The real story, though, was that 2009 was the year that La Isla Blanca fought back; the opening hour restrictions were exploited to their full extent, a whole new breed of outdoor day parties started in the beach bars of Playa D'en Bossa, many clubs and parties realigned their programming in realisation that quality now really does matter and, more than anything, all of the most famous parties rocked harder than ever.
The music was as strong and solid as always, and there were plenty of exceptional individual performances to note, but it certainly wasn't a vintage year for anthems. The top 20 of RA's Top 100 charted tracks of 2009 provide an idea of what was popular, with "La Mezcla" the big, crossover tune that got rinsed everywhere. While genres like trance (Cream, Armada, Judgement Sunday) and electro (most nights at Pacha, Supermartxe, Matinée) fed an unquenchable demand, the real music parties found house inspiration at the forefront of nearly everything, whether it be Sneak on the Cocoon terrace or Carl Craig's abyss-deep house or Roger Sanchez's jackin', funkin' style that could so easily be 1995.
In many ways the music was a lot friendlier and much more accessible. Even DC-10 was practically a minimal-free zone, with Ricardo and Arpiar's four-hour medley in the Garden Terrace devoid of the clichéd plinkety-plonk sound so associated with the venue. It was great to see the Circo Loco bandwagon roll back into town, although I'm not sure this year's sole show will go down as a classic however much we all enjoyed being back there. Ultimately, Ibiza 2009 didn't zealously break new ground, but it did have a smile on its face.
Finally, a mention to two parties that should be at the top of your "must-do" list for any Ibiza trip. Firstly, Flower Power—which takes place monthly on Sundays at Pacha—is unique and is a quintessential Pacha experience of yesteryear. Descriptions would only spoil it, just go with an open mind and enjoy. Secondly, Amnesia Closing Party—the safest bet as the summer's best party—is just a magical vibe of meaningful, atmospheric, good times clubbing with great music to boot. This year Luciano started at 9 AM and was followed by a five-hour techno assault from Richie Hawtin and Marco Carola that had the throbbing terrace beaming. An awesome clubbing experience. Until next year!
Of those that starred in the mammoth closing party—Papa Sven, Ricardo, Luciano and Loco Dice—it is the last of that quartet for whom 2009 could be seen as a new dawn. Freed from his DC-10 reputation, something changed in Dice this year and his ability to really tune into the needs of his audience led to some inspirational and captivating performances. One of the highlights of the season was also the "We Party Like 1989" event featuring a brilliant Underworld full-length live show; it was great to hear "Theme from S'Express" and "Throw" in a club environment for the first time in a long time.
Over the road, Tiesto at Privilege is gradually become even more mainstream, with locals eager to check out the "show." There is reason for this, as the stunning visuals are executed with military precision, but Tiesto's sound is so bad, it's practically unbearable, with even loyal fans disillusioned with his departure from trance and melodic house.
The best of the rest: After a slow start, the Swedish House Mafia proved to be one of the stronger nights at Pacha, peaking when guests Dizzee Rascal and Basement Jaxx performed in September.
Armada / Release Yourself at Amnesia
Carl Cox at Space
Reclaim the Dancefloor at Eden
Ibiza Rocks at Ibiza Rocks Hotel
Roger Sanchez's gamble in moving from Pacha to Amnesia's terrace has certainly paid off, with the don of house music proving that he still has the pulling power in the cutthroat Ibiza numbers war. One of his victims, though, happened to be his Amnesia counterpart, Armin Van Buuren, whose main room crowds just couldn't stay away from the S-Man and the his ubiquitous house music sound that is threatening to boomerang back us back to the mid-90s.
Ibiza Rocks, meanwhile, sold out every single event they had and showed once again that their concept has a firm place within Ibiza's party scene. Spin-off after party, Reclaim the Dancefloor at Eden, enjoyed moderate success on the back of the concerts, although diverse acts such as Benga and Skream never drew the crowds that organizers hoped.
La Troya at Amnesia
Subliminal at Pacha
Meganite at Privilege
Channel Zoo at Gala Night
Nano at Blu
Luciano at Ushuaïa
Then there was Luciano. After the buzz surrounding the Swiss DJ in 2008, I half expected this year to be somewhat of an anti-climax for an artist so obviously on the cusp of global stardom. Well I was wrong, very wrong. Young Lucien was a one-man roadblock this summer; from his Monza gig in July to his Cocoon treble to the Cadenza special at Channel Zoo that turned the surrounding area into somewhat of a riot zone due to the amount of people trying (unsuccessfully) to get in. Eventually the demand was too much and Ushuaïa, the Playa d'en Bossa beach bar, became home to Luciano every Wednesday afternoon and evening during September. There was no doubt that this was a testing of the water for the inevitable Luciano residency offers in 2010—Amnesia have already had a Sunday proposal unsurprisingly rejected—but that hardly mattered to most clubbers. Put simply, dancing outdoors under the stars, with the sand between your toes and being able to see the likes of Luciano, Reboot and Seth Troxler without door tax, is why thousands of people will be coming back to Ibiza next season.
Time then to recognise another one of Ibiza's lesser known gems, Underground. Situated near to Amnesia and Privilege, this is the perfect "if all else fails" venue, with free entry for girls and only 10€ with a free drink for boys, and every night (except Sunday) artists like Nick Curly, Rhadoo, Sneak, Matthew Jonson and Matthias Tanzmann came in 2009 to prove that it's not all about the glitz and money-making in Ibiza.
Despite boasting a fresh looking line-up this season, Monza's minimal techno event just didn't work. There were exceptions of course, such as Luciano in July and his return for the closing that also starred Villalobos and M.A.N.D.Y., but the night really struggled to perform as hoped, largely for two reasons. Yes, the dreaded numbers game truly did affect Monza, which, being one of the second-tier parties on the island, saw a big fall in attendees from 2008. The second—and more pressing—reason? The concept of Monza in Privilege just doesn't fit. A party that is based almost entirely on the music—on what it sounds like, its intricacies and nuances and how it makes you feel—simply cannot work in a club whose sound system is barely adequate and size masks whatever quality is left. Don't be surprised if Monza is among those thinking twice about a return in 2010.
Kehakuma at Space
Pure Pacha at Pacha
Supermartxé at Privilege
Wonderland at Eden
Pure Pacha, the night Tong left behind, decided to continue the "dance act" theme by recruiting Calvin Harris (four dates) and Justice in support of resident Sander Kleinenberg. Without question, this was one of the poorest parties of 2009. The club was uncomfortably full of non-clubbing tourists—the type who go to Pacha just to go to Pacha and have no interest in electronic music. Pure Pacha is a classic example that in clubland Ibiza nothing is sacred—Fridays at Pacha are a traditional full house—and success is never guaranteed, no matter who the DJ is.
The most interesting Friday development was at Space, who dealt with the double blow of losing La Troya and Matinée by focusing on a new and very specific musical direction, namely Mannheim house. Their in-house, free party called Kehakuma featured Nick Curly and Ray Okpara for the opening in July and subsequently featured nearly all the Mannheim posse, including the extended Cécille, 8Bit and Oslo families, largely on the recommendation of Curly. The very specific house sound that ensured a packed Space Terrace every Friday will return again in 2010. Don't be surprised if Curly has an even more prominent role.
Matinée at Amnesia
Defected at Pacha
Hed Kandi at Space
The Zoo Project at Gala Night
Three years old, The Zoo Project has now firmly established itself as one of those "only in Ibiza" events, with its animal/zoo fancy dress theme and daytime partying to the soundtrack of Circo Loco-a-like DJs. 2009 again saw the party grow bigger, with Tobi Neumann and Johnny D the highest-profile guests, supported by a large and loyal band of residents to ensure that the party remained a safehouse for minimal more than any other event on The White Isle. The issue now is that the focal point of the party, the dramatic Seal Pit Arena, is outrageously undersized to deal with the amount of people who want to see the star DJ at each event.
Elsewhere, Matinée had upwards of 5,000 gay-friendly clubbers each week, as any languishing resemblance to their legendary Saturday morning parties at Space was obliterated, and Hed Kandi's late transfer from Eden to Space was about as interesting as it got for the Ministry of Sound-owned brand.
A quick word about Defected at Pacha though, who dispelled the myth that you can't have a good time in Pacha: Kenny Dope and Frankie Knuckles were responsible for some of the most infectious house music heard all summer on the island, and you couldn't help but smile to the Martinez Brothers; in fact, it almost made you forget the oppressive size of the VIP. Almost.
We Love at Space
The 2009 season was touched upon in the We Love closing party review, but the season can be deemed a successful one. Masters like Carl Craig, alongside Jeff Mills and Derrick May, put the emphasis solely on the music and will have won over a new generation of Detroit fanatics with some techno master classes; listening to Craig particularly was an education. En vogue producers like Radio Slave and Joris Voorn repaid the faith shown in them with powerful displays of energy, poise and, quite simply, making people dance. The Sunset Terrace enjoyed somewhat of a revival, especially amongst workers, as it became apparent that some of the atmosphere that made the old Space Terrace so special could be found on this replica through the likes of Jason Bye and Alfredo. I do have to say that, personally I found, the electro on the Terraza was quite hit and miss, with the former description represented by Paul Woolford and Steve Lawler and the latter by Hot Chip and 2ManyDJs.
Finally, Grace Jones. A full live show, the hottest legs of any 60 year old ever and a true professional who has forgotten more about Ibiza's hedonistic roots than you'll ever know. It was a dazzling event that went through all the hits, including Balearic anthems "La Vie En Rose" and "Libertango," as well as her first new material in 20 years, such as "Williams' Blood," which provoked the most animated response from the crowd. Easily one of the defining moments of recent Ibiza memory.