Alex Fish, - on 26/7/12
I caught up with Sankeys David Vincent about a month and a half ago from mainland Spain on the last day of a three-week cleanse he’d begun after weathering the opening parties at the newest outcropping of the Sankeys brand, in Playa d’en Bossa, Ibiza. For a man with such a long and storied career in clubland, it seems only fair to give his body a rest every now and then. As we chat on the eve of his 7am flight back to the island for the regular summer season, there’s a measured tone to the way he speaks about Sankeys Ibiza and how he and his team are poised to “do it right this time.”
Achieving such Zen in nightlife doesn’t come cheap. In Vincent’s case, it cost him a 2011 summer season of struggles and hardships that hardened his resolve to ensure this year was more than simply an improvement. After racing to open last year, the club was ultimately plagued with a sound system so fresh it was still being tuned as the first punters queued around the block to get in, lighting that arrived eight weeks late, and a million euro investor who unexpectedly pulled out of the venture. David maxxed out his credit cards, got creative with his on-island marketing system and found a way to keep his head above water, but just barely.
The folklore that surrounds the mafia-like manner in which the big clubs operate to limit competition has always seemed a formidable obstacle for any new venue looking to get a piece of Ibiza’s action, but David was quick to note that every clubbing organization on the island (save one I couldn’t get him to name) has been supportive. “If you do things in a correct way, you shouldn’t encounter any resistance. We’ve done everything in a very legal manner.”
In preparation to bring Sankeys to Ibiza, David and his team looked at a few venues but nothing stood out and spoke to him the way the space they ultimately chose did. “If it wasn’t for this venue we wouldn’t have done anything-we wanted to be in Playa d’en Bossa.” He goes on to mention the multi-room layout compliments the Sankeys vibe and adds “we need them low ceilings for the atmosphere that we create.”
It was difficult for me, at the time, to understand the conviction with which David spoke about the atmosphere they create. I hadn’t been to Sankeys Ibiza last season, nor had I ever been to the original in Manchester. He sounded like just another motivated club owner on the other end of the Skype voice call. And then I went to Sankeys, Ibiza. And now there’s something to talk about.
It took us a second to find it the first (and actually second) time we went. In Playa d’en Bossa my landmark had always been Space, and more recently Ushuaia. Outside of navigating to those two buildings, I was a pretty useless leader when it came time to hit the Diynamic label party on Tuesday entitled “Neon Nights.” One or two friendly strangers later and we’d found it, tucked down a small street off the main drag. In talking about the Diynamic founder, Vincent says “Solomun is one of the hottest properties in dance music at the moment, it made complete sense to create a night around him and his label. His sound is the sound of now.”
It’s certainly a statement I agreed with, and was the reason we were so excited to check the new night out, but after dealing with friendly door staff and no queue to get in, I was wondering if Ibiza’s holiday population would be as in touch with this specific brand of hotness. We stepped past the bouncers, through the wooden doors, and into a large dark room. Everyone was drenched in black-light shadows and highlights of yellow, pink and orange neon darted in various directions in time with the beats. The Void sound system is formidable and was getting a solid workout from David August. It was immediately clear that it was a mistake to have wasted time doubting Sankeys, or for that matter Solomun and the Diynamic crew.
The “low ceilings” and “atmosphere” that sounded vaguely generic on our call now instantly made sense. LED lights pinged back and forth and created a subtle and welcome alternative to the epileptically dangerous visuals that tend to plague the island’s super clubs. Camaraderie was instantaneous, you were all there because you knew what was up, and there was an impressive, and almost uncharacteristic (for underground house music), positive ratio of girls to guys. Stimming (Live) followed August before HOSH and Solomun kicked the night into overdrive. People anonymously filtered through the booth during their set but the whole club seemed to perk up when David, touched by neon makeup just like everyone else, joined the pair onstage. I’m sure it was just another moment of 2012 validation for a man who’d likely spent some of 2011 wondering if they’d make it this far, but it was fun to see nonetheless. Solomun and HOSH went on to lay waste to the dancefloor with their signature bassline-driven house music and while a girl began to paint my face with something that glowed in the dark, I more or less stopped writing to the hard drive.
The following night was Steve Lawler’s Viva Warriors party with Matt Tolfrey, Inxec (Live), Enzo Siragusa, and Darius Syrossian. It took a little work to motivate my villa mates to make the same journey with me all the way from San Miguel, but love always finds a way (or at least more often than not?). Lawler is a legend that’s traditionally called Space home and his departure from the super club to spearhead a new night at Sankeys speaks to the appeal its unique atmosphere holds for A-list DJs as well. His move to a smaller, darker venue represents a bit of a coup, and a win for David vs. Space (Goliath).
Viva Warriors had its own distinctive feel, but was buoyed by the same factors that helped Neon Nights feel like a family affair: bespoke graphics along with lightly-decorated girls and guys. Several make-up bearing warrior princesses dotted the club’s landscape and were integral in assisting those of us (who may or may not have been American and running on recklessly little sleep) with the transition into full-blown “warrior mode.” They were clearly professionals and eager to help. For whatever reason, Wednesday enjoyed a slightly more rambunctious environment behind the booth that channeled the energy the dancefloor was emitting right back into the club. With my 19th wind achieved, it was time to drink in the sounds that flowed from what felt like a reenergized party-Lawler and then ride the night out to the consistently groovy house sounds of Leftroom Records boss, Matt Tolfrey.
As Ibiza becomes more than simply a once-in-a-lifetime destination for many, the draw to the island begins to be the people and the unique relationships we build while enjoying the best music in the world. In the process, the shock and awe tactics of the super clubs become almost predictable in their ability to razzle-dazzle and the experiences they offer reveal themselves as frequently more pomp than circumstance. David Vincent’s Sankeys provides the remedy to such offerings and in stripping away such sensory overload, clears a path for clubbers to connect more directly with the DJs, the night, and most importantly with the music itself.
It sounds deceptively simple, but with a club-going population easily distracted by shiny objects and loud noises, it can be a difficult message to successfully get across. Luckily for us, 2012 is the year David Vincent and Sankeys Ibiza, managed to hit critical (and extremely enjoyable) mass. There’s even a touch of genius to the club’s slightly off-the-beaten path location, because with how hard they worked to get it there, the least you could do is put a little effort into finding it.
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