Mad Decent Boat Party Highlights: Skrillex's Surprise, Dillion Francis' Alter Ego & More

Josh Brasted/Getty Images
Dillon Francis performs at Mad Decent Block Party at Mardi Gras World on August 29, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Ever since HARD's Holy Ship! set a lofty standard for dance music cruises, few have succeeded in meeting it. However, Diplo's label Mad Decent has the star power and curatorial credibility necessary to field a serious contender. Fans from across the globe clamored aboard the Norwegian Pearl for a superlative weekend whose soundtrack ran the stylistic gamut from trap to tropical house.

With both delirious fans and exhausted artists taking to social media afterwards to extol the weekend's festivities, the inaugural edition of Mad Decent Boat Party was enshrined as a memorable experience for all involved. Billboard takes you behind the scenes to recap some of the best moments from the Bahamas.

Kygo & Dom (Big Gigantic) Impromptu Acoustic Jams

In a genre where true musicianship can be hard to come by, it was refreshing to see some of dance music's biggest stars jamming out. On Wednesday night, Dillon Francis joined Kygo and Big Gigantic saxophonist Dominic Lalli for a stirring private performance in the latter's suite. Kygo and Francis shared the keys on an ivory Yamaha overlooking the cruise's main pool deck, while Dom punctuated their melodic piano meanderings with noodling saxophone solos. The following evening, Kygo and Dom took their impromptu performance to the people. An unplanned PA announcement collected a hundred-strong crowd who offered full-throated choruses on acoustic renditions of Kygo's popular remixes (ex. Ed Sheerhan's "I See Fire"), plus classic piano standards like Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" and Billy Joel's "Piano Man," with crooning sax support from Dom.

Dillon Francis Performs as DJ Hanzel Dillon Francis took the cruise 'one deeper' on Friday by donning his disaffected German hipster alias to deliver a bumping deep house set on the pool deck that straddled the line between theatrical parody and credible performance. While tongue-in-cheek tunes with "my bass line" vocal samples satirized the current musical climate, "Hanzel" kept the crowd moving with the energetic and eclectic offerings he proved capable of delivering on his BBC Radio 1 guest mix for Annie Nightingale.

Skrillex Plays B2B With Practically Everyone In perhaps the cruise's worst kept secret, Skrillex arrived on Saturday to join forces with Diplo as Jack Ü. While the cruise PA had teased his arrival with not-so-cryptic messages of the super group's name, Diplo's onstage announcement to "make some motherf----ing noise for Skrillex" still sent the pool deck crowd into conniptions.

Those who know Sonny are well aware of his penchant for playing spontaneous back-to-back sets, but the OWSLA boss outdid himself on Mad Decent Boat Party by joining DJ Snake and Flosstradamus, as well as Zeds Dead and Borgore for unplanned performances.

Kygo and Thomas Jack's Tropical Party Wearing a tropical Mambo shirt emblazoned with his native Sydney's opera house, Thomas Jack kicked off the cruise with a well-received two-hour outing. Ranging from his relaxed remix of OneRepublic's "Counting Stars" to funkier bass-driven fare, Jack used the breathing room of a multi-hour set to show off his musical knowledge and mixing ear. Before turning over the reins to Kygo, he delighted the audience with throwback favorite Mylo's "Drop the Pressure" at the end of his set.

While Kygo's set contained plenty of his staple remixes, the Norwegian producer also included some less common cuts, including a buoyant rework of ZHU's "Faded." The crowd's biggest cheers came when he took to the mic to introduce a new original tune from his forthcoming album.

"It sounds good to me Kyrre!" exclaimed Dillon Francis from the artist area.

Following his headset-donning antics at TomorrowWorld, their manager Myles Shear pulled another audible in running the show's visuals. Layering juxtaposed dancers over lapping waves and vibrant sunsets, he delivered a suitable backdrop for the tropical-themed party while fans hoisted handmade signs like "Run the Trop."

"Do you see me crushing these visuals?" he asked. "I've never done this before. They just taught me."

Lunice and Cashmere Cat Bring Trap to Paradise Unsurprisingly, trap ruled the day on the boat. Lunice and Cashmere Cat turned in superlative sets in the atrium, bringing down the house with booming 808 beats and shrill triplet hi-hats.

The former's performance was a high-energy affair that found the Montreal producer (also half of TNGHT) leaping into the air and dancing wildly onstage, antics made all the more impressive by the fact that he was making ample use of his MIDI controller in a live set. Meanwhile, Cashmere Cat's trippy blend of trap elements and smooth synthesizers provided a perfect Saturday night soundtrack.

Riff Raff's General Presence Riff Raff was one of a bevy of rappers to come aboard the boat, but none came close to eclipsing his bombastic personality. Whether rapping expletive-laden verses onstage, balling with Diplo, or hanging in hot tubs wearing monogrammed flip flops, the pink-haired Houston celebrity was a constant force to be reckoned with on the cruise.