If last year was memorable because of record attendance, it's easy to see why in 2012 there were so many new nights. Stars like Richie Hawtin and Marco Carola struck out from Cocoon, Jamie Jones brought Paradise to DC-10, Steve Lawler came to Sankeys and Solomun capitalized on the success of his new night and played nearly every club on the island. With everyone grabbing for a piece of the pie, it wasn't clear whether there were enough slices to go around. Although things can always change in a few years, for the time being, it seems that there are.
While all that competition seemed to cause a slight drop in attendance for island staples like Cocoon, DC-10 was bigger than ever, and the island as a whole remained busy from start to finish, with parties in mid-July that rivaled those a month later when things ordinarily hit a fever pitch. Even with the rest of the world in financial crisis, tourists were still ready, willing and able to come out in droves.
Unlike in years past where the party's stars have left to pursue their own nights after hitting a certain level of fame, 2012 saw most of them staying put. Yes, Jamie Jones has a new night (in the same club), but still had multiple Monday gigs this summer. And after a meteoric rise over the last few years, resident Seth Troxler has played almost every week this summer, and deep house maestro Kerri Chandler returned for even more dates in 2012. With this heady mixture of size, fame and debut appearances by the likes of Carl Craig, it's easy to see why Circoloco has had its biggest and best year yet.
With some of Cocoon's major players having left and a new wave of underground competition around the island, attendance has slowed and the brand has realized it's time to reinvent. That's not to say that when Loco Dice plays, the house isn't packed. And when Richie Hawtin made a special return appearance finishing instead of Vath, the terrace was at its zenith till close, almost crushing him with affection after a stage dive. Nonetheless, Cocoon spent 2012 inviting a mixture of stars and newcomers who spanned more than just the freight-train techno that was synonymous with the brand for so long. Deep house phenom Maya Jane Coles made her debut early in the season, Seth Troxler returned for an opening set that had people talking for months and Cassy continues to pack it out with almost any genre she feels fits.
Still on top of his game, Vath kept things as ripe as ever this year, with one of the most commanding stage presences around. Able to go heavy, chugging, dark, dirty and epic all in one go, he still constantly draws a crowd of ardent followers. Always divisive, Villalobos returned to Cocoon as well. When he was on form, alongside Arpiar for example, a glance around the club reminded you why he's garnered such fanaticism and loyalty. Whatever the future holds for Cocoon, it's still clearly one of the most successful brands on the island, and will likely continue to be a large part of the reason Monday nights work so well in Ibiza.
The opening season of Solomun's night at Sankeys couldn't have gone better. Not only has the head honcho played at nearly every party on the island this season, he kept them coming back to Sankeys specifically. Those who were in the know showed up week after week, covered in neon paint and ready to indulge in sit downs and sing alongs till the sun came up. I've spoken about it before, but the fanaticism that comes along with Solomun, Stimming and H.O.S.H was something to behold. As Sankeys owner David Vincent mentioned early in the season, the girls love Solomun, so the guys followed.
The Life and Death showcase at DC-10 later in the summer proved why it's not always a numbers game in Ibiza. Clockwork and Tale Of Us played to one of the coolest crowds I've ever had the pleasure of partying with. When everyone has enough room to dance, and are treated to twisted, melodic funk for hours on end, one starts wishing every party were this laidback.
Over at Sankeys, Steve Lawler's new VIVa Warriors night kept the place packed all season, even extending the closing party by an extra week. With a stellar cast of guests like Guti, M.A.N.D.Y, Kevin Saunderson and resident Darius Syrossian, it's easy to see why. Lawler's penchant for detail, both visual and musical, kept the atmosphere fun and never too pretentious. The only real issue I saw with Warriors was letting the headliners close the night out. It was a fantastic gesture, but it also meant half the club walked out when Lawler's set finished. Watching so many people leave just before someone like Saunderson was disappointing to say the least. Last year, Sankeys had issues galore with programing, promotion and sound, but they've learned from those mistakes, having truly marked their territory as an alternative to big room clubbing on the island.
Channel Zoo returned again this year as perhaps the ultimate workers party. With cheap prices, easy access to season passes for workers and early opening hours, it acted as a great pre-party for other events on the island. Zoo prided themselves on bringing artists like Moodymann to the island, and despite the generally younger age of the partygoers, even the most eclectic acts connected, making the Seal Pit one of the best and only places to see DJs like The Mountain People, Jimpster and FCL.
Finally, though it wasn't an afterparty per se, tINI packed Sirocco Beach Club week in, week out, often with the same 50 or so super-fans squeezing into the front for her several hour long sets—food, drink or bathroom breaks be damned. The vibe was always electric from start to stop, and if you needed an excuse to see free, underground house on the beach with your friends before your night officially started, this was the place to be.
Over at DC-10, Jamie Jones' Paradise night brought out acts from the Hot Creations roster, like Richy Ahmed and Infinity Ink, as well as artists like Art Department, Wolf+Lamb and the previously elusive DJ Harvey, who threw an absolutely mental disco-house set earlier on in the season after a ten year hiatus from the island. Though the vibe could be a little bit rougher than a lot of other parties from time to time, the music from the guests was always top notch, and one look around you as Jones took to the decks, the crowd surging forward in anticipation, told you exactly who they were coming to see. The closing party saw both rooms open, and both Solomun and Jones played some of their best sets this season. No doubt next season will be bigger and better.
As mentioned before, Luciano wound up collaborating with Richie on a Cadenza/ENTER. night at both Ushuaia and Space, providing a much anticipated break in the rhythm of an otherwise musically predictable, though highly attended season for Luciano & friends. Luciano's guests this season included artists like Kenny Larkin, Butch and DJ Sneak—a fantastic roll call to be sure—but after hearing the Marco Faraone re-edit of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" from Luciano on each and every visit, it was clear that he was taking a formulaic approach to the night.
Sasha had another solid season at Ushuaia. With guests like DJ Sneak, M.A.N.D.Y and Tensnake in early September, or Steve Lawler and Guy Gerber in August, the party never failed to provide amazing talent. The Paul Kalkbrenner takeover was definitely the biggest night for the party this season, bringing out both ultra-fans of Kalkbrenner and island heads alike. It did seem to take Sasha and the party some time to find its footing in regards to attendance, but things got into full swing towards the middle of the season.
Over at Pacha, All Gone Pete Tong was hit or miss, as it didn't always quite carry the numbers or energy associated with a really great night. Though with such a diverse lineup that included commercial acts like Calvin Harris, Dirty South and Axwell, as well as more underground artists like Maya Jane Coles, Tiefschwarz and Trentemøller, the party may have suffered from programming consistency issues. That's not to say there weren't some truly great nights: Laurent Garnier presents L.B.S immediately comes to mind, in which the French legend packed the place to the brim and kept everyone going full bore, giving way to one of the most fun sets from Tong I've seen.
Now on Saturday, Carnival returned with many of last year's guests like Heidi, Subb-an and Russ Yallop, as well as some new faces such as Pirupa and Matt Tolfrey. It stayed true to its name, getting a boost from the post-Zoo Project crowd, who were primed to continue the party all night long. Carnival kept both the Box and Basement rooms open, something almost no other party did at Sankeys this season, again proving the club's newfound ability to promote, program and cater to their crowd in 2012.
Over at We Love... the best nights again were the Innervisions showcase with Dixon at the helm, and Henrik Schwarz and dOP providing stellar live performances. Claude VonStroke and the Dirtybird crew gave Innervisions a close run for their money though, getting the terrace pumping like few others. We Love… also once again proved their prowess for bringing fresh talent to the island with the UK bass invasion early on in the season: the Paul Wolford back-to-back set with Ben UFO went down as one of the most memorable nights of the year. The only real issue I noticed with the Sunday institution was the general lack of energy compared to nights like ENTER. or Carl Cox. This is a general sentiment, of course. Mid-season, Joris Voorn brought the house down, but it didn't seem to happen quite often enough. The talent was most certainly there, and the club had the numbers, but it seemed that just when you expected the night to really take off, it never got as totally out of hand as you wanted it to.