The Festival Beat: Know Your Lineup
The question on everyone's mind last summer was "is it still ship without Destructo?" Gary Richards, sold HARD Events (and therefore Holy Ship!) 5 years ago. Since 2016 was the end of his contract this was the first sailing without the Hard Father. What drew us to Holy Ship in the first place is that it's not like other festivals. We're not just all in the same boat, we're literally partying together. We were sad to hear reports from 11.0 that women were being harassed and the ship wasn't being respected... it's a very sad thing to see. Thankfully this was not our experience on 10.0. We met strangers at sunrise that became friends for the rest of the sailing. The girls in our tribe saw sets by themselves and were met with nothing but respect. The entire boat felt like that cliche totem that says "if you're lost, come dance with us." All in all we still feel there's no fam like ship fam.
No one worked harder than Subset but A-Trak was essentially omnipresent. It seemed like every set we saw for 4 days straight there was A-Trak, standing on stage, ready to jump in and mix a little if anyone wanted him to. It was his set the 3rd night that got us though, you just don't see sets like this at a land festival! We could have done without him adding the sample of his name 1 - 3 times every song (yes, your name is A-Trak, we get it.) However, he managed to craft a perfectly balanced dance set that didn't feel like straight white girl fan service. The sprinkling of EDC Mainstage type samples were built up to with scratching rather than a cacophony of bass and the drops were clean and not predictable. It was, as the visuals on his screen pointed out, "Real DJing" and left us unabashedly dancing in puddles left from the rain and the sea-spray.
We spent most of the first night on the pool deck soaking in the glory of the ship and the wind. The only time we left a set feeling unfulfilled was Mercer. It wasn't the kind of set that makes you never want to see someone live again, it just fell so flat compared to pasts sets of his and that's the last thing you expect to say about an artist on Holy Ship! Mercer is normally someone we can count on for intricate drum patterns in his bass lines and obscure samples that add an almost jazz quality to his music. What we got this time around was uninspired build ups to repetitive drops that we could see coming a mile a way. It felt less like someone in the Pardon My French squad and more like he was trying to be a Dirty Bird artist without playing techno.
Coming into 10.0 our only complaint with the lineup was there was really only one true headliner (Kaskade). But waiting for the special guest to be revealed we were collectively holding our breath, not getting our hopes up... then we saw the long haired, knitted hat wearing Porter Robinson silhouetted against the screens confirming Virtual Self. How lucky to see the second set ever performed by this highly discussed side project, and how interesting to see the difference between this and what we've seen from him in the past! A far cry from the soaring emotional melodies of a Porter Robinson set, Virtual Self put us in a time capsule and shot us back to an early 2000s rave featuring trance and some heavy hitting house-core. It felt more like a being at an art exhibit than a party; watching the visuals weave together a story (losing our minds when he remixed the theme song to an anime we thought we were the only ones to have watched), and discussing what the artist was trying to convey.
Going to Holy Ship kind of spoils the viewing experience of other festivals. Nowhere else can you so comfortably see everything and still have your space or so easily ride the rail and not need to camp out. The organization of the music was almost perfect. There was a enough diversification for everyone to float to sets at each of the venues, space for pop-up dance parties, and even the ability to pull off a full day of party-hip-hop sets including a 5-way B2B set that no one had planned for.
If anything this was better than our previous sailing on 8.0. They clearly had contingency plans for the weather ahead of time. One of our favorite memories came when we turned on a dime to pull into port for a few hours rather than lose a day at a rained out beach party. Seeing the looks on the faces of normal cruise goers on the ships we pulled in between as we greeted them (many of us having not slept) with shouts of celebration, waving campaign bottles in the air... it might have been better than a beach party.