It’s 4:30 AM on day three of HOLY SHIP! 9.0. Claude VonStroke is performing on the Manhattan stage and I stumble out the crowd to find DJ Tennis passing by. He just finished his set downstairs and we begin to chat about his experience interacting with fans, a regular occurrence during our time at the intimate festival. “It’s truly a special thing, I simply love it,” he utters. As we venture down a corridor we come across a small group of people gathered around a pillar. We move past the giggling crew to find that attached to the pillar, just hanging there, is the biggest dildo we’ve ever seen. Jet black and covered in glitter, it must be at least 2 feet long. “It’s like we’re analyzing a piece of art in a gallery,” someone declares as the crowd erupts in laughter. With a grin from ear to ear DJ Tennis gives the dildo a wag and then disappears into the night.
Occurrences like this seem to happen at any given moment. It's difficult to explain the expressive environment, as all festivals have their own way of bringing out the inner wild child, but there’s something different about the infectious atmosphere of HOLY SHIP! that allows the creature to emerge, and costumes, onesies or minimal clothing is the norm. Like walking through the ship and peering off the balcony to see a crew dressed as ghosts being chased by a guy in a big yellow Pacman suit. Looking through the sea of people it’s easy to see any type of peculiar character. Perhaps a gathering of patrons wearing giant bear masks or Beetlejuice raving, Negan from The Walking Dead, a naked woman or man. Individuals are truly in rare form and the artists feed off the energy the best way they can, by delivering unique performances not found anywhere else.
As the artists are stuck in the same space for four days just like all the fans, making the most of their time together is a major part of the HOLY SHIP! experience. Spontaneous b2b sessions keep everyone on their toes and Gary Richards, aka Destructo, the man with the vision behind the festival, holds a meeting with all artists before the festivities begin to encourage his peers to crash sets and provide something unique.
Like when Griz, Mija, Bones and Will Clarke all jumped on stage during Golf Clap’s set to share in the onslaught of house. And nobody could have planned Chris Lorenzo b2b Claude VonStroke b2b Golf Clap b2b Chris Lake. But when Mija and Gina Turner supplied a full set of drum and bass, a genre that had been played sparingly throughout the festival, and Gina mixed in ‘Such Great Heights’ by The Postal Service with the dnb riff that Mija had already laid out, happy tears could be seen streaming down throughout the crowd.
There’s a reason why moments like this only happen while on HOLY SHIP!, but discovering that reason might be harder than one can imagine. Whether it’s the comfortable environment, the friendly community, the talented artists or the organized crew behind the scenes, it’s clear that this gathering stands alone on the festival circuit. If there is anything on this earth that can deliver an overload of pleasure, HOLY SHIP! is it.
View exclusive photos from HOLY SHIP! 9.0 above and look for the announcement on 2018 sailings coming soon.
Harrison is Mixmag's East Coast Editor. Follow him on Twitter here
[Photo Credit: Dave Vann]