Ibiza 2017: Clubbing Review

2017 will be remembered as a strange year for many businesses on the White Isle and the club scene was no different. So who had a good season, and who didn’t?

In terms of clubs, Privilege and Eden were back on the Ibiza clubbing map after a few years in the doldrums. Many of the old Space backroom staff moved to Privilege and you could tell that their time, contacts and experience were injected into the place. The Carl Cox parties in July were the busiest the club has seen, eclipsing even Manumission, BBC Radio 1 and those Tiesto nights. Cox is still as popular as ever so by only playing two dates (at his own parties) ensured the nights would be a roadblock. Resistance did well too with Sasha and John Digweed and the roof lights in the main room were something else. The Afterlife parties (another ex-party from Space) and their combined closing party with the club definitely laid down a marker for the coming years.

Eden has finally recovered from being sold and the Gatecrasher fiasco, with the recovery starting last year, and Defected being the flagship party that will mean Eden can choose promoters to work with next year, rather than trying to find those that would take the risk. Well done to Defected Boss Simon Dunmore l for trusting in Eden, getting their DJs right and putting San Antonio club back into the mix.

Hi was the big news of the summer taking over the old Space premises in Playa d’en Bossa. Their line up pre season looked good, with a mix of DJs and music genres rather than the EDM that dominates their sister club, the daytime venue, Ushuaia. They certainly spent a lot of money over the winter totally transforming it into a more VIP focussed club, but did they forget that you need the dancefloor full, to create the atmosphere?

It would certainly appear so, as in June and even into July, they were giving away wristbands for entry and it took them longer to establish their identity and brand. Armin Van Buuren’s night and Glitterbox looked like the only two nights where both rooms were working well, and I’m sure the owners will look at how to get the club room working next year. For such a new club, and with so much hype, if you ask for most people’s favourite part of the club, most will tell you it’s the Wild Corner, where they have DJs in the toilets. A small, intimate room, where dancing is the focus, there is no VIP in there. From an outside perspective, it looks like the DJs are happy to take the money to play there, but this year the club lacked soul and substance, and it will probably take 3 years to get that credibility, and their programming right.

Amnesia had a good year, especially when you consider all the problems they had last year with the tax inspector raids and the licensing issues after the Music On, Coccon and Hyte parties regularly over ran during the season, rather than closing on time. Elrow was the biggest party, and continued their Ibiza and global domination as the best party in the world. The production is another level, their only problem now, is that they are in fashion, there is so much going on, and so many of the punters are on their phones recording it all, rather than engaging with the party and the music.

DC10 is still the best club on the island musically and thankfully over the last 3 years the club has become a much safer clubbing environment, while still keeping it’s authenticity as the place with the true Ibiza spirit and sound. Circoloco, Paradise and Wild Life were all successful and busy.

Pacha had another solid season and Hot Since 82’s new Friday night residency was the only new party, and performed well. There was no evidence of the new owners for those on the dancefloor, so it will be interesting to see if they start to influence things in 2018. FMIF and Solomun were the two nights that were sold out every week, with completely contrasting styles of music. With 3 French DJ heading up their own nights, it will be interesting to see if one of those nights changes next year.

Sankeys had a decent year with a good music policy and atmosphere, Redlight, Abode and Do Not Sleep all performing well with their usual crowds. Having seen Hi have to adapt their music on a couple of nights, it looked like they were targeting the Sankeys crowd on their more underground nights of In the Dark and Black Coffee.

Ushuaia will be worrying about where the mainstream music scene is going next year. Ushuaia’s current business model relies on big DJ wages for artists that will pack in 10,000 people to the club. Guetta and Garrix seem untouchable, and are pop stars, but several of the other nights were hit or miss this year and it will have been the VIP tables, rather than the crowds, that covered the wages. If EDM is finally on the wane, then they have to find other genres and DJs who will pack the club and their music will lend itself to the big stage production they can offer. Certainly Tinie Tempah works (and worked a longer season than the EDM guys) and confirmed that UK Garage and the urban genres are on the rise again.

Other worthy mentions need to go to Ocean Beach, which is firmly on the aspiration list for the San An/ reality TV/ Instagram crowd, and the parties and day parties are stronger every year. The Acid Sundays and Wax da Jam parties at Las Dalias are well worth a visit. Children of the 80s seemed to have another good season after changing to Fridays. . Woomoon at Cova Santa was something completely different and certainly worth a vistit, although will it be back in 2018 after Cova Santa operating outside of their license? Pete Tong’s Sundays at Blue Marlin seemed a good fit for the venue and the artist. Ibiza Rocks’s pool parties seemed to go down well this year, with Craig David having another ridiculous summer. It’s a real shame Andy McKay doesn’t feel he can do live music at the hotel anymore and shows the politics and regulations that are in operation on the island.

The main observation of this summer, is that the crowds have changed dramatically in the last few years. Ibiza use to be for dance music fans. Clubbers came to see a whole range of DJ’s and parties during their weeks holiday, and listen to music they wouldn’t necessarily hear at home. The island has luckily been in fashion during the global recession, and with the tourism problems in Turkey, Greece, Egypt and Tunisia, Spain and Ibiza has had a bumper few summers.

Looking forward the problem Ibiza may have is that when those markets open back up again and dance music goes out of main stream fashion. The island is not nurturing the new Young fans who have been coming for 5-10 years, and has probably put them off coming back with the commercial music, over pricing and crowded roads, beaches and resorts. Those people who have been crying out for less tourism might be about to get what they wished for.

Many thanks to ‘The Clubbing Insider’ who helped me with this article

San Antonio’s West End set for More Noise ‘Protection’

In news that could greatly affect San Antonio’s famous West End, the area will now be declared a ‘Zone of Special Acoustic Protection’ (ZPAE) after the local government decided to act after receiving the results of new acoustic studies carried out over summer.

The studies showed that over the summer the legal maximum noise levels were exceeded in 4 of the 5 measuring stations reaching up to 85.9 decibels, 20 decibels higher than allowed. The measurements carried out in 2017 support what was already detected in 2016, when a first study was carried out to develop a noise map which indicated the main sources of noise pollution in the town centre.

San Antonio town hall started the process in February 2017 and with measurements carried out this summer in two areas of the urban center (sa Punta des Molí and West End) have determined that there is sufficient reason to proceed with the declaration of a ‘Special Zone of Acoustic Protection’.

A ZPAE is an area where there are ‘high noise levels due to the existence of numerous recreational activities, public establishments, the activity of the people who use them, traffic noise as well as any other activity of a permanent nature that affects the saturation of the sound level of the zone even when each activity, individually considered, complies with the levels established by law’.

More importantly the ZPAE declaration allows the local lawmakers to increase the corrective measures aimed at alleviating the existing noise saturation. The municipal technicians will now study what measures are to be implemented in order for them to be approved in the coming months.

Once the ZPAE declaration has been carried out, annual measurements will then be made to determine the impact of the new measures taken and how the protection zone evolves. The corrective actions can then be lowered or intensified annually based on the data collected.

Once approved, the ZPAE can not be lifted until the acoustic quality objectives set by the regulations are reached: 65 dB during the day and 55 at night.

San An’s Mayor José Tur said “All the studies conducted over the last two years indicate that the limits have been exceeded. We cannot ignore this and therefore we have to establish the mechanisms to return the area to a normal situation”.

Environment councillor Pablo Valdés, believes that the declaration of ZPAE “can and should mark a turning point in the municipality.”

Sr Valdés continued “We will try to recover the coexistence and to deal with the noise that caused the depopulation of the urban center, linked to the alterations of the public order and generating a perception of the current tourist model as a hostile activity.”

Source: Periodico de Ibiza

Catalunya: The Ex-Pats View

By Laurent Bates in Catalunya

After much anticipation 10 October 2017 didn’t quite turn out to be Independence Day here in Catalunya but the Catalan government has shown their intent and soon will come the day when we will be finally free from those ghastly Spaniards, those who repress our language, our culture and take all of our money…….well that is what the ‘Generalitat’, the Catalan regional government, would have us believe.

But what is it really like living here in the heart of Catalunya in these most testing of times? What is it like for a British ex-pat from Lloret de Mar, that most cosmopolitan of towns on the Costa Brava?

Having been here over ten years it’s difficult not to get caught up in the feeling of immense pride that the Catalans have for their region, the people are walking a little taller at the moment, confident that this is their time, their chance to create a Catalan Republic.

Most people accuse them of being selfish and wanting to break away from Spain so that they’ll be even wealthier than they already are. This has some truth of course but it isn’t the overriding reason.

My Catalan friends and neighbours genuinely don’t believe that they are Spanish, they have no interest in the national football team, no loyalty or feelings towards the King. They genuinely feel they are a separate race to the Spanish with a long unique history to back up those claims.

Many of them accept that after independence things could be very tough financially for a number of years, they expect a backlash from Europe and a boycott of Catalan goods and services from the rest of Spain. It doesn’t matter to them though because they will finally have their own country, their own homeland to be proud of.

That is what is driving this push for independence and you can sense it the air.

The joy was palpable on 01-O (1st October) at the polling booths, a joyous occasion, everyone clapping and cheering each other as they placed their votes. That is why the police brutality was so shocking, they all knew it was possible but not many really expected the Spanish police to attack as they did. It just strengthened the ‘them and us’ feelings and played into the hands of the ‘independistas’.

So how will life be for expats if independence becomes a reality?

We would hope that not a great deal really changes and we would just get on with our everyday lives, working hard, taking the kids to school, albeit in a new country that has a deliriously happy native population celebrating all things Catalan on a daily basis, dancing Sardanas and building human towers until late in the evenings.

The reality though could be very very different and it is a terrifying time for us. Kicked out of Europe, the loss of the Euro, big business leaving in their droves, a run on the banks, our savings devalued. All a possibility and not what we had in mind when we left our previous homelands.

Over the coming weeks and months we will know if the unity of Spain will continue, or if instead, our futures are about to be tossed into to the air. We just hope that we don’t come crashing down like one of those magnificent human towers.

Bon día tothom

Laurent Bates has lived and worked in Spain for over 20 years and has been based in Catalunya for over 10 years. He now runs British Food Imports in Lloret de Mar, Costa Brava. An avid Coventry city supporter, he is married with 2 children.

Ibiza Bubble but Barcelona Trouble Underlines an Uncertain Future

The Catalan independence troubles have brought home just how fickle and polarising the world is at the moment. Extreme views being met with extreme measures is the recurring theme and Spain and it’s autonomous regions is no different.

As far as Ibiza and the Balearics is concerned we were all riding along on the crest of a wave, living in the bubble that mass tourism on a small island provides. An island by definition tends to be more removed from the mainland but in Spain you’re never too far from a political scandal with corruption at the heart. This has been a way of life since General Franco ruled with an iron fist so knowing the right people has always been a valuable commodity.

For those that live in Ibiza, Barcelona tends to be your big city option. Some prefer Palma or Madrid but for the majority it’s Barcelona that’s the Mecca when you require a big city fix. That’s why when terrorists committed mass murder on 17 August 2017 it was too close for comfort for those who know the Catalan capital intimately and especially those who have young family at college in the vicinity.

Terrorist attacks are hard to stop due to small cells of extremists plotting together so after that atrocity there was very much a stiff upper lip ‘business as usual’ feeling even though it was a tragic world event. Then 01-O happened.

01-O stands for 01 October, the date the Catalans voted overwhelmingly to create an independent republic and is now etched in the Spanish psyche much as is 11-M (11 March 2004 Madrid bombings) and 11-S (Sep 11 attacks). The vote had already been ruled unconstitutional and illegal by the highest court in the land and there was only a 40% turnout, boycotted by an opposition that viewed it as unlawful activity. The lack of independent observers at the voting stations is also a concern.

In terms of world events this is a massive test for Spain which has reverberations all through the Kingdom with many other autonomous regions looking on with interest. Even King Felipe has been dragged into the argument making an unscheduled TV address calling for unity but not even mentioning the violence from his own security forces. Pictures of heavy handed policing being beamed all over the planet hasn’t done anything for Madrid’s public relations or Spain’s reputation however for those that live in the country and have seen first hand how police forces, such as the Guardia Civil, operate it came as no real surprise.

The knock on effect for Ibiza is minimal at the moment but shouldn’t be underestimated either. The polarising views of the Spanish electorate has been laid bare for all to see in recent times and this issue pours more fuel on the fire however Ibiza doesn’t view itself as Catalan so even though the local debates have been vociferous they have also been in the 3rd person so far.

Ibiza and Barcelona may share a similar DNA, history, language and culture but the native ‘Ibicenco’ population view themselves very differently to the Catalans. In many ways the similarities underpin the differences and if you mention Catalunya in general conversation you are usually met with rolled eyes and a ‘they are a different breed’ reply, which isn’t surprising seeing as Catalans view themselves as a different race.

What the Barcelona problems have done is create more uncertainty and pessimism in an already fractured market. Even though Ibiza is having a boom there are many businesses who are struggling due to the polarising nature of the current marketplace.

For Ibiza there are plenty of issues that are of more pressing concern. A diminishing middle market, an over proliferation of half empty 4 and 5 star hotels, a moratorium on tourist places, the high cost of living, talk of limiting tourism in certain areas, a building ban holding back regeneration and growth and a housing crisis that means that many public service workers can’t even afford to live on the island. These and many more are all genuine concerns that are only exasperated by the self inflicted troubles going on across the water. This isn’t a terrorist attack per se, it’s political terrorism from both sides reigniting feuds and opening old wounds.

Like the Basque problem before it the Catalan question is now front page news across the world. As usual there are 3 sides to every story but an illegal election called for by self serving politicians and a heavy handed response by a hated historical enemy has only served to highlight the differences that exist and this doesn’t sit well with Ibiza, a well known liberal and hippy island that likes to bring people together, not force them apart.

Monarch Goes Under as Ibiza Posts Record Arrivals – Go Figure

The decline of Monarch Airlines is a sad but inevitable consequence of a tough market but when you live on an island that relies almost exclusively on flight connections then this type of news is felt a little more sharply.

Monarch were a good choice for those wanting a cheap option however their late slots meant that flying on their aircraft was usually a lively affair. The 11pm departures from Gatwick and Manchester were particularly special with the weekend party brigade although unlike other airlines the experienced MON staff were usually good at diffusing over exuberant situations.

Unfortunately Monarch got dragged into a price war with the the other major flight-only players which meant that even though they were carrying more people their revenues were getting lower. Throw in a Brexit-inspired exchange rate crash and a security crisis is the eastern Mediterranean and for Monarch the worlds obsession with cheap flights wasn’t sustainable especially when costs were going up and income going down.

Monarch, like many before them, suffered from not adapting to a rapidly changing market. They were stuck between traditional tour operator and low cost flights provider and weren’t differentiating themselves particularly well. This could be said of other similar big names and following on from the demise of Alitalia and Air Berlin they won’t be the last airline to cease trading in the near future.

TUI and Thomas Cook, the big international tour operators, will be looking over their shoulders in 2018 as the ever changing market shifts yet again. They are stuck with a rigid and antiquated business model that doesn’t allow flexibility so any major change could have a big bearing on their future.

Spain’s biggest flight operator Ryanair will continue their dominance of the flight only market although they have also had a major blip recently with the cancellation of thousands of flights due to ‘staff shortages’. In a fickle market this could have been seen as Michael O’Leary’s ‘Gerald Ratner Moment’ of treating his loyal customer base with utter contempt however after the demise of Monarch and the big money involved in running an international airline it could now be viewed as good housekeeping.

2017 saw more flights than ever coming into the White Isle and 2018 should continue in the same vein but as Monarch has shown there may be some more surprises ahead.The effect on Ibiza and the other Balearic Islands will be less flight options which may drive prices up in the short term but this should settle down as the market adjusts accordingly.

Adiós Monarch, it was an interesting journey.