Cloud 9 press

Holy Ship: Inside The 3-Day Fest That Ran Aground, But Never Stopped Partying

HUFFINGTON POST - January 10, 2012

How does one describe the first-ever Holy Ship experience to others? “I went on a cruise with 3,000 ravers going crazy for Steve Aoki while we were in the middle of the ocean, got a DJ lesson from A-Trak, and danced on the beach to Fatboy Slim. Oh, and Dita Von Teese was there, too?” It sounds like the rant of an absolute crazy person. Maybe it is. We were definitely wondering if we were crazy when we agreed to go on this trip.

The second we stepped on board the MSC Poesia in Fort Lauderdale Friday afternoon, any fear or doubt that we had about the weekend disappeared. Everyone was so ecstatic. Kids wearing pirate costumes and Kanye glasses were chanting, “HOLY SHIP! HOLY SHIP!” At one point, Skrillex walked past us looking like the pied piper of dubstep with an army of ravers behind him screaming and making crazy noises. I overheard a kid in an ewok costume say, “Look, I got a picture with Laidback Luke!” And this was all before we even got our room key; the party turned into a giant massive shortly after the crew tried to conduct a safety drill (pretty sure they regretted giving thousands of club kids life jackets with whistles attached). That moment when the ship left and everyone’s cell phone reception died was one for the books. No turning back now.

DJ Gary Richards of Hard Festival created this lovable monster along with Cloud Nine Adventures and the Bowery. They basically took the key EDM all-stars of the moment and created a giant, buoyant 3-day festival. They also gave long-running dance parties such as Dance Right (LA) and Miami’s own Poplife their own smaller clubs within the ship, and threw that dude from Korn in there for some dark vibes (sure, why not, right?). Saturday brought a stop-off in the Bahamas, and Sunday we all went to a private island and danced on the beach, starting at 10 a.m. with a Dave Nada DJ set that eventually turned our morning into the 2012 version of MTV’s ‘The Grind’. There was endless dancing that afterward made us feel like we ran an electro marathon. Everyone deserves a medal.

“Gary really is a genius for teaming up with those hippies and making a dance version of the Jam Cruise,” offered Nick Catchdubs, DJ and co-founder with A-Trak of the widely adored Fool’s Gold Records. “This was the year media has decided to write about the rise of the American ‘EDM’ scene, but Hard has been building it for the past several years with their events, and this cruise nailed the real sense of community that exists here. I guess we’re all secretly Phish heads. It was an immensely pleasurable experience for fans and DJs alike.”

Everybody, everywhere was having the absolute time of their lives. When the ship hit a reef and got stuck in Freeport, making the news in the Bahamas and requiring five tugboats to rescue it, passengers were partying so Hard that they were completely oblivious to the chaos. Some of us didn’t even find out until hours later. “Hey, if I am going to wind up shipwrecked I want it to be with these French DJs,” yelled a pretty Canadian girl during the Paris Social Club party in the purple sparkling ‘Teatro.’ One kid showed me his swollen, broken hand with the biggest smile on his face: “I broke it punching the dance floor. The music was so good, I couldn’t help it.” Ouch! The ship’s staff was also loving every moment of the whole journey, surely a change from the usual cruise agenda. The second they got off of their shifts they were all in the crowd fist pumping with the costumed candy kids. One of the sound technicians became a huge Egyptrixx fan after seeing him play.

What really stood out was that there was no separation between artist and fan. Diplo was getting down on the dance floor to Danny Brown’s performance just like any other rap fan. Skrillex went to check out more DJs than anyone, and we all giggled while eating dinner next to Tommy Lee. Glow stick wavers and hula hoopers were stoked to be dancing and drinking alongside the DJs they came all the way from places as far away as Australia to see.

For those who didn’t want to beat the beat 24 hours a day for three days straight there were some daytime activities, too. DJ Gina Turner held a yoga class, which we all could have used after the first night of raging, and A-Trak held a Q&A/DJ lesson. Rusko was shaving passengers’ heads, giving them “Skrillex haircuts” as part of the Mad Decent scavenger hunt, and Blaya of Buraka Som Sistema taught a kuduro dance class. Believe me, everyone was rushing to that class after seeing her dance during their incredible performance the night before. “They are my new heroes,” beamed Justin Martin, who spun the main stage and kept us dancing all night, adding to our workout.

“The best part of Holy Ship was just getting to hang out with this group of friends and amazing DJs for 3 days,” A-Trak told me. “It was like a short, condensed summer camp in a bubble of frozen time with no phone service, bad food but great fun. I was really impressed by how well it was all organized — there was never a dull moment and a good balance between relaxing activities and wild parties. The fans on the boat were so excited, they were there to have the time of their life.

“The funniest moment was on the second night, we stumbled into the cafeteria late at night and this guy who had just won a poker tournament set up his own little DJ setup there with speakers blasting. He had a group of people going off around him…I feel like we’ll be telling stories about that trip for a long time.”

He’s right — we’re all still finding it hard to believe that the past weekend even happened at all. The pictures are the only thing proving that it was all real. How do we explain this to the children? They only thing I can say is “Holy Ship, that was crazy!”