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Our annual trip to Ibiza is always filled with musical treats and this year was no different. Except that there were quite a few differences this year in Ibiza, with Armin van Buuren taking his A State Of Trance shows from Monday nights at Privilege to Thursday evenings at Ushuaïa, while Markus Schulz took up residence at Amnesia on Sundays. Ferry Corsten has moved his Full On Ferry night from Eden to Space. And the Driftwood team have launched a new trance night, Sunk, at Privilege’s side room, the Vista Club. Finally, Gatecrasher have taken over and renamed Eden, with trance scheduled every Monday night. The only fixed star in the firmament is Thursday night’s Cream at Amnesia.

So when we booked our six-night stay, we knew that there was probably more to see and hear than even our eager appetites could manage. Thus we turned down the opportunity to see the New World Punx on the night we arrived, knowing that the following day’s Driftwood party would be worth preserving our energies for.

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Driftwood 
is my favourite thing to do in my favourite holiday destination. What more can you want than 100 or so trance aficionados on a boat in San Antonio bay, listening to proper trance on a Funktion 1 sound system, as the sun sets? This was our third time aboard Driftwood and the routine is now very familiar. Gathering at Itaca bar, exchanging tickets for wristbands (which also got us into Sunk the following night for free), a couple of warm-up drinks and then walking along the harbour front to the boat and climbing aboard, ready for the music to start. And taking a while to get used to dancing on a rocking boat!

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And what great music we were treated to! After a nice warm-up by Alex RyanMina (from Fady & Mina) played a great set, including his remix of Aly & Fila – Your Heart Is Mine. But we’d all come to hear Aly & Fila play, and Fadi did not disappoint, playing so many great tunes: Alt+F4 – Alt+F4, Oakenfold – Southern Sun (DJ Tiesto Remix), Luke Bond feat. Roxanne Emery – On Fire (Aly & Fila remix), Chicane – Autumn Tactics (The Thrillseekers remix), Above & Beyond – Sun In Your Eyes, and, of course, as the sun set, Aly & Fila feat. Jwaydan – We Control The Sunlight. And after an overcast afternoon we got a brilliant sunset, as if to confirm that Fadi really does control the sunlight!

After Driftwood, we headed into San Antonio’s West End, to relax over drinks at the Tropi Bar, served by the one and only Oscar, and chatted to the new friends we’d made at the Driftwood party. We skipped Gatecrasher, having heard that the rostered DJs were unlikely to appear and the club very likely to be nearly empty. Not long after our visit to Ibiza, we learned that Gatecrasher had crashed and closed the doors. A shame that a great trance brand has been brought so low.

Tuesday night was one I was really looking forward to, ever since I realised that we were going to miss Pure Trance in Sydney. To make up for that, we were lucky enough to time our trip to the white isle to coincide with Pure Trance Ibiza, courtesy of Sunk, at Privilege’s Vista Club. With Orkidea, Solarstone and Giuseppe Ottaviani on the line-up, we didn’t want to miss a minute, so we were banging down the door to get in just after midnight.

Orkidea‘s set at Luminosity had been so wonderful, but this time he wasn’t going to be playing classics, so it was our first experience of a normal opening set by him. And what a wonderful set it was, awesome progressive tunes, like his remix of Tilt and Paul van Dyk – Rendezvous, edging up the energy level steadily till he closed with his remix of Paul Oakenfold – Southern Sun.

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Next up was Solarstone, who started by dropping his Pure remix of Orkidea – Unity, a nice touch and a great transition from one set to the next. I loved the set, heavily laced with his own tunes like Solarstone & Clare Stagg – Jewel, Solarstone – Pure, Solarstone – Please, Solarstone – 4 Ever and possibly my favourite track from Pure Trance Volume 2, Driftmoon – Howl At The Moon (Solarstone Retouch).

The Vista club at Privilege is a much-improved space since our last visit, two years ago, when it was little more than an unadorned side-room, with the CD decks and mixers set up on a temporary table. The sound is great, as are the lasers and lights generally.

Following Solarstone, it was time for Giuseppe Ottaviani. Although Giuseppe was in fine form, playing a banging late night set, for some reason the crowd began to thin out, and as a result the room was fairly empty by the time he closed with Paul van Dyk feat. Plumb – I Don’t Deserve You (Giuseppe Ottaviani Remix) and Giuseppe Ottaviani feat. Vitamin B – Waiting on Someday.

After a quiet night on Wednesday, we were ready to return to the fray on Thursday for Cream at Amnesia. There’s always a fantastic atmosphere at Amnesia and a packed main room dance floor enjoying the music as well as the lasers and famous ice cannon. We arrived early to take up a good position – on the recommendation of some new friends we abandoned our usual spot on the step in front of the DJ booth for the podium at the back of the room. Although this gave us a great view, I don’t think the sound was as good in this spot, so later in the evening we found ourselves back in prime position on that step!

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After the warm-up DJ, it was Paul Oakenfold who got the main event rolling, but I really didn’t like his set at all. His mixing has never been his strong point, but in the first half an hour or so it was the big room EDM tunes that he was playing that grated more than the mixing itself. Later in his set the tunes improved – KhoMha – The Dark Knight, Darude –Sandstorm, PPK – Resurrection, Paul Oakenfold – Southern Sun, Paul Oakenfold – Café del Mar, John O’Callaghan – Big Sky – but the mixing didn’t and the overall effect was of a set being “phoned-in” and, although I hadn’t really expected that much, I was disappointed.

Paul van Dyk was next and he took the night to another level. He combined his technical expertise with some wonderful tunes, both new and classic to create an amazing energy and he had the main room buzzing throughout his set. Amongst the many classic tunes he dropped (maybe more than usual because we were celebrating 20 years of Cream at Amnesia) were Paul van Dyk – Time Of Our Lives, Giuseppe Ottaviani – No More Alone, Paul van Dyk – For An Angel, The Thrillseekers – Synaesthesia, Binary Finary – 1998, 4 Strings – Take Me Away, Randy Katana – In Silence, Underworld – Born Slippy and Paul van Dyk – Home.

5am arrived and it was time for John O’Callaghan to take us through till the close. At this time of night, there’s no messing around with JOC. It’s 140+BPM all the way. For me, this was the best set of the night. At 7 o’clock he was still going strong – along with at least 200 clubbers, determined not to leave until forced to. Along the way, we’d been treated to tunes like Vincent de Moor – Fly Away, Paul van Dyk & Giuseppe Ottaviani – Far Away, Ferry Tayle feat. Poppy – The Way Back Home, Flynn & Denton with Audrey Gallagher – Say My Name and Rui de Silva feat. Cassandra – Touch Me. We left blinking and searching for our sunglasses as we headed for the usual bunfight for taxis.

Friday night was our last night before flying home to London and we decided to take a late trip out to Space to catch Full On Ferry with Ferry Corsten and Aly & Fila. Last year, we had enjoyed Ferry’s set immensely as he transitioned from the EDM of Showtek through to uplifting trance to hand over to Fadi, by playing all his trance classics. This year, however, it was a very different experience. Perhaps because Space is a mainstream club, or for some other reason, but Ferry showed no interest in playing anything other than commercial mainstream EDM and, although the messy Space crowd were lapping it up, the room was by no means full and I found the music awful. The only hint he gave at what he is capable of was in the short section where he played back to back with Fadi, when he dropped Punk and Sweet Sorrow.

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With a crowd all set up to hear commercial tunes, Fadi did his best to rescue the night, but a lot of the people there were not interested in staying to listen to trance and the vibe in the room suffered as the place emptied. We heard some great music of course: Pink Floyd – Shine On The Dark Side Of The Moon (Neptune Project’s Out There With Pluto Mix) sounded fantastic played on the Space Discoteca sound system … and it was good to hear Fadi drop Rapid Eye – Circa Forever and Oceanlab – Satellite. But compared to other occasions when we’ve seen Aly & Fila, this didn’t rank among the best – primarily down to the venue and the crowd.

Another year in Ibiza and lots of great music and dancing. It can be expensive, of course, but we usually find ways of keeping the costs down so that we can afford to come back year after year. As always seems to be the case these days, Driftwood was the highlight. But Sunk shows a lot of promise, Cream is always special and we hardly noticed the fact that we missed out (by choice) on seeing either Armin or Markus Schulz.

Roll on 2015!

 

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