Positivity is a currency people in Ibiza are well used to dealing in. It's a useful defence against those who love to talk about the island's demise or decline. I've certainly made no secret in the past about focusing and celebrating those things that are truly worth highlighting. Thankfully though, in 2011, no such tactics are required. Space and DC-10 have just opened to record attendances, hotel bookings are up across the board, the International Music Summit has emerged as a real meeting point for the industry with some unique events to boot, Ushuaia has transformed the hotel opposite Space into a Miami-style adult's playground and we've even got Sankeys opening a club on the island.
Every day in Ibiza is like a festival of music, a festival that happens to take place consecutively every night of the summer for four months. As with most festivals, the musical spectrum is pulled as wide as the tension will allow. And, increasingly and encouragingly, promoters are looking to the music first as a means of achieving commercial objectives, rather than simply booking acts that fill the club. It's a subtle change in outlook that goes relatively unnoticed but will have, by this season's end, resulted in about six or seven new parties establishing themselves on the weekly party calendar. It's the equivalent of six or seven new Watergates opening in Berlin and there still being enough bread at the table for everyone to share.
Aside from the pop-dance acts like David Guetta, Tiesto and the Swedish House Mafia—who use Ibiza as their principal shop window—practically every major artist in house and techno has Ibiza as a crucial staging post in their agenda, and in many cases, their global success is shaped by it. There are numerous example but the Cocoon DJs like Ricardo Villalobos, Loco Dice, Marco Carola and formerly Luciano, are a simple example of how quickly fame and renown in Ibiza can be transmitted around the world. The more popular end of the dubstep market will also be represented stronger than ever this summer.
The Ibiza clichés these days are less about it "not being as good as it used to be" and instead hark towards Berlin and Shoreditch types espousing how they didn't think Ibiza was for them, "but then I came and saw what it was really like and now I love it." This has also been the customary response for the new wave of "underground" DJs experiencing the island for the first time in the last year or so, who made the mistake of presuming to know Ibiza or, worse, took it for granted. I challenge anyone to come to Ibiza and not experience the allure that snares thousands each year and drives them into an obsession with the place, whether that be due to the music or merely the island itself. Rest assured, good times will roll in Ibiza 2011.
We'll start with Cocoon, an obvious place as it's now long founded as a true destination party in Ibiza. The formula isn't rocket science; they book the biggest DJs around, sprinkle a bit of fairy dust on them with a concept—this year it's "Cocoon Heroes"—and the rest takes care of itself. The mainstays of the party such as Sven Vath, Ricardo Villalobos, Loco Dice, Richie Hawtin and Marco Carola are modern day galaticos of techno and with the crowds that flock to see them, it would be crazy if Cocoon did anything but base their party around these guys. Dig a little deeper though and the supporting cast will be sure to tickle your fancy, with Kyle Hall, Stacey Pullen, Nina Kraviz, Seth Troxler, Zip and Jamie Jones a cross selection of other guests.
Earlier in the day at DC-10, Circoloco leaves "The New Era" and enters "The Next Level" by further nurturing the careers of those who have been almost omnipresent for the party in Ibiza and around the world the last couple of years. There are now distinct facets to the overall whole, starting with Davide Squillace and Matthias Tanzmann's flourishing relationship, as well as Dan Ghenacia and Dyed Soundorom's continued growth within the family here, while the Crosstown infuence is absolutely critical to what's going on. Damian Lazarus, Seth Troxler, Jamie Jones and Art Department can claim to have carved a significant niche for their sound at DC-10. But the principles of the party, vested in the spirit of classic house and garage and so often overlooked, remain the key ingredient to success. With practically no marketing, it's a unique approach to doing things in Ibiza and guards the party from mass tourist onslaught. An interesting aside is the continued development of the Terrace space and VOID sound system, with last year's Paradise Garage-esque absorption panels from the roof now replaced by full roof absorption proofing and the concrete floor also now covered for acoustic reasons.
At the commercial end of the spectrum, Tiesto at Privilege, Mark Knight and Roger Sanchez at Space and the Swedish House Mafia at Pacha take the gloves off and do battle in what is the island's strongest night of music.
Carl Cox at Space
Can anyone match Carl Cox's success on Tuesday?
Tonight at Amnesia
If 2010 emphasised anything to me, it was what a true phenomenon Carl Cox is. A unique DJ in so many ways, he is arguably the only DJ to have permanently sustained his popularity through repeated generations of clubbers, rather than just keeping old fans and being regarded as a "legend" by newcomers. In celebrating 10 years of his parties at Space this year, his universal appeal is put to work, resulting in his strongest set of line-ups yet. Favourites like Laurent Garnier (LBS show), Green Velvet, John Digweed and Andy C are again involved, while both Richie Hawtin and Loco Dice break from their Amnesia exclusivity for guest slots. It all kicks on July 5th with a ten hour set from the man himself.
You'd have to be half-crazy to go up against Cox after the size of his crowds last year, but Amnesia rarely shy away from anything and their new event, called Tonight, is yet another party that, based on line-ups alone, has to be respected. Spearheaded by Eric Prydz and Annie Mac, the final product is a bit of a mish-mash and is definitely risky for Ibiza, but you get the feeling this could work, even if it may take a while. Prydz brings in the artists with whose sound he most usually aligns himself, such as Adam Beyer, 2000 and One, Sasha and Sebastian Leger, meanwhile Annie Mac will no doubt have used her little black book in helping secure the likes of Skream, Benga, Katy B, Diplo, Tiga, Chase & Status and Boys Noize. A big contrast in sounds then, which is never the easiest jigsaw to piece together. The pressure will therefore fall mainly on the shoulders of Eric Prydz, and it will be interesting to see what pulling power the Swede has as the lead name.
Solidifying the varied program of one-off events on Wednesdays at DC-10 in 2010, From Disco to Techno will run weekly from July 2011, with the clue very much in the title and the programming switching from contemporary techno names like Martin Buttrich, DVS1, Visionquest and Circoloco regulars like Squillace, Tanzmann and Jamie Jones through to iconic names of disco and house such as Tony Humphries, Danny Krivit and Nicky Siano. Humphries played a gig at the club in 2010 and his classic garage sound was completely at home at DC-10; the performance remains a highlight of recent years.
At the other end of the scale in terms of strategy, one of the island's leading—and most marketed—brands Ibiza Rocks, steers its schedule increasingly pop with acts like Chase & Status, Magnetic Man, Tinie Tempah, Professor Green and Dizzee Rascal at the expense of the more traditional guitar-based acts of earlier years. (Bands like Biffy Clyro, Friendly Fires, The Vaccines and The Wombats still represent however.) Madness, who play in September, are one of a number of popular-in-the-'80s bands to be performing in Ibiza this year.
Zoo Project offshoot, Channel Zoo, focus on label showcases with offerings from 2010 including Wolf + Lamb, 20:20 Vision and Area Remote. Completing the agenda are parties headed up by heavyweight dance acts like Armin Van Buuren at Space and Erick Morillo at Pacha, while brands Godskitchen and Gatecrasher look for a return to the island at Privilege.
Kehakuma has rapidly emerged as Space's leading in-house promotion and the plan for 2011 sees a streamlining of the party, losing top heavy acts like Booka Shade and investing in young talents on the underground house circuit. Nick Curly takes a prominent role again as the party's ambassador and an absolute wealth of artists support over the long run of parties. Seth Troxler, Jamie Jones, Radio Slave, Maya Jane Coles, Johnny D and Christian Burkhadt are merely a small fraction of the hundreds billed. The message here is loud and clear: This sound and these DJs are embarking on a long span of being in-demand and highly visible faces for Ibiza's parties.
Monza, undoubtedly an islander favourite, will be seeking to convert such popularity into true success, particularly as one of the flagship parties at the new Sankeys venture in Playa D'en Bossa. Calling on dependable names like Paco Osuna, Nima Gorji, Masomenos and Manu-L, guests will include some Circoloco DJs and we'd put a small fortune on Ricardo VIllalobos playing the Closing Party, as is tradition. After a couple of years finding their feet or, to all intents and purposes, being homeless, it would be great to see Monza make a mark this summer.
Thursday is likely to emerge as Ushuaia's strongest day of parties, with Luciano and Cadenza lined up for a bi-weekly residency. They will alternate with Sasha's Never Say Never bash that was so successful in 2010 and saw guests like Cassy and Damian Lazarus feature. Meanwhile, in the region of 10,000 people combined will be making their way to see David Guetta at Pacha or attending Cream at Amnesia.
All Gone Pete Tong at Pacha
Pete Tong comes home to Pacha in 2011
Come Together at Space
I Want My MTV at Amnesia
Pandemonium at DC-10
Such is the rapidly evolving landscape of Ibiza's club scene: In the space of one close season, Friday night has emerged to challenge Monday as the biggest scrap for punters. Pete Tong is still on Friday but he returns to former home Pacha and serves up an A-list roster. And for every Fatboy Slim there's a Stacey Pullen in return. Derrick Carter, Paul Kalkbrenner, Matthias Tanzmann and Laurent Garnier are among the more interesting names for the party branded All Gone Pete Tong.
Tong's new package will have shaken up Come Together (Space) slightly, who—after shifting from Thursday's battle for numbers—have found themselves in a new Group of Death, thanks to the arrival of MTV to Ibiza once again for a weekly run at Amnesia from the beginning of July. Come Together's premise was one very much built around diverse programming and live performances and in 2011 they can point to De La Soul, Chase & Status, Faithless, Magnetic Man, Boys Noize, Mark Ronson and Tinie Tempah as key draws. MTV, however, are big players and unprecedented shows with Snoop Dogg, Plastikman, Duran Duran and Primal Scream set a yet higher benchmark for the burgeoning gig scene on the island. I Want My MTV will also feature a strong DJ roster with Marco Carola, Magda, Layo & Bushwhacka!, James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem), Beardyman and Nina Kraviz likely to prove popular assets to the party.
For the straight-up club night, all roads point back to DC-10 for Tania Vulcano's no-nonsense music party Pandemonium, which is well established as the venue's second night. Cassy, DJ Qu, Art Department, Kerri Chandler, Willie Graff and Nina Kraviz (who is set to make a big impression on the island this year) are representative of the quality expected from this event.
Well known as a slow day in Ibiza, on Saturdays DJs pick up their big fees elsewhere in the world and the island has to think differently about how it tackles things. Nobody has turned that problem further to their advantage than The Zoo Project, who have created a global brand in the space of a few years and fiercely maintain their unique selling point of providing electronic music, outside and during the day. They have possibly the tightest group of residents of any party in Ibiza, and much of the programming focuses on them, with usually one headline guest each week. Ray Okpara, Monika Kruse Hector and (naturally) Catz 'N Dogz are typical guests.
Let's also give our annual shout out to Underground, the bar/club in San Rafael in the centre of the island, which offers a nightly alternative to the big room experience and always has a quality guest to provide the soundtrack. Combining a bar feel outside on the terrace with house party-like vibes inside in the small club space, Saturday tends to be the most popular night and you're likely to come across anyone from DJ Sneak to Alex Celler behind the decks. Nima Gorji plays a key role in the bookings here.
There are a host of variations in the other nights on Saturday, camp machoism at Matinée, plain camp at Cafe Olé and wannabe camp at Hed Kandi, but Defected at Pacha is somewhat of a dark horse, providing, in my opinion, one of the only places on the island to hear true house music and regularly with a dubby and techy edge to it.
We Love at Space
Last year's biggest success story, Luciano, returns to Pacha
Cadenza at Pacha
Privilege Live! at Privilege
With the tongue-in-cheek billing of "The Greatest Show on Earth," We Love yet again prove themselves to be the most forward-thinking and trialblazing party on the island, all while somehow managing to keep the six arena Space "Big Top" upright by pleasing all of the people, all of the time. While Fatboy Slim, 2 Many DJs, James Zabiela, Joris Voorn and Groove Armada provide a flavour of the main crowd pleasers, Detroit remains central to proceedings with Carl Craig, Derrick May, Octave One and Jeff Mills all rolling into town. It's in the selections of Caribou, Pearson Sound, Lindstrom and Appleblim—to name just a few—that We Love really flex their strongman muscles; these artists just simply aren't on the radar in Ibiza. We could go on forever, but other key highlights worth mentioning include Laurent Garnier's LBS, Slam, Tensnake, Claude VonStroke, Aphex Twin and an RA party on July 24th that sees Ame, Henrik Schwarz and Dixon host an Innervisions Showcase.
One of 2010's successes, Cadenza and Luciano, continue the Vagabundos theme and have put together another roster of quality electronic music. Their party is very much centred around one individual, but Cadenza nevertheless follow a similarly fresh booking policy. All the label's artists feature heavily and many of the best moments from 2010 look set to be repeated with Carl Craig, Stimming, Moodymann and DJ Koze all back. That said, it's new faces like Larry Heard, Stacey Pullen (one of a number of dates for him in Ibiza) and Isolee that grab the attention most.
One still with sketchy details is Privilege Live!, which—as the name suggests—will signal the monolithic club's more frequent venturing into gig style events; Infected Mushroom and Jamiroquai are a couple of the early confirmations.