This week we survey the island's outdoor party scene.
You might not think it, but it's surprisingly hard to party during the day in Ibiza. Our third weekly column of the summer examines the reasons why, as well as shining a light on the few clubs that are trying to revive the trend in 2014. There's also a return for our "Behind the scenes" feature series, and a roundup of the past week's goings on.
Daytime clubbing in 2014
Dancing outside is the very foundation of Ibiza's clubbing culture. Amnesia, Privilege, Space and DC-10 were all once roofless, presumably built that way because parties were better in the sunshine. But in 2008 everything changed. In direct response to the island's increasingly hedonistic and moneyless after-hours scene, San Antonio council, and later San Jose, passed a law that forbade clubs from opening between 6 AM and midday. Not long after, a second law was passed, extending the curfew to 4.30 PM. From now on, the likes of Space and DC-10 could only open during the day for opening and closing. In the space of a few months, Ibiza's underground scene had had its heart ripped out.
Space Terrace, 1992.
The carry-ons continued but they were close-knit affairs, with only those in the know gaining access to the week's hidden restaurant, beach-bar or, at best, private villa. The clubs, meanwhile, began operating as most clubs do, running events that went from dusk till dawn. Island life rolled on. It makes sense, then, that when the seal was broken in 2013, it was by the island's new kid on the block, Ushuaia. Like countless others, the Playa d'en Bossa beach club had launched a full seven-night roster. However, unlike its counterparts, Ushuaia was in the open-air (which made it successful) and faced the sea (which made it legal.) Sam Dean, one of the directors at Plan Be and Emerging Ibiza, explains: "From what I understand, all they do is direct the music towards the sea, where there are no laws or limits on noise-pollution." As a result, Loco Dice's Used + Abused event and Ushuaia's in-house bash ANTS were both regularly open from 1 or 2 PM last year.
Elsewhere, the trend never really spread. Most of the outdoor Ushuaia Tower residencies fell flat, while weekly rumours that DC-10 would be opening the Garden mid-season never became more than hearsay. There was the odd exception, though. Plan Be, located along the road to Santa Gertrudis, was a fully-functioning open-air club. But even then, it only opened sporadically and was subject to regular police checks. Being there, you always felt it was on the verge of being shut down.
The Garden at Circoloco, 2014.
Fast-forward to June 7th, 2014—at the opening of Guy Gerber's Rumors, that's exactly what happened. "Our achilles heel was always that we were an outside venue, meaning that the noise at the perimeter had to be below 75dB," explains Dean. "On the floor we could do 100, though, which is enough for a party. And then, four days before we opened this year, the council of Santa Eulalia passed a new law that lowered the perimeter limit to 45dB, which makes throwing a party impossible. About 10 PM at the opening the police game and served us a multa (fine), and issued a statement to shut us down. Now, the only option available to us is to apply to do one-off events, which requires a specific permit each time. If you're, shall I say, friendly with the council, these can take a week to process. If you're not, they can take a month. To be honest, it's more likely looking to be the end of Plan Be." They weren't the only ones hit: Destino, Pacha's hotel-cum-venue, fell victim to the same thing, forced to delay its May 30th opening to an unspecified date.
What's perhaps most unfair about this is that elsewhere on the island—under the more generous jurisdiction of San Jose council—outdoor clubbing seems to be making a resurgence. Last week Circoloco hosted DJs outside on a week other than the opening and closing for the first time since it revamped the Garden. That might not sound like much, but regulars at DC-10 will testify to just how enjoyable and different an experience that is. The fact that this happened on a fairly ordinary Monday in June suggests there's more to come.
Cova Santa, 2014.
The Amnesia-owned Cova Santa is pushing the boat out further, staging two high-profile open-air residencies. Previously only home to the occasional Music On afters, the picturesque mountain venue will now host Luciano for six dates and Solomun's Diynamic for eight. With music running from 3 PM through midnight outside, and until 6 AM inside, it should add another dimension to the island's clubbing landscape. Space, too, are pitching in with a daytime concept: Stripped at We Love... Described as "a nod to the past," the pre-club warm-up will see the Sunset Terrace open from 4: 30 PM every week, with unannounced guests providing the soundtrack. Judging by how busy it was at the opening, it could be a timely move. Ibiza's party scene may never return to its sun-lit heyday, but any step in that direction is welcome.
Behind the scenes: Artist liaison
Con Mitsou is a shining example of how to work your way up the ladder. Arriving jobless in 2007, he soon found a position as a posterer for Carl Cox at Space. Today, he's an integral cog behind the scenes at Safehouse Management, one of dance music's global powerhouses. With Safehouse now co-running We Love... on Sundays, we caught up with Mitsou to discuss the ins and outs of being an artist liaison.
Let's start with a brief introduction. When did you first come to the island?
I first came to the island in 2007. I got my first job as a posterer through Dave Browning, who runs Carl Cox's residency at Space. From there I rose to team-leader and the rest is history.
And what is your role within Safehouse Management today?
I'm a project manager for Carl Cox and We Love.... This season I'm concentrating more on We Love..., running the PR teams and doing artist liaison on the night.
Take a typical Sunday night at Space—as artist liaison, what time do you clock on?
I'll start at 10 AM getting all the guestlists ready. Then at 4 PM we open for Stripped. I have to make sure everyone has their drinks tickets and that the DJs have their riders. After that, we set up all the rooms inside. It's my job to make sure everything is ready to go for the artists as soon as they arrive. And then we sort the different kinds of wristbands—for the DJs, press, guests. Once the night starts, I'll man the Discoteca and keep an eye on the other rooms. It's basically just making sure everything is working and the artists are happy. I'll be the first to start in the morning and usually I'm the last to leave. It's a bloody long day.
I imagine a club like Space runs pretty smoothly, but what are some of the hiccups that can occur on any given night?
Different things happen every time. A common one, though, is DJs running late. In that case, I have to let the DJ before know that they need to keep playing. And then there's always the DJ that goes missing. They come in, get their drinks and start wandering about with their phone switched off. Another big one is drivers. DJs will come, play their set and there'll be a driver to pick them up straight after. But then they want to stay and party. I've had situations where at the end of a night you've got 10 DJs and only two cars. I've learnt to really insist that people go back to their hotels and get some rest before tomorrow's flight. That happens a lot at We Love... especially, the artists seem to like to stick around. Little things like that. And then of course all the usual guestlist issues. People not being on the door. Blaggers. So many blaggers.
You mentioned artist riders. Any ridiculous requests?
I've heard that's a popular one.
If you have a live band on then it can get a little out of control. We tend to not give them everything, but they'll ask for four pairs of black socks or a certain type of crisp, or drinks that we don't have in the club. Coconut water is a big one at the moment. Space doesn't supply it, so we have our supplier make sure we've got enough on the night.
I would've thought your job is made easier at We Love..., given the amount of residents that play.
Definitely. When you're working alongside your friends the atmosphere is a lot different, everyone's more comfortable. When it comes to their riders, we're much more flexible. They often send a rider, but on the night we're happy to change anything on there if they fancy something different.
Obviously there are a lot of practical tasks to take care of, but I would have thought the most important part of the job is that you're representing the club. I imagine in a lot of cases, you're the link between the DJs and the venue.
Yeah, and that can be difficult. Balancing the stress of work with having to remain calm, polite and professional at all times. From the minute they get there to the minute they leave, I'm sometimes the only person they talk to.
And of course you're dealing with a lot of top-tier DJs, some of whom have famously big personalities. In terms of managing them, what's the best approach?
Stay professional and be attentive to their needs, within reason. Sometimes they'll want a bottle of champagne, which is fine, and then they'll ask for another two and you have to ask them to reign it in. The aim is basically to make sure they don't get too drunk.
Finally: what's Carl Cox's favourite drink?
That's easy. When he gets in the booth, before he even starts, he'll have a vodka and Fanta Limon.
This week on the island
Music On opening at Amnesia
It's hard to see how Marco Carola and Music On could top 2013. The Neapolitan outfit reached such an apex last year that you feel this season is more about maintaining success than building on it. And indeed their lineups reflect that, with almost all the same names set to return. Two of those, Visionquest pair Shaun Reeves and Ryan Crosson, were booked to warm up the Terrace at last Friday's opening. Playing back-to-back, they span fairly inoffensive tech house, picking it up a little as their 4.30 AM cut-off point loomed.
Carola, clearly eager to get on the decks, took over 15 minutes earlier than scheduled, informing the crowd of his arrival with a typically huge, bass-driven track. From there, he kept the grooves firing thick and fast, leaning heavily on his trademark machine-gun drops, and slightly naff hip-house vocals. But as booming as it was, the records just weren't hitting home as usual, extending an invite to dance rather than forcing you. Admittedly, I never made it past 6.30AM—some people I spoke to had few words for what came after. From where I was standing, though, it felt a little too much like a Friday night in 2013. The party still packed a punch, but it would be good to see Carola really test his limits this summer.
The Zoo Project opening at Gala Night
With the opening of Gatecrasher, and more specifically Crèche, there's been a lot of talk this season about underground dance music finally landing in San Antonio. It seems a strange claim, though, given that The Zoo Project has, for several years, resided less than a five-minute cab ride away. Since 2007, the Gala Night staple has flown the flag for US-inspired deep house in Ibiza, cornering a niche in the market that remains otherwise untouched. But as last Saturday's opening showed, there's more to The Zoo Project than just the music.
For one, it's more of a festival than a party. There are people—young, ecstatic and mostly British—everywhere. Groups stand about singing loudly to each other, couples kick back in the designated circus-cum-chill-out arena and a safari of body-painted revellers moves animatedly at one of several stages. In the seal-pit, resident Evan Baggs was signing off with a medley of rocking house cuts. This set things up neatly for Dungeon Meat, who stuck much to the same thumping course, albeit with a bouncier, more '90s edge. Samuel Deep's edit of Grobbie's Headshot, in tandem with Todd Terry's "I Thought Your Love," went down a treat with the packed amphitheatre. With Jovonn, Ron Trent and Virgo Four all to come, The Zoo Project is proof that San Antonio has long had underground appeal—you just have to know where to look.
We Love... opening at Space
One of the season's more intriguing changes has taken place behind closed doors at We Love... HQ. Safehouse Management, the driving forced behind Carl Cox and his award-winning Space residency, is now a co-partner at the Sunday staple. As a result, there's a renewed sense of vigour about the party, not least because of its UK-strong team of residents. Leading with the new Stripped concept, which saw Shaun Reeves and Just Be perform to an up-for-it Sunset Terrace from the early hours, the party then moved inside, soundtracked initially by Ben UFO playing back-to-back with Paul Woolford.
Spinning in the Terrazza, the pair were faced with the difficult task of filling the room, while staying true to their left-of-centre styles. This was especially true of the Hessle Audio boss, who, unlike Woolford, steered clear of traditional big room tropes. Instead, he leant heavily on thickset tracks from Anthony Naples, Marley Marl and Joy O. Over in the Discoteca. PBR Streetgang were rolling out warm, tempered house with considerable flair. Musically it was great, but it was a sharp contrast to Rudimental's pounding, vocal-led fare. Even that, though, had its charm. DJing with intermittent support from trumpeter Mark Crown, two of the four band members rinsed their way through hits from Julio Bashmore, Warren G and Shy FX, before a medley of their own chart-toppers transformed the dance floor into something of a festival scene.
Cova Santa - Music On
Music On - Amnesia
The Zoo Project - Gabriel Sergent
Glitterbox - Phrank.net
All others - Tasya Menaker
For more information on what's happening on the island in 2014, check out our comprehensive Ibiza guide below.