Most people who weren’t on the third annual voyage of Holy Ship!!! (the exclamation points represent how many years it has taken place) are likely one of two things: insanely jealous of those who were, or sick of hearing about it (likely both). When I wrote my wrap-up piece about the Holy Ship!! last year, I explained that at the time I was constantly being asked about how it was. So far it’s been a lot of the same and although I’ll do my best to write about this year’s adventure, a person truly doesn’t understand how magical and how ridiculous it is until you experience Holy Ship first hand. I still haven’t fully wrapped my head around the three-night experience (Jan 9-12), I’m not sure if I ever will, and it’s hard to say where to begin. But I’ll do my best to share as much as I can with you. Again: no one truly understands what Holy Ship is like until you experience it first-hand.
When the lineup was announced months ago, I was absolutely floored by who would be on board. Sure, you have your big names like Skrillex, Diplo, Duck Sauce, Boys Noize, Zedd, Laidback Luke, etc (all of whom I am a fan of), but I always like to do a full survey of the entire list. And within that list I saw names like France’s G-House revolutionaries Amine Edge & Dance, Dirtybird chief Claude Vonstroke, UK duo Disclosure, reinvented Disco-maniac Skream, master of bounce TJR, and oh-so-soulful Slovenian Gramatik (to name but a handful). Oh yes, and the brain behind the whole experience: DESTRUCTO. And let me tell you – when everything was said and done, not one artist on that list disappointed. Well, one of them did but I won’t mention who that was.
Wednesday evening January 8th was the annual pre-party show at South Beach’s Story nightclub. On the docket were Destructo, Oliver, and Zedd. Story is a pretty insane nightclub and holds true to South Beach’s renowned night life scene. Zedd pulled out all the stops and as much as I like to think I’ve moved on from him, he just does not disappoint. Banger after banger, crowd pleasers, sing alongs, and rapid-fire track selections that will keep even the most ADD-riddled human happy. We met some Shipfam, we partied with strangers, and we highly looked forward to setting sail the next day.
One thing about Holy Ship that I learned last year is that there is a lot of waiting involved from start to finish. You wait in line to get on the boat, you wait for your luggage to arrive, you wait for the ship to set sail/for the music to start, you wait to get off the boat for the island parties, you wait to get back on the boat from the island parties, and finally you wait to get checked back in to the U.S. But despite all that waiting the trip is 100% worth it. Why is it worth it? Four stages of music from sun down to sun up. Two private island beach parties. Friends new and old from all over the world. Rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest and best dance music artists in the world. All-in-all it’s about sun, skin, surprises, and letting loose in the Caribbean.
Holy Ship!!! officially began when Diplo pressed play on the track “Sail Away” by Enya. Call this cliche if you want to, but I don’t think it could have been a more perfect choice. The warm wind was blowing, anticipation was through the roof, drinks were flowing, and people couldn’t have been more excited to get the party started. Diplo did his usual Diplo thing, going through his collection of Trap, Twerk, House, and everything in between. Before we knew it, Duck Sauce had taken the stage for what was my first time seeing them live. The Disco was out in true form and A-Trak and Armand Van Helden were rockin’ their fly gold jackets. After that it was Trap time with Skrillex and Boys Noize laying down heavy twerk-inducing beats. And after that… well, things get a little hazy. Between hanging out with hometown friends, new Australian friends, DJs around the ship, and running around to catch sets by TJR, Justin Martin, Brodinski, Skream, and more the night was complete insanity. By the time we made it to the theater for the surprise guest, half of the artists on the boat were on the stage all having a great time (see picture above). Dillon Francis got on the mic to announce the guest and to my surprise it was actually Tiesto. Yes, Tiesto was the surprise guest and although I had heard rumors of his presence, I wasn’t quite sure he’d actually be on the decks this year.
The next couple days followed in similar fashion. The beach parties were as much fun as they sound like and it was great witnessing sets by Disclosure, Boys Noize, Skrillex, and special guest Pharrell Williams who sang all of his hits. There were plenty of other DJs spinning on the beach over the two days but it was just impossible to get there early enough to see them when the parties the night before were going so late. And a special shout out to adult film star Jesse Jane who was having perhaps the most fun of any guest on the beach.
Back on the boat, I had the pleasure of witnessing extremely entertaining sets. Artists who I hadn’t seen live before that I absolutely recommend worth checking out include Amine Edge & Dance, Gorgon City, and Kaytranada (who claims he doesn’t know how he came up with the name). Other amazing sets were performed by TJR, Laidback Luke, Zeds Dead, Skream, Brodinski, Justin Martin, Chromeo, a late-night and soulful Gramatik set… and basically everyone else I saw.
It’s so hard to put into writing everything I experienced over a short-but-jam-packed three days aboard Holy Ship!!! When people use the phrase “Shipfam”, it’s not just a buzz word – it’s a word used to identify with a true community of people that has been built over the past three years. I commend Gary Richards (Destructo), founder of HARD and Holy Ship, for not only coming up with the idea to put a rave on a boat, but for sticking with it and making sure it’s bigger and better each year. I truly hope that everyone who wants to attend Holy Ship will get the chance to do so in their lifetime. To everyone I met at sea, I am looking forward to crossing paths with you again soon! Please reach out with comments/questions/concerns!
Here’s Boys Noize having fun with a common phrase you hear on Holy Ship: “Respect the Ship”
Here are some selected tracks that were heard multiple times during Holy Ship!!! in their original and remixed forms:
*Editor’s Note* – I’ve been asked several times who the bad performance was by. A lot of people assumed it was Pharrell Williams. I can say with confidence that I knew exactly what to expect from Pharrell, as he’s an MC and not a DJ. The bad performance, in my opinion, was by Breach. I caught him two times on the Ship and both times he played “Jack” for about 10 minutes. Not only as a DJ should you not play any song for 10 minutes, but “Jack” has been played out over the past year. I realize it’s your song, but you need to keep your crowd in mind as a DJ. Furthermore, when Breach moved on to other songs, a person next to me leaned over and asked “are we supposed to be really fucked up for this?”. If someone asks you that it’s a reflection that the DJ just isn’t doing a great job. I was not impressed by Breach’s live skills but I do still admire his productions.