The easyJet plane streaks low over Playa d'en
inferno, plane after plane.
But for how much longer? Ibiza, a clubbing mecca for decades, should have been well placed to capitalise on the global explosion prompted by the US embrace of EDM (electronic dance music). It should be the gravitational point for the culture, especially considering, as one hippy tells me: "It's the third most magnetic place in the world." And yet last year saw the
island fumble the ball, programming too many underground house and techno events that spread talent too thinly. Middle-league DJs attempted lavish events, like
Wisdom of the Glove, a night featuring shadow puppetry and a pounds 150,000 metal glove hovering above the dancefloor.
Meanwhile, EDM festivals such as Electric Daisy Carnival in
market, while squabbling between
the underground and the mainstream has broken out (most vividly with
safeguard the island's future.
"It was a total war to fill the
venues," says Yann Pissenem of last year. Butch, tan and smiling, he's the founder of Ushuaia, a beachside superclub and hotel that hosts high-budget
alfresco evening parties. "We thought this 'underground year' was happening and it was not the case. EDM has grown all over the world, this industry took over the
concert, and now God is a DJ. It's totally aspirational for the kids to be a DJ." So he has changed tack, embracing the mainstream by booking EDM stars such
as Aviici and Hardwell, plus a new
residency from two members of
Swedish House Mafia, Departures. In one of their many docu-selfie films, Departures'
Ushuaia's previous techno-focused residents such as Loco Dice and
"If I want to make an underground party, I can do it in my garage with
my friends, Ushuaia is a business," Pissenem says. He points out that fans of hip techno don't spend much money in his club, whereas the global super-rich from
I walk around Pissenem's vision of "an amusement park for adults", early-20s ravers fringe the pool while sugar
daddies relax with premium vodka in ice buckets, as
Less than a mile from this heady kitsch, though lightyears away in aesthetic terms, is Sankeys, a club from
While Ushuaia's tack is big, shiny and expensive, and Sankeys is small, grimy and, well, still 30 quid to get in, a third approach to staying relevant on Ibiza
is being taken by
Plastikman, he was a key voice in
"Ibiza doesn't need another party, another room filled with headliner DJs," Hawtin says backstage after his first set of the opening night. He'll later play until
minute songs. And they've taken it from late-night, and put it into concert halls where you go home by
and open doors and put ladders up, and allow people to explore it all."
While it does host dancing girls in cages, ENTER tries to set itself against the fluorescent visual identity of the other clubs. Hawtin DJs wearing a creepy black contact lens. He also has an elegant explanation for making sake such a feature (aside from being able
of sake brewers had their own water source and their own calligrapher,
and they were distributing it
themselves. I was like: 'This is
like the fucking
I grew up with!'"
Unsurprisingly, sake comes fairly far down the intoxicants of choice on the island. Blokes mutter "MDMA, coke, crystal" at me on dancefloors, and I see clubbers
recovering from the night before
lining up coke with surprising
languor at a hotel pool. The drug
culture claimed an impressionable pair of
Vincent of the squadrons of young party promoters. So some may sell drugs. But Vincent still argues that "dance music would probably be lost without drugs. Do I condone the use of drugs? No I don't. Does it help the vibe of a club? Of course it does."
A confused sentiment, but blanket denial of reality is perhaps what sets Ibiza apart. This is a place whose fabled magnetism really does exert a powerful pull on dance fans.
"I'm hanging out my arse, mate," says
The magnetism also affects the people running the place. Pissenem grew up putting on raves in the French countryside. He was finally drawn
to Ibiza to make
"a little beach
club serving juice" which in the end became his EDM fun palace. Hawtin spent years in the booth at the seminal techno night
Cocoon, and raves about the island as "a magical playground". The night
before ENTER, he went out and somehow sustained a black eye. Vincent meanwhile professes to only go out once a week, though hours later I see him stumbling down the street, his face covered in fluorescent paint
following an impromptu boat party.
My taxi driver to the airport tells me
he "came from
14 years ago, and never went back". And as the plane flies back over the
terrace at Space, its roar mimicking
and augmenting the musical and chemical rushes below, Ibiza's surreal glamour feels pretty hard to let go of.
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