You have all heard the stories about what goes on aboard the infamous Holy Ship!! For two years now the cruise-based festival has set a precedent for events worldwide. With the top names in dance music going to bat on five floating stages, this boat is out of control in every sense of the phrase.
Almost two-thousand fans flocked to the Bahamas for a three night around the clock party. With sets scheduled til sunrise the island-hopping rave takes the idea of a traditional festival and throws it overboard. Because of the nature of the venue, Holy Ship!! is driven by exclusivity. Those who were lucky enough to have sailed on the maiden voyage last January 2012 were given the opportunity to pre-book for 2013. Of course there’s a lot of speculation about how reservations will be taken for next year’s voyage, but rumor has it that there may be some sort of lottery system — we’ll have to wait a few months to find out.
With a lineup as massive as the MSC Poesia itself, this year Parisian legends Justice headed up the bill with support from returning artists such a Skrillex, Diplo, Gesaffelstein, Justin Martin, and new additions like Knife Party, Claude VonStroke, Tommy Trash and Girl Unit. Filled with booze, beaches, and bouncing boobies, this party is coveted by fans and artists alike.
You may want a minute-by-minute account of what really happened at sea, but even the captain’s memory is a bit hazy at this point. A few performances that really stand out in our minds include Justice’s killer DJ set on Friday night’s Sail Away show, delivered to a packed mob on the main stage top deck in true superstar fashion, with rock-centric mixes that gave a retro-euphoria to the future of down tempo but nonetheless heavy tunes. Then there was the “Tight and Bright” themed 80s Prom Night anthem dance party with Skream and friends later that morning, along with six straight hours of Dirtybird booty bass from J.Phlip, CVS, Justin Martin and Eats Everything.
On Saturday the Poesia made it’s first stop at Nassau, which was a huge upgrade from last year’s Freeport, Bahamas visit. Pristine beaches were full of coconut cocktails, fat cigars, jet skis and some high rolling shippers even paid to explore the luxurious Atlantis resort, complete with sea life and water slides.
When it was time to get back on the boat, revelers got spooky for Saturday night’s Ghost Ship theme, with some costumes as intricate as Beetlejuice and a giant, blown up Ghostbusters Stay Puff marshmallow man costume; while others improvised with their cabin bed sheets. As the sun set, the bass boomed louder, and we caught an amazing performance from Jack Beats on the main deck. One half of the duo carried the set to full force, playing new and old classics, including “Get Down” and “Just a Beat.” Jack Beats was one of the few artists (alongside Skrillex) to give a one-time performance during the 3-day excursion, and this was definitely a slammin’ set.
Later that night J.Phlip laid down those dirty West Coast beats in perfect form at the S32 Disco lounge, tucked away at the ship’s stern. As a beautifully eerie, orange half-moon rose in the sky, shameless partiers threw ashtrays and life preservers off the back of the boat in gleeful idiocy, while others collapsed at the peak of their wasted day two, only to be carefully searched and carried away by the vigilant safety crew. After J.Phlip, Girl Unit took over and kept the energy high as we bounced and swayed on a slippery dancefloor glowing with built-in Samsung LCD flatscreens. The crew couldn’t resist the groove either, and they danced while pouring drinks and taking photos with the shippers.
Saturday night’s climax was most definitely Crookers’ 4 – 5:30 am set in the Zebra bar. As you all know, the former duo recently became a one-man show, and of course some fans questioned whether Crookers could keep up their bangin’ reputation with only Phra at the helm. Well, the proof is in the performance, and this bearded Italian dynamo absolutely slayed us with a masterfully mixed, face-melting set. He spun one killer track after another, from the Crookers’ classic “Salmon Dance”, to the new hit collab with RVBRA “Pop That.” Of course Skirllex had to try to steal some “Thunder” (yes, Phra played that one too!), but he didn’t try to take over for long — check out this video to get a sense of how insanely gargantuan it was:
By Sunday, we had to gather every ounce of energy left for our final epic stop at the private island party. Destructo, the man behind the rave cruise, played the opening set as beach bums began to dot the pure, white sand. Holy Ship!! newbies were probably impressed by the scenery, but 2012 vets immediately knew that HARD/Beats at Sea/Cloud 9 had pinched a few pennies with their private island selection this year. There was no comparison — the private island of Little San Salvador in 2012 was so much more beautiful, and the stage set up was ten times more extravagant.
This year we saw a rinky-dink stage in contrast to the enormous pirate ship that Fat Boy Slim raged from last year, but with that said, this year there was a very special treat that more than made up for the downgrade in setting. Brodinski stole the show with a freaky fresh hip-hop set, establishing his reputation as a hip-hop DJ first, techno second. We saw DJ culture extend beyond dance music and sweep genre borders as Brodinski paid homage to trap with a classy flourish only he could spin just right.
The real beauty of this ultra-exclusive, intimate setting was seeing some of the top DJs collaborate spontaneously. The term b2b has been redefined by Destructo and team at HARD events, and it was a unique privilege to see names such as L-VIS 1990/Bok Bok, Baauer/RL Grime and Gessaflestien/Justice/Boys Noize all mixing in together (check out the video below!). Skrillex didn’t hesitate to pop up behind the decks at most sets to get his hands on the equipment (which was probably awesome if you’re a fan, but kind of annoying if you’re not a hardcore Skrilleypoo lover). His name was conspicuously withheld from the lineup and saved as a single “surprise” performance, so that might have been why he appeared (lurking) at most of the other artists’ stages.