Festival review: Ibiza 123 Rocktronic

Jack Law is underwhelmed by Ibiza's first festival, which merged huge rock and pop icons with underground and commercial dance acts for an eclectic - perhaps too eclectic - three day line-up.

Jayne Robinson

Date published: 17th Jul 2012

Ibiza has been the clubbing capital of the world for many, many years now and this year Pete Tong and the Pacha crew decided it was time that the White Isle played host to its own festival, Ibiza 123 Rocktronic. Music festivals are a huge part of many people's lives, and what better place to host a three-day outdoor party than Ibiza, where most of the island's inhabitants over the course of the summer live and breathe music. Right?

The idea of the Rocktronic theme was clever, exciting and maybe a little bit risky, directly combining two different genres of music which don't usually cross paths. Over the course of the festival dance music was represented by a number of fore-runners in the game such as David Guetta, Steve Angello and Luciano, whilst rock legends Sting, Elton John and Lenny Kravitz were invited down to Ibiza for the very first time, in John and Kravitz' cases, working hard with acts from the dance spectrum to create something entirely new for the festival.

Day One

A mixture of DJs had been selected to play across the one and only stage of the festival in the run up to the first rock legend of the event, Sting. Playing the day was a live set from The Japanese Popstars and DJ sets from Ibiza favourite Wally Lopez and Drum & Bass dons Chase & Status, until Sting performed live. Then two of the biggest names in electronic dance music, David Guetta and Tiesto, took to the decks as the final acts of the day. The organisers even showed the Euro 2012 final on the huge screen that set the back-drop to the stage so the lucky festival-goers didn't miss out on the excitement of the football. The line-up itself boasted big names, but it was a very different side to the spectrum compared to what was to follow.

Day Two

The second day saw a much more eclectic selection of artists. Hadouken (live) flew the indie-electro flag, whilst Labrinth (live) secured sounds of pop/hip-hop. Sub Focus was on hand to serve a mash up of all things dubstep, drum and bass and electro; at times we had to double check whether it was actually still him playing as he jumped from genres in an instant. Tinie Tempah (live) was also there to add to the roster of live perfomances.

2Manydjs came on afterwards and smashed a brief thirty minute set, impeccably weaving a range of well known vocal samples from past classics across pounding electro. The duo got the crowd singing along to favourites like Blur's 'Girls & Boys' and Prodigy's 'Out Of Space' before finishing off with a very well received 'Blue Monday', which is always a treat. But within what seemed like minutes it was time for the main attraction of the day to take to the stage, Elton John.

Up until this point, Elton John is an artist that has never interested me in the slightest, but seeing him live was definitely an eye-opener. As Pete Tong introduced the star to the stage and the idea behind the festival, Rocktronic, as a collaboration of genres, the crowd went absolutely wild. Many of the people at the festival had come for this reason only and the audience doubled in size. Elton received a warm welcome and took up position behind his piano.

With it being his first time playing in Ibiza, he took the opportunity to showcase a selection of his best. Girls in the audience shed tears of joy and happiness as Elton worked his piano magic through 'Your Song', 'Tiny Dancer' and 'Rocket Man' to name but a few, the visuals on the large backdrop behind him ranging from camera shots of the wild crowd to falling snowflakes and rockets, with huge cameras at the front swinging round to film all the action.

Once he had worked through some his biggest hits, he invited Pnau onto the stage, an electronic band who he had been working with recently to create a unique live set (and even an album, something to look out for...) It was basically just Elton with a bit more of a beat to it, and a funked up style. It seemed like a showcase of new material that the collab had been working on, merged with more of Elton's classics like 'Are You Ready For Love'. We would have happily just watched Elton John for the full hour; we didn't think the combination was amazing and when it was time for Elton to leave and Pnau to do their own thing live, it all got a bit boring.

Fatboy Slim was next however. He began with a huge head projected on the screen behind him, speaking the vocals from 'What The Fuck' -  which was pretty cool. And from then on he blasted out jacking house to the remaining festival heads (quite a few appeared to have left as Elton did), working his classics together in a fresh and vibrant way compared to their originals. The vocals 'Right Here Right Now', combined with other well known tracks like Basement Jaxx' 'Where's Your Head At' building up before stomping drops gave rise to erratic jumping from the crowd, who were lapping it up. He finished with a mash up of Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love' with Adele's massive 'Rolling In The Deep', echoing into 'Praise You', as a mostly naked image of Elton John was projected up on screen. Strange, but quite hilarious!

Next up was Steve Angello, and in keeping with the Swedish House Mafia (who have now split up, unfortunately) his tune selection was very commercial, with a big room version of 'Leave The World Behind' and the Oceana special, SHM's own 'One'. Things all got a bit much for us by this point, and rather than ruin the day watching a set that really wasn't our cup of tea, we decided to call it a day.

Day Three

This was the day we had all been waiting for, with a selection of more underground techno and house alongside pioneers in the current pop and dance merge. Arriving today as the gates opened so as not to miss any of the acts we wanted to see, we also had chance to explore the festival a little more. It was kitted out as you would expect any festival to be, with rides, food and chill out areas surrounding the wasteland of San Antonio around the stage. The only problem was, there was nobody there to enjoy it for the best part of the day, so the rides stayed static and the food remained uneaten.

However, the music was still there. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs came on soon after day three of the festival began, to give the first genre merging of the day, with tastes of drum and bass, dubstep and electro all thrown into one. We and about four others danced at the front whilst another ten or twenty people sat around on the astro-turf, as TEED came on the mic and joked, “I hope you're enjoying this private gig!”. And we were, he was good.

Next up was one of our favourites, Reboot. There was still just a couple of us dancing but we were loving it as the Cadenza DJ worked his latin-infused tech house into a sun-loving set. He started off quite chilled but as time went on it got really groovy, it was just a shame that there weren't more people there to enjoy the magic.

We spent the next few hours exploring the festival some more, chilling on the static dodgems, debating whether or not to spend 10 Euros on a plate of paella and chatting to some of the other people that were part of the sparse crowd. We even got talking to TEED who said he had enjoyed playing his private gig. Throughout this time we missed Pete Tong, Nicolas Jaar and Azari & III, but they sounded good from afar; similar to when we had seen them recently in Ibiza (apart from Jaar who hadn't graced the island just yet). Tong played his Essential Selection, mixing up to date electro, house and techno whilst Azari & III made their own live music, playing big hits like 'Hungry For The Power'.

The festival had been dead all day basically – the tunes were good but there was no atmosphere because there was nobody there! All I could think was that the festival had been a major flop and the organisers were going to lose out on thousands, if not millions, of Euros. But then it came close to the time that the main attraction was due to start. Lenny Kravitz. In the hour running up to his start time, the crowd increased quickly and dramatically in size, and then it became apparent that maybe they weren't going to lose money after all.

Kravitz was another act that we hadn't really cared for in the past, and was about to open our eyes some more. There were many die hard fans there and like Elton John, he also received a very warm welcome. Kravitz and his band performed a blinder, with hits like 'American Woman', 'Mr. Cab Driver' and 'Black and White America'. Throughout the performance, different members of the band performed their own solos; the trumpet, the saxophone, the piano and the lead guitar. Each was as invigorating as the last, my favourite in particular being the saxophonist who was truly amazing; the saxophone really does give an amazing sound.

More hits came from Kravitz before he announced the arrival of Cadenza boss Luciano for the most interesting and unique collaboration of the entire festival. The pair were scheduled to perform for half an hour together after much practice and studio work together on the run up to the festival. What came next was really quite special, as Luciano played his sexy tech house, complete with mixing and effects, underneath Lenny Kravitz' belting vocal whilst the rest of the band continued to support with their impressive instruments. It had never been done before, and it lasted all of ten minutes. Surely with all the hype and all their preparation they could have played for longer? It was amazing, but when it finished it was quite the anti-climax – we had been expecting more.

Luciano popped off the stage for five as Kravitz performed one more tune, and what better song to finish on than his classic 'Are You Gonna Go My Way'. It was a spectacular end to a spectacular performance.

Next up Luciano came back on the stage to perform the final set of the festival. He brought with him a backdrop of amazing visuals that covered both the stage area and himself; trippy images of what looked like Iggy Pop's face, ice crystals, pyramids and eye balls. The tunes weren't bad either, as he worked vocals of popular hits like Gotye's 'Somebody That I Used To Know' over his Cadenza beats, complete with reverberation and echoing effects. The crowd surged forward to the front as he played Armand Van Helden's monster 'Sugar Daddy' before working Snap's 'Rhythm Is A Dancer' over Boys Noize's 'Adonis', which sounded amazing together. He crafted an amazing set, the end of which was marked by fireworks (which you couldn't actually see because the stage was in the way, but the feelings of euphoria were still there!) and explosions of confetti across the crowd.

The first ever festival of Ibiza was now over. Three days had been sound-tracked by an eclectic mixture of big names in both commercial and underground dance and rock music to give rise to the Rocktronic theme. Sometimes the tunes had been good, sometimes bad and sometimes absolutely amazing, but what the festival had lacked at points was atmosphere. Through the day, nobody was really there. For us, it wasn't that much of an issue because it was nice to just chill out at times, but it didn't feel like a proper festival. It looked like one and had all the elements of one, but it just didn't feel like it. Each time that it got to the head-liners things definitely picked up and it was at night that it got special, but that leaves eight hours of daytime sunshine that, in my eyes, were pretty much wasted. Whether or not they will attempt the festival again next year I am not sure. For this to measure up to other big festivals across the world, next time it would have to be quite different.

Words: Jack Law

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