Ok, here’s my latest review. Nothing epic or anything, just a few thoughts based on our recent visit 31 Aug-6 Sept. I’ve written quite a few things on this forum over the last 10 years with varying degrees of positivity and intelligibility, but I’ve always consistently tried to be honest. So I’m going to start by saying this latest trip was no classic. No tales of legendary bacchanalian orgies in fincas or musical epiphanies, no dramatic encounters with the Guardia or desperate pursuits of after parties. No this was the visit that finally confirmed to me that Ibiza “in season” is not a party destination anymore, certainly not for the music/vibe I like and certainly not unless you’re very well-connected, very wealthy or outrageously lucky. Which is not to say it didn’t have its moments.
We opted to stay at the Hostal Cala Boix this year. I hadn’t really researched it too hard. It seemed sufficiently far away from the resorts to meet our needs. Wasn’t too hard to find although we got held up on the main road north because some car had tipped over. As the ambulance left the scene, I noticed it was in no great hurry. Grim.
So we were slightly on edge arriving at the Cala Boix. The room wasn’t ideal. Patchy wifi and twin beds for a couple, in a room too small, meaning you had to adjust them to get to the balcony but it felt churlish to complain especially as the staff were so nice. Speaking in Catalan to the lovely old Ibicencos working at the restaurant next door seemed to go down well (although our friend Fat Phil B’s word-perfect rendition of the Barca anthem went down even better). The swimming pool at the Cala Boix is unbelievable. We could have stayed there the whole week. Total bliss, a manmade ‘lagoon’ tucked away a few minutes’ walk away. The long track allows you a glimpse into the old Ibiza. Ancient abandoned Peugeots coated in dust perched on steep tracks, the ubiquitous smell of pine and orchestral sound of crickets ie all the things I love about the island. We also checked out La Noria for an evening meal. Located literally a few yards away from the hostal, I was aware that the Spotlight gourmands Amigo and Jimmiz had given contrasting accounts of the food there. I must say I wasn’t hugely impressed. I liked the marinated chicken but €39 for mussels!! I guess you’re paying for the setting and if you’re a couple, little beats eating under the trees on a clifftop.
You could spend a week in Cala Boix and not do anything else. It is fairly self-contained, the jellyfish filled sea is a short walk down the steps but I have all that on the mainland really. You go to IBZ for added value, right? We structured our visit as part of a wider Mediterranean tour sandwiching IBZ in between a few days on the Costa del Sol and a festival in Italy. The highlight of the IBZ trip was supposed to be DJ Harvey at Pikes on Sept 3rd. I already added a few thoughts in the Pikes thread but it is worth repeating that for people like me, that is the best night on the island, certainly in the summer months and the only one that really appealed after repeatedly scouring the listings in vain. Having experienced the magic of that night around the same time last year I was only too keen to repeat the night. I had even forsaken a potentially brilliant Secret Sundaze party on the Friday because I wanted to save Pikes for the Monday. This is how my mind works. Over-thinking, over-anticipating, over-analysing - an eternal curse.
I have mixed feelings about the while Harvey hype machine. I find it all a bit ridiculous but the team around him have done a brilliant job getting him on to the tour circuit and reaching out to a whole new audience. Which is all very well but hype is a very dangerous game because it inevitably hooks in the worst, fake, narcissistic shitheads who have no interest in the music but every interest in attaching themselves to ‘cool’ like unwanted barnacles. I can’t say I really blame him though. This is a man who was semi-forgotten playing obscure parties in Hawaii and LA for years whilst they sorted his green card out, a man who maybe a few hundred nerds worldwide had any real interest in. And maybe part of me preferred it that way. It’s the same old story though isn’t it. Keeping your heroes a secret. Perhaps we’re all still teenagers at heart? Perhaps for me it all matters too much. You spend years investing your time, money and mental health into music and you inevitably get precious about it. It’s the one thing you have that they don’t have. And then they find out.
We turned up at Pikes unnecessarily worried about an over stringent door, despite the lower profile this year. The girl on the door was really nice (unlike some of her colleagues inside..) and we were soon swooning once again over that building. And thereafter things quickly went downhill. We weren’t allowed around the pool. The staff were unfriendly and pushy and there was nowhere to sit or perch. I realised that this crowd was just not for me at all. Sometimes people are really friendly on holiday (see Portinatx 2017) but these were just the types of tourists I do not connect with. Not so much rough as snotty, the sort of after-work people who quaff shit wine at (s)wanky bars in London but who think they’ve made it. We took refuge on the dancefloor for a bit. Awesome disco, house, Mexican space rock, elongated trippiness and the kind of cosmic odysseys that have come to characterise his sets. I increasingly realise I was so spoilt living in London. I used to hear this stuff all the time in the clubs and small basements and knew the crowds. It was magical and maybe I naively thought the same would apply at beautiful Pikes or perhaps I didn’t notice last September because I was off my tree? Which I wasn’t this year.
Am loathe to stress the narc angle too much because you don’t necessarily have to get high to appreciate good music but it certainly helps, not just with the music or goodwill but also to block out the things that annoy you. Let down a few times by various sources meant constantly looking around for people and it just killed my buzz waiting for folk who didn’t turn up. You eventually vacate the dancefloor because it gets horribly hot and crowded and you don’t want to blow your rapidly depleting budget on scandalously priced drinks. But I will say that it is still a fantastic venue for a party if all the right ingredients come together. I had a good chat and moan with Chris Coco, but familiar faces beyond our group were in short supply.
So we quickly adjusted our expectations for the holiday. I hooked up with some local pals from Santa Eulalia over some spliffs and beers on the beach at Cala Pado and they were telling me how hard it is now to start a new party in a bar in the island due to endless politics, flakey bar owners and endless red tape. They were telling me the older local music crowd have been without a regular hang-out since Aura ended, which I found astonishing. Maybe La Torre is too expensive? I don’t know who the DJ was there on Sept 2 – some giant Scandinavian – but he was playing beautiful ambient stuff, reminiscent of early CDM, that ethno-tribal sound from 94 etc.
I think my girlfriend was more taken by Ibiza town. We had a mediocre meal at Locals Only and a rather better one at El Patio with the Scots. We noticed how quiet the gay area was walking up Carrer de Virgenes. We found one quirky bar called 1805 with seats made out of converted bathtubs which was good fun to hang at but everything felt so restrained. A similar story repeated along the stretch of bars next to Base and the Rock Bar. Take your pick of settees. Ghost town. I just didn’t get it. So instead we ate and ate and ate. Tapas Restaurant in San Antonio, the pizzeria in Es Figueral, a sandwich at the Sal I Raim in Santa Eulalia. All of which have their place but this wasn’t really what I had in mind for the entire week.
There were occasional glimpses of the old. The frazzled drummers at Benirras cling on, even as they are shunted into an ever-smaller space by the sunbeds to their right and pedalos to their left. I do hope they survive. Elsewhere too you hear the occasional sound of muted drums behind rocks or in remote woodland. Despite the ruthless efforts of corporate Ibiza to crush the island’s soul it seems that something in the undergrowth still lingers and survives. The sea at Cala Nova is impossibly beautiful (the naturists perhaps less so) and a few of the old characters still make their presence felt. The man who sharpens cutlery on some wooden penny farthing in Ibiza town – who is he?! There’s still a few engaging people manning the stalls at Las Dalias, but your heart sinks as you see the coachloads outside. Camden Town with a suntan.
We left Ibz with mixed feelings without really knowing what to think. Perhaps I spent too many months on here over-hyping it? Or perhaps we had set the bar too high on the last visit? We sadly didn’t reach Portinatx this time or get to do any of the tortuous 5 mile hikes Fat Phil B had lined up only hours before over the hierbas but it was certainly fun as always to hang out, shoot the breeze and reminisce about mutual forum associates I’ve never met. I boarded the plane feeling that we had had a normal summer holiday instead of a full-on escapist excursion into the ultraworld, which offers some food for thought for the future… I will obviously return. You can’t but not love that island, but I’ve come to agree with others that off-season may be the way forward.
Great review. I do share a lot of your sentiments as i guess a few of us do. We hadn't planned to go this year but after a nice but "missing something! trip to Menorca we decided to book up for October. Not for any closing parties but for what the out of season Ibiza can throw at us.