HARD’s Holy Ship cruise party entered its fifth year in the fashion its dedicated Shipfam fans have come to expect, featuring strong curation, diverse lineups and plenty of surprises (including guests iLoveMakonnen and Ty Dolla $ign).
Fortunately, the first major dance music cruise party since the tragedy aboard the Mad Decent Boat Party passed without incident. While inclement weather forced the cancelation of the Private Island Party, the change of plans did not seem to adversely affect the onboard atmosphere.
Billboard takes you aboard the MSC Divina to recap the most memorable moments from Holy Ship’s January sailing.
All Star Back-to-Back Set
One of Holy Ship’s unique selling points is its rare environment of artist interaction. Unlike typical festivals where artists jet in and out, as founder Gary Richards told me last year, “We’re here for four days, there’s nowhere to go… everyone’s just hanging.”
So what happens when you get a bunch of liquor-loosened DJs together on a boat? Exponential back-to-back mayhem. January 2016 certainly did not disappoint on that front. Following their own joint set in the Theater, SNAILS and 12th Planet were joined by Flosstradamus, Tommy Trash, Valentino Khan, Wax Motif, GTA, Slumberjack, Wiwek and Jai Wolf in one of the more ludicrous DJing spectacles ever witnessed on a cruise ship.
The veteran’s melodic big room sound may have seemed at odds with the rest of Holy Ship’s lineup on paper, but he proved a versatile chameleon in practice.
His Pool Deck set interspersed main stage favorites like Automatic cut “Disarm You” and Galantis hits “Runaway (U&I)” and “Gold Dust” with metallic, throbbing bass drops that won over a crowd coming off Dillon Francis and awaiting hard-hitting acts like GTA, Tommy Trash and Valentino Khan.
“This is the hardest Kaskade I’ve ever heard,” said one attendee. “I wish we had Shazam out here in international waters,” mused another.
Kaskade again proved his shape shifting acumen with his well-received Redux set later that night in the ship’s Theater, mixing smoothly between house cuts in a throwback to his San Francisco deep house days.
After his original Pool Deck set was canceled due to rain, the Los Angeles veteran — born John Dadzie — made the most of his prime-time make-up slot with an uncompromising dubstep set comprised entirely of unreleased plates (“I tested a lot of new shit,” Dadzie said). Undeterred by the unrecognizable tunes, the crowd responded with fervor and excitement, and his set was roundly hailed as one of the ship’s best surprises.
Asked what was going through his head during the high-octane set, Dadzie admitted he wasn’t sure the fans would be able to keep up with his searing 140 bpm pace.
“I hope I don’t scare them away,” he said. “I hope I don’t scare them away. Uh oh, I scared them away.. oh wait, Colorado flag? We’re good. You know whenever any kind of dubstep goes on, a Colorado flag is mandatory.”
No one can conquer a room with more chill than Mr. Carmack. After posting up in the Yacht Club for most of the second day and casually treating artists to his eclectic musical palette, the Soulection favorite proved that he could take his mixing talents to the big stage with a standout Tuesday Pool Deck set.
GRiZ was responsible for one of the January sailing’s most memorable moments. Just after Jai Wolf finished strong with his breakthrough hit “Indian Summer” on the Pool Deck, GRiZ and ODESZA‘s horn players — Jonathan Gipaya on trumpet and Jason Cressey on trombone — surprised fans with an impromptu rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” at stage left.
The saxophonist/producer played Pied Piper in leading a raucous bevy of fans into the ship’s cafeteria — where the artists enthralled them with a spirited cover of Drake’s smash “Hotline Bling.”
Watch GRiZ and ODESZA hornline play Hot Line Bling in a cafeteria on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean cc: Holy Ship :)video: lkmixedmedia.com
Posted by GRiZ on Monday, January 11, 2016
The Boulder-based artist also followed up his standout Theater set on last January’s Ship with a funk-fueled “Chasing the Golden Hour” sunset set, which found him jamming out with fellow Detroit native Muzzy Bearr.
The affable Montreal artist not only anchored the all-hands b2b finale, but also turned in two crushing sets in the Theater — one solo and another in tandem with 12th Planet.
His intense solo outing featured two unreleased collabs with Botnek — one entitled “Waffle House,” and another whose drop bore a sonic resemblance to a power drill — as well as another unreleased ID with Space Laces.
Fans hoisted inflatable aliens wearing OG Shipfam bathrobes while visuals of giant violet slugs accompanied SNAILS’ apocalyptic music. Following the set, 12th Planet was effusive in his praise for the Montreal product.
“You turned that bitch into Electric Forest,” he said. “There were so many pasties. You fucking slayed it.”
While Monday’s Private Island Party didn’t materialize, that didn’t stop HARD founder Gary Richards from thrilling the Pool Deck with special guests iLoveMakonnen and Ty Dolla $ign on a rowdy rendition of their forthcoming collaborative single “4Real.”
On Tuesday morning, Richards braved serious winds to reprise his Sunrise Sermon set, a tradition whose history extends far back into the annals of 90s LA rave lore.
“Yo can somebody turn the wind down two-to-three notches?” he quipped to his sleepless crowd.
Commencing with snarling acid synths and offering up a smoothly-mixed serving of deep cuts and throwback jams, Destructo’s performance lasted well past its stated 8 am end time.
The mustachioed OWSLA fixture weathered the storm that postponed Steve Aoki and 12th Planet’s Pool Deck sets, dropping unrelenting trap beats and searing electro synths on his soaked-yet-undeterred crowd. “Once again,” he crowed into the mic. “Fuck the rain!”
The Aussie L.A.-transplant turned in an electric Pool Deck set highlighted by a suitably bath-robed Valentino Khan guest appearance for “Deep Down Low” and thumping funk bass tunes like Ghastly’s “Bitch U Ghastly.”
AC Slater’s Night Bass has come into its own. The Los Angeles event brand took over the Black and White Lounge on Sunday, keeping the bustling dance floor filled with solid sets by the likes of Slater, Gorgon City, and Bones.
The quirky Los Angeles producer’s Black and White Lounge set found fans in Alison Wonderland and GRiZ’s All Good Records, who both tweeted in support:
@AWEmygod your set was my favourite from the whole ship
— Alison Wonderland (@awonderdj) January 6, 2016
Best surprise on Holy Ship was @AWEmygod — absolutely murdered it in the black and white lounge last night. –??—-
— All Good Recs (@AllGoodRecs) January 6, 2016
Jock N’ Jew
Who doesn’t like old-school hip hop jams? Certainly not Murda Child (aka HARD talent buyer Danny Bell) and Jack Beats, who turned the Zen Pool into a feel-good afternoon affair with tried-and-true standards like “Ms. Jackson,” “Shake Yo Ass,” and “This is How We Do It.” Bell even gave Leroy the security guard a shout-out.