After electronic music broke out into one of its most pivotal years in 2012, expectations for what’s next have been through the roof. With the start of the new year, all eyes were on HARD‘s festival cruise aka Holy Ship. The staggering lineup that Gary Richards (Destructo) procured took many of the biggest names from across the board and set them out into the middle of the Atlantic ocean to kick off 2013. But why was it different than any other festival? Sure, it went from cruise ship to island hopping and back again, boasting an all-star roster – but how was that gonna set the tone for the year?

Never underestimate the power of friendship. Cheesy, I know, but for the sake of dance music and live performances, it’s what’s gonna save this year from being another circuit of the same festivals with the same stage lineups and the same sets…
ENTER: the back-2-back DJ set.


DAY 1:
Boys Noize b2b Skrillex (aka Dog Blood) Main Stage

One of the most anticipated sets on the whole trip, the “secret set” between Skrillex and Boys Noize quickly switched from being scheduled for the last day moved up to the first night due to the difficulty of hiding Sonny on a boat for 3 days. And with good reason – Skrillex became the ring leader of the impromptu b2b sets for the weekend, hopping on the decks with several different artists all in good fun. Only the second time that Alex and Sonny had performed their Dog Blood set, Holy Shippers got a taste of A LOT of new material. I don’t even think people knew how lucky they were for this one.

Baauer b2b RL Grime – Pigalle Lounge

After the sail away show had kicked things off, then came the series of intimate parties on multiple decks of the ship. In the Pigalle lounge (or as we called “the sketchy red room”) the Rump Shaker party filled up quickly as much anticipation was held for this trap music showcase of the best, the highlight (aside from Clicks & Whistles) being that of the two-faced wonder RL Grime (aka Clockwork) and Baauer. Trap music might have broke through in the second part of last year – but these 2 brethren made sure people know it was here to stay. The combo juggled unreleased tracks with trill party favorites (with RL Grimes ‘Satisfaction Remix’ definitely the most supported track of the weekend). It made for one sweaty (and noticeably sleazy) hell of a segment.

80s Prom Night (Skream b2b Benga) – Zebra Bar

As the first night got later (and weirder), one of the most unique and amusing happening was the “80s Prom Night” hosted by UK ruffians Skream & Benga. I made it a priority to swing by this hoping to see some heavy hitters show a softer side, but this was no disco picnic. A solid 200 people drunkily slopping across the retro vegas Zebra lounge dancefloor got to sing along to a full-on set of power rock and hair metal, one of the funniest performances all weekend. Apparently these guys set these up as after-parties following shows in Europe, and it was everything you could have wanted out of the description. Too much fun here.

L-Vis 1990 b2b Bok Bok (Night Slugs)Main Stage

After a full day off to explore Nassau, the boat set sail around 530pm and the pool deck opening up with Night Slugs affiliates L-Vis 1990 and Bok Bok throwing down a very underrated b2b set. Everyone went a bit too hard the first day, as you could tell that the crowd was quite thin that early compared to the night before. Nevertheless, we got a private show as these conductors of the genre known as ‘Future Bass’ rang true: the crowds on this boat we’re just not ready for the cut-above style of music. Pity because it was one of the best sets I saw all weekend.

12th Planet b2b Skrillex b2b Kill The Noise – Main stage

Capping off the main stage lineup, the masses filled right back in to watch as the golden boy 12th Planet set the Pool deck (literally almost) on fire. Fueled by redbull vodkas and a sea of people, friends Skrillex and Kill The Noise jumped on with 12th hyping the crowd and taking turns on the decks. This was fun, but BOY WAS IT LOUD. Earplugs saved the day.

Crookers b2b SkrillexZebra Bar

This is was started the newly found Bromance between Phra and Sonny – after a climactic set from Digitalism in the sleazily fun Zebra bar room, the Crookers lone wolf went on only shortly to be pounced upon by Sonny once again. No dubby dub played here, strictly booty bumping basslines and fidgety electro slappers. Yes, thats exactly what happened. Why a bromance? Because it was the fortuitous reason we got them to play our final VERSUS party in Santa Monica.

Destructo & BrodinskiPrivate island party

Kicking off the last day and the private island party (held on the isle of Great Stirrup Cay) – HARD chief Destructo set the tone early with Bromance recs captain Brodinski, flipping back and forth plenty of house, techno, r&b and hip-hop classics. This one wasn’t as much a b2b set, but they recorded the 2 hour madness so I had to include this one.

Justice b2b Boys Noize b2b GesaffelsteinPrivate island party *BEST B2B OF THE WEEKEND

Hands down the best back-to-back performance we saw all weekend, Justice‘s scheduled 90 minute set seemed too ripe for the hijack as Gesaffelstein and Boys Noize jumped alongside the french duo. Destructo, Brodinski and Diplo set the tone for the “island vibe” – but the four horseman hit this one out of the park playing everything from forthcoming techno originals to “gettin jiggy wit it” while chain smoking cuban cigars. Check out our exclusive video below!

Moombahton Massive  – Zebra Bar

One of best collectives of the weekend, the Moombahton Massive turned into an all out tag team between Nadastrom, Sabo, Dillon Francis, with even Zedd and Skrillex hopping on for a few cues. The moombah movement showcased its sweaty downtempo vibe and the swarming crowd definitely knew what they were getting into. ¡Ay Tan Sucia!

Baauer b2b Brodinski b2b A-Trak b2b RL Grime – Teatro (Surprise Rap Party)

With no information provided except through word of mouth, the trill-driven combination of Baauer, Brodinski, A-Trak and RL Grime set up an impromptu “Surprise Rap Party” in the main theatre, turning the classical auditorium into a source awards function (minus the drama). With the amount of electronic music being preached the whole weekend, this made for a nice little break and the DJs looked like they enjoyed it more than the crowd. Things got a bit ignorant – all in good fun.

Destructo & Friends b2b Party – S32 Disco

This was the full on back-to-back themed party of the weekend, and the best way to cap off the trip. I was lucky enough to open this shindig, followed by monumental tag team sets from Oliver b2b Destructo, Claude VonStroke b2b Justin Martin, and Gesaffelstein b2b Brodinski b2b Justice. A blend of some of the best in disco, techno, house, booty bass and everything in between. Music was pumping past its 430am curfue as no one wanted this experience to end. Someone stole a whole watermelon from the cafeteria and proceeded to smash it on the dancefloor. Party foul? NOPE – turned into a tropical slush party.

Until next year…

Photo credit: Rukes, Billboard, SPINGrant Cobbett, BONES