breath with Alva & Byetone up top for ENTER.Air, and thoroughly enjoying Paco Osuna’s poised warm-up of the main room. After a whirlwind minimal techno set from Richie ending at 7:40 a.m.—Curtiss Lee’s “Freaks” was a sought-after ID from the set for months afterward—we followed the ENTER.EXIT signs, and fled like vampires to our coffins to recover for the next day’s debauchery.

After a short drive toward the center of the island, we found ourselves at Amnesia Ibiza for Marco Carola’s “Music ON” concept, this occasion featuring Martin Buttrich (live), Audiofly, Pirupa, Mar-T, and Marc Antona (live). Amnesia, famous for often hosting the Cocoon, Together, and Cream parties, sports a massive terrace area and confusingly smaller “main room,” where Martin, Audiofly, and Mar-T performed.

Friday highlights included Pirupa’s tribal beats, what were arguably Ibiza’s most beautiful dancers in the main room, and cheeky Audiofly wearing a shirt with his own face on it. Adding fuel to the ever-present digital DJing debate, Buttrich had an embarrassing laptop snafu that nearly ended his set several times.

Pirupa and Carola each destroyed the terrace with their own brand of tech-house, techno, and deep house; keeping energy levels high late into the night and early next morning. The once pitch-black ceiling turned into striped bars of sunlight around 6:15am, and it was Music OFF somewhere around 7:30.

Saturday night kicked off with a mouth-watering dinner at Café Mambo, located in the western city of San Antonio. We were joined by the Defected label crew, hosting their “Defected In The House” event at Pacha Ibiza later that night. Café Mambo has an arrangement with Pacha where that night’s headlining DJ will play an evening set at Café Mambo. Accordingly, we were treated to the funky sounds of Defected label-chief Simon Dunmore while we ate, and then it was off to Pacha for a second course.

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