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The Seven Best Musical Moments of Holy Ship! Wrecked 2020: Diplo, Duck Sauce & More

BILLBOARD - January 29, 2020

In the ever-expanding electronic music festival market, there are certain events that artists want to return to each year just as much as the fans do. Holy Ship! is one of those festivals.

Taking place in the Dominican Republic this past January 22-25, the formerly seafaring cruise party took place on land for the first time under its new, anchored name Holy Ship! Wrecked. Lineup regulars including Claude VonStroke, A-Trak, Diplo and dozens of others as part of Shipfam as the attendees, turned out for the inaugural resort-based version taking place at the Hard Rock Hotel in Punta Cana.

Having such a strong crew of major acts return each year must likely take some pressure off the people curating the lineup. But talent buyers must also adapt to current trends, and this year, Holy Ship! Wrecked’s lineup reflected the current ubiquity of house music. Open-format artists like Diplo and Valentino Kahn dedicated their entire sets to it, with Diplo hosting his all-house Higher Ground stage as well. The entire main stage lineup on opening night was also house music, with the crowd showing up for house music unlike any genre.

These are the best four-on-the-floor infused musical moments of the beachside party.

Duck Sauce Reunion

For those with their finger on the house music pulse, the announcement that A-Trak and Armand Van Helden were reviving Duck Sauce after a six-year hiatus was a welcome way to begin 2020. Since their funky-fresh debut album Quack, containing the dance floor-destroying “Barbara Streisand,” dropped in 2014, this pair of dance all-stars one-upped their legendary status even further. So when both members of the avian duo were booked for consecutive slots at Holy Ship! Wrecked’s main stage, everyone knew what to expect. We were going to be some of the first people to see them reunite in over half a decade, with the excitement building throughout the festival leading up to the moment.

“How many new Duck Sauce tracks are you playing tonight?” Billboard Dance asked A-Trak just before the set.

“You gotta let the ducks be the ducks,” he responded, then walking onstage to take over the decks with Van Helden.

And the ducks they were, playing old classics and some about-to-be-released new music as well.

Lane 8’s Three-Hour Sunset Set

Holy Ship! has always placed specific artists in the sunset slot to create a magical atmosphere for Shipfam, as Holy Ship! attendees are called, before they undertake a jam-packed evening of dance music. Watching the sun dip below the horizon on the ocean is, after all, a sight that never gets old.

Being on land for the first time this year, Holy Ship! had the chance to endow these sunset slots with even more magic by placing them right on the beach. For the final sunset of the event, the progressive champion Lane 8 was gifted three full hours. In looking at the lineup, there was simply no one better to play that slot. Lane 8 doesn’t just mix house tracks — he weaves together compositions like an orchestral conductor. It didn’t even matter that the cloudy forecast impeded the light of the sun for much of his set. The sunset was in our ears, our minds, and, of course, our hearts.

Gorgon City Closing Their Realm Stage

Gorgon City are Holy Ship! veterans, but for the first Holy Ship! Wrecked they were able to host their own stage under their new brand, Realm. Taking residence in Club Oro, Hard Rock Punta Cana’s visually and sonically rich dance haven, the duo closed out a massive evening after some of the more subtle four-on-the-floor killers at Holy Ship! Wrecked, including an impromptu back-to-back from Hayden James and Dom Dolla. When Gorgon finally took the stage, they lined up an hour’s worth of house music that played to their intoxicating mix of alluring vocals and heavy grooves.

Surprise Skream B2B Mayson Maynard

Nearly every set at Holy Ship! Wrecked was an hour long, but Skream doesn’t like one-hour sets. He probably doesn’t even like two-hour or three-hour sets anymore, after gallivanting around the world playing clubs open-to-close.

So, when he was placed after his good friend Mayson Maynard, they opted for two-hours b2b, rather than two solo hours. This was a welcome surprise for everyone in the crowd, as the two have played together in the past and have excellent chemistry together as DJs, which was certainly noticeable here.

The Dirtybird Pool Party

No matter where Holy Ship! goes around the world, there’s going to be a Dirtybird party. Doesn’t matter if Holy Ship! Wrecked ends up at a resort in Iceland — the Dirtybirds will show up in full force, ready to make people move.

In past nautical iterations of the event, Claude VonStroke and his birds would be a shoe-in for one of the island stops; this year, they took over the pool stage, much to Shipfam’s pleasure. Five of the team’s favorites — Christian Martin, VNSSA, Ardalan, Justin Martin and the Boss Bird himself — had the afternoon to bomb the pool with crunchy bass lines. The standout of the five, however, was certainly Ardalan, who since the release of his debut album, Mr.Good, has gone full throttle into a style decorated with white-hot vocal snaps and pleasurable melodies.

Nghtmre Closing Mainstage

To close out the main stage at any event, big or small, is quite the honor. Nghtmre received that honor at the first-ever Holy Ship! Wrecked, and based on the sheer intensity of his set, it was an honor he took very seriously. Building his image as a paragon of the flexible genre commonly known as future bass, Nghtmre’s sets can vary in sound, tempo and style. For this set, all three of those elements coalesced based on one descriptor: heavy bass. Dubstep was the prominent genre, but beyond that, the subwoofers were so active that it was almost difficult to tell when tracks changed at all.

The only instance of higher frequencies appeared with his classic, career-defining collaboration with Slander, “Gud Vibrations,” a subtle reminder that new music from the trio is coming soon.

Melé Opening Diplo’s Higher Ground Stage

As journalists, it is our duty not only to celebrate the big reunions and sets from the established artists, but to illuminate younger artists who are crushing their opening slots, even if the dancefloor is empty. While there were some fans on the floor as Melé opened Diplo’s Higher Ground stage, the producer was doing exactly what an opening DJ should do — playing tracks that perfectly communicated his musical identity while exercising restraint to keep the crowd buzzing for the big names to follow. Those familiar with Melé know he’s on his way to doing special things, and the idea of him having his own stage at a Holy Ship! Wrecked within a few years feels far far from fantasy.