Our dedicated Ibiza column returns for 2013 with a look at this past weekend's opening parties and the IMS.
As hordes of artists, partygoers and industry professionals fly into Ibiza in preparation for opening week and the International Music Summit, a sleepy Spanish island is transformed overnight into the clubbing capital of the world. Nowhere is the sprawling modern world of dance music better encapsulated than at these conferences, as underground techno DJs rub shoulders with the likes of Beatport, SFX and Ultra. In his opening address, Marc Geiger, head of William Morris's music division, painted a picture of the global market, talking about how we "exist in an era of internet giants" and that artists today must start acting more like stars, and less like the "everyman." It was an eye-opening, if slightly depressing introduction.
The bulk of the event is made up of a series of keynote interviews and debates, where representatives from various backgrounds sit side-by-side to discuss such topics as "Where does all the money go?" and "The changing face of Ibiza." The latter, hosted by RA, promised a potentially fiery discussion, as Pacha's old guard (Mark Netto, music director at new Ibiza club Bomba) met the new (Guy Gerber, Steve Hulme). Some insightful exchanges on the futility of the term "underground" were followed by more heated discussion, as Grego O'Halloran attempted to mediate various back-and-forths on the cut-throat reality of local politics and inter-club relationships. It's fair to say Hulme and Netto did not see eye-to-eye.
Next up, feisty US commentator Bob Lefsetz did little to diffuse the tension in the room, going for the crowd with his no-holds-barred views. He raised some provocative ideas on the incomparable value of the live experience, and how the Daft Punk furore had little to do with marketing, and everything with to do with their hugely loyal fanbase. It's possible that half of the audience had never heard of Lefsetz, but by the end everyone was totally immersed. IMS was making its mark.
Daft Punk were a recurring theme across the summit. A year ago, Random Access Memories collaborator Nile Rodgers had sat in the speaker's chair playing dumb, sworn to secrecy over his involvement with the project. Returning for "part 2," the Chic man was back performing, guitar in hand, to a packed early morning crowd. What followed was utterly spellbinding. Anecdotes from his disco heyday spilled over into his battle with cancer and onto his work with the Robots. The only down side? Later talks with Idris Elba and Fatboy Slim, who was this year's "IMS Legend," paled in comparison.
From Nile Rodgers to Jean-Michel Jarre, the summit showed no signs of a lumbering finish. The French innovator spoke at length about pioneering a sound at the height of its unpopularity through a mixture of passion and sheer belief. Claiming the industry should "go back to its roots; to being rebels, subverters, pirates," one couldn't help but think that more people in the audience should have been taking notes. Occupying an altogether different position in the spectrum, Sven Väth closed out the conference. After a summit dedicated to the dissection of dance music on business terms, attributed in-part to the strong commercial US presence, here was a man as successful as any, openly stating his love of vinyl and traditional forms of DJing, unimpressed by the image-conscious VIP crowd and their "bad energy." It offered a reassuringly human conclusion to a well-rounded few days.
With the formalities over, it was up to Dalt Villa for the IMS closing party. Situated atop a 2,500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site, the location offered stunning panoramic views of Ibiza Town and the Mediterranean. Taking over from Tensnake, and building up towards headline performances from Solomun and Sven Väth, Maya Jane Coles had a lot to do in little time. Looking busy behind the decks, she weaved her way through cut after cut of her signature funky tech house. Solomun upped the energy a notch, dipping straight into his pool of upfront house records. His selections lacked a certain subtlety, however, and as the Diynamic boss dropped Thomas Anderson's bygone hit "Washing Up," one couldn't help but feel it was all a bit easy. Sven Väth, meanwhile, has nothing to prove. Playing decidedly harder and more streamlined than his predecessors, the Cocoon boss transformed the sea of flailing wrists into one of mechanical, pumping fists.
It made sense that Guy Gerber's Wisdom Of The Glove kick started proceedings. The most eye-catching from Pacha's new-look programme, Gerber's bizarre conceptual approach made it the perfect pre-season PR tool. Everyone, for better or worse, had an opinion. Large decorative spirals and the green sequined glove, exhibited at the entrance, were nice touches, but the club's crystal-clear soundsystem was clearly the main attraction. Relaying every minute detail of dOP's animated, crowd-level set, vocalist Jaw commanded the floor with all the charisma of a seasoned performer. The likes of "New York" and "No Eyes," a recent collaboration with Claptone, kept the music tough throughout.
Elsewhere, however, the crowd was sparser. Between them, Deniz Kurtel, Midland and Konrad Black played for less than 50 people in Pacha's notoriously difficult Global Room. Even as Gerber set about releasing thick, thrusting grooves in the main space, there were still significant gaps on the dance floor. Using Ableton, the Supplement Facts boss played a mixture of his own and other people's records (including Sandwell District's remix of Ben Klock's "Subzero"), bridging the gap between a live and DJ set. On the one hand, an exclusively live performance would be difficult to maintain across a summer residency. On the other, his set felt a little safe. Having seen the Israeli auteur at IMS talk about how he wanted WOTG to cultivate "an increasingly uncomfortable atmosphere," one can only assume he will push himself further as the weeks progress.
Thursday and Friday meant the double-header opening of Sankeys, with Steve Lawler and Solomun bringing their respective VIVa Music and Diynamic slant to the lineups. First, Lawler played two sets to equally packed dance floors, while Nina Kraviz spun solid techno to close out the basement. Though difficult to navigate, the energy across the venue was electric, with a back-to-back performance from Darius Syrossian and Steve Lawler in the LAB the highlight.
Friday night also saw DJ Sneak, Derrick Carter and Mark Farina's back-to-back-to-back set at John Digweed's new Insane venture at Pacha. In support, X-Press 2 finished on Marshall Jefferson's "Move Your Body," leaving the dance floor primed for the heavyweight US trio. Bringing their usual mix of tribal, Latin and Chicago house—including Sneak's version of "Harder Better Faster Stronger"—much of it was lost on the largely despondent crowd. Having just transitioned into a new era, Pacha and its faithful will perhaps need time to ease themselves in.
Sankeys, on the other hand, wasted no time finding its groove. Though noticeably quieter than the previous night, Cajmere, sporting his trademark ice-cold shades, took it to the Basement. As tracks like his own "Percolator" and MCDE's "Send A Prayer Part 2" bounced off the low ceiling and LEDs, memories of the erstwhile Manchester club were evoked. In the LAB, Solomun played Diynamic-inspired tech house to a busy main room.
Onto the first Sunday of the season, which on the island only ever means one thing: Space. Its reputation of course well precedes it, but word among the regulars was that this was one of the weakest lineups in years. With regular headliners Carl Cox and Richie Hawtin away in Detroit, a DJ set from The Chemical Brothers was added to the lineup at the last minute. Felix Da Housecat and Sasha catered expertly to the festival-sized crowd outside in the carpark, the former keeping things housey before the latter transitioned into deeper, more emotive sounds. Inside, Pete Tong was a surprise highlight. Rebuilding the room after Sharam's high-octane set, the Radio 1 jock used Anabel Englund's seductive delivery on Hot Natured smash "Reverse Skydiving" to get the Terrazza faithful onside. (An early candidate for track of the summer, perhaps.)
This year, opening week again ended with Circo Loco at DC-10 on Monday. Running for a full 15 hours, this and the closing party are the only times the club takes full advantage of the expansive garden area. With new decking and a Void soundsystem installed, the space had never looked so professional. Kerri Chandler's piano-house caught the last of the afternoon sun, before Apollonia worked their way through all manner of heavy-hitting house numbers, including CPR's "A Piece Of History."
Tania Vulcano pushed the evening into techier territory, before Davide Squillace brought it back to a swinging sound, teasing the tumultuous mass with an edit of Nightcrawlers classic "Push The Feeling On." Few dance floors in the world could rival the energy and music on show there that evening. Busy to the point of immobility, the opening is far and away the busiest Circo Loco will be until the closing party, which makes the intervening weeks and months a more than mouth-watering prospect.
Photo credit IMS: James Chapman - Ibiza Spotlight