When our Discobus lands outside Ushuaïa a little after 4.30PM, the streets are more or less empty. Most people are still at the beach, or snoozing, or preparing for the evening. Inside this open-air colossus of a beach club we spot Nic Fancuilli and his manager re-entering a small production studio behind the Main Stage. Both appear cool and calm. If they do have any opening night nerves or concerns they’re impossible to perceive.
Ultimately, DANCE OR DIE is Nic Fanciulli’s party. He may look fresh-faced, but Maidstone’s favourite son is one of the island’s longest-serving DJs. His White Isle legacy began in 1996 when he first visited Ibiza as a punter. Amnesia, Pacha and in particular the Manumission Carry On parties at Space were his preferred haunts.
Inspired by the DJs he saw spinning at those legendary clubs and parties, Nic scored his first White Isle gig in 2000, playing for Clockwork Orange at Es Paradis. After that he guested across the island, becoming a regular for Cream, before finally landing a residency alongside James Zabiela at We Love… Space on Sundays. Subsequently he got a call from Carl Cox, offering him a residency slot at his Revolution party at the same venue. The rest, as they say, is history. Carl and Nic became like family (Carl is godfather to Nic’s son), and their back-to-back performances at Space are now the stuff of legend.
Maybe Nic looks so relaxed because he feels so at home here. After all, he’s been an essential part of the Ushuaïa Ibiza team since 2012, when he closed the first ever ANTS party. Then in 2014 he joined forces with Joris Voorn to launch a new residency, La Familia. Working together again with Ushuaïa/The Night League founder Yann Pissenem, Nic promises that DANCE OR DIE is very much “a party for the people”.
“I learned a lot from my experiences with Carl at Space,” Nic explains. “Musically, it wasn’t just one style; he’d throw in a DJ curveball every now and again. But more than anything else what Carl created was a family environment. The majority of the DJs on the line-up were his friends, and that energy translated onto the dancefloor. He created a real community, and I want this event to be the same. When Yann and I were talking about the ticket pricing I made it known that I didn’t want it to be too expensive, even though today we have what amounts to a festival line-up. It’s one of the things we agreed on from the beginning.”
Nic isn’t just talking the talk; he’s walking the walk. He’s literally just completed a circuit of the venue. We watch him drop by the small DJ booth to converse with island favourite Jamie Roy, who is warming up the crowds as they filter inside the gates. After that, he does his best to chat to everyone: the bar staff, the security. “We know everyone,” Nic says. “And we want to make sure that everyone is on the same page, because we’re trying to create something special here.”
Acid Mondays are the last act to perform down by the beach before the party switches to the Main Stage at 6:PM. The barriers rise, and three thousand ravers rush beyond the pool to claim their place on the dancefloor: women in heels, lads in board shorts, barefoot girls in swimsuits, a guy wearing black denim jeans with only one leg, a raver in long yellow socks and flip-flops. People from everywhere. So many different looks and styles. An unquantifiable crowd but for a shared sparkle in their eye.
And all around us the venue – by Ushuaïa’s usual maximal standards –is sparsely decorated. There are neon signs and images raised behind the DJ: skeletons, Mickey Mouse, an illuminated pineal gland. There’s also a scattering of hot dancers in neon attire. And the upshot of it all is a rave ambience. It seems ludicrous to be pondering the raw notion of ‘warehouse vibes’ when we’re stomping around in such a plush open-air venue, but this is the closest any of us are going to get to a full-on rave at Ushuaïa Ibiza without building a low roof over the dancefloor.
In a musical sense, Spanish hero Paco Osuna might as well be opening a new room. Opening the Main Stage demands groovy tech-house bombs and bangers. Think ‘Start The Party’ by George Smeddles. Paco might be a top-tier headliner these days, but his own association with Ibiza started way back in 1999 when he joined Amnesia as their resident DJ. Consequently, when it comes to setting the sonic groundwork for the rest of the evening, Paco knows exactly what he needs to do.
At 7:30PM, global tech dominator Carl Cox appears. Once again, what’s key here is groove: Mark Broom’s ‘Heart’ merging into ‘Pianopop’ by Mihalis Safras. The sun is still going down, the vibe is turning naughty, but we’re outside and there’s no need for Carl to get too intense too early.
Then Nic Fanciulli takes the reins from Carl at 9:PM, the sorcerer handing over to the sorcerer’s apprentice. Since the days when they used to play back-to-back at Space, emotionally and musically Carl Cox and Nic Fanciulli have been locked into the same kind of rhythm. Follow Nic on social media and you’ll see how much he likes to reference the concept of ‘la familia’ in his posts. This is a person and a DJ who enjoys building strong relationships with good people: a philosophy no doubt enhanced by his close association with Carl.
Yet oddly enough, it’s Nic acting as the chief facilitator these days: the apprentice making the impossible possible. After all, this is the first time Carl has played at Ushuaïa Ibiza. We ask Nic how he persuaded his mentor to join him here tonight: “To be honest, it’s probably one of the most nervous phonecalls I’ve ever had had to make,” he replies. “But I explained to him the reasons why I was doing this party and what I wanted to achieve, and he literally opened his diary there and then and asked me what I needed in terms of dates. Having great people like Carl representing your party is a massive plus. Carl appreciates that and that’s why he agreed to play. We both have great memories of Space. It served a purpose, just like Hï Ibiza serves a purpose, and Ushuaïa serves a purpose.”
He gestures out to the crowd, all churning bodies illuminated now by the vivid neon installations around the stage: skulls and snakes and cartoon characters and slogans like ‘Dance first think later’. “There’s a new generation of kids on the dancefloor now, and as an industry we have to keep moving forwards. I don’t want to be one of those fuddy-duddy people who get stuck in the past forever and imprisoned in a certain era. If you have that kind of mentality you’re never going to enjoy anything ever again! And in any case, this party isn’t about any single individual – including me. It’s about a community of DJs playing for everyone. And that’s what I hope we’ve demonstrated tonight.”
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