Holy Ship! Electronic Music Festival Sets Sail Aboard a 93,000-Ton Vessel

By Jana Schiowitz January 16, 2012, 4:46 PM EST

Photo: Erik Voake

The first Holy Ship!, a four-day electronic music festival, took to the seas January 6 to 9, leaving from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. The debut event drew around 3,000 music fans, not to mention 40 acts that performed and played 120 hours of live music, including Fatboy Slim, Rusko, Skrillex, and Dita Von Teese. “One of my earliest references for the vibe at our events was a music cruise I went on in the '90s with some of my favorite techno DJs,” said Gary Richards, founder of Hard Events, a national music festival, music cruise, and concert brand. “I had an amazing time and always wanted to use a cruise ship as a venue after that.”

Richards, along with Cloud Nine Adventures and the Bowery Presents, decided to hold the fest on the four-year-old MSC Poesia vessel. The 93,000-ton ship, complete with 14 levels and beds for just around 3,000 people, was not originally created for a music cruise. Event producers had to get creative and alter existing parts of the ship to make it festival-friendly. “It's a really quick turnaround to erect a stage,” Richards said. For instance, staffers drained and covered one of the pools on the main deck to create a dance floor and did the same to one of seven hot tubs for the “front of house” mix board.

Guests who wanted a break from the around-the-clock action took part in daytime activities like A-Trak's DJ lessons and workshop, playing at an on-board casino called Steve Aoki's Poker Palace and yoga on the tennis courts. “We were looking for more ways to engage the artists and the fans by creating these scheduled activities. Every single one was a huge hit with the fans.”

Brands like Monster Energy drink supplied branded coolers full of free product on board for artists and passengers. Guests also received a can of Monster Rehab and Monster Absolute Zero in their guest room after checking in. “We focused mostly on creating an awesome event, so the sponsors we took on were really just brands that recognized this was a cool thing and didn't require a whole lot of activation,” Richards said. Screens placed around the boat displayed the Monster logo. Performers received gifts from iHome, which also set up photo booths around the ship.

The ship also took music-goers to a private island beach party held in the Bahamas January 8 with performer Fat Boy Slim.

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