Having bagged first prize in DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs of 2013 poll, Dutch DJ du jour, Hardwell has returned to Ibiza in 2014 with his first ever island residency at Ushuaia, and a reputation as the biggest player in EDM to uphold. But with a fanbase that spans the world over, and an opening party that saw Ushuaia bursting at the seams with excitable party-goers, he looks set to easily maintain his crown as one of the biggest names in electronic dance music on the planet. You know it’s going to be a big night when the bus from San Antonio to Playa d’en Bossa may as well be renamed the Ushuaia shuttle. On Tuesday it was packed with animated revellers and the number one topic of conversation was getting to Ushuaia as quickly as possible to make sure they didn’t miss a minute of the main man. On arrival in Bossa the streets were equally as buzzing, with queues to get inside and images of Hardwell beamed authoritatively from the venue’s giant LCD screens outside.
We get inside just in time to see the double Dutch takeover in full flow. Frankie Rizardo is behind the decks and already whipping the crowd into a frenzy with his distinct blend of high impact house tunes and complex rhythms. The crowd, made up of an eclectic bunch of day-glo clad ravers and super-glamourous VIPs, are undoubtedly up for a party, and in among the groups of people there’s a sense of expectation punctuating the air. By the time Hardwell lands there’s a sea of people in front of the stage and trying to make your way through it is a task that would only be undertaken by the seriously brave or devoted die-hard fans. The crowd emanates heat and hits you like a wall the closer to the front you get. Hardwell launches into his trademark style of chunky, grime-laden beats, occasionally teasing the crowd with a stripped back vocal and tuneful melody, before quickly bringing things back into alignment with an agonising crescendo and an almighty drop. Everyone from Nirvana to Lana Del Rey to Daft Punk get the Hardwell treatment and the crowd is eager to let him know he can do no wrong – hands are in the air for the duration of the night and people don’t so much dance, as jump – this is a place overflowing with hardcore Hardwell fans.
Once you’ve experienced a few minutes of ‘I Am Hardwell’ it becomes obvious why the DJ chose to take make his home at Ushuaia – the two together form an unbeatable partnership. Ushuaia delivers the kind of slick production that Hardwell has become synonymous with, ensuring that this isn’t just any old night you’re going to see – this a show. Lasers dance across the sky, confetti flutters through the air and fireworks accompany monumental beats. The dancers are dressed in futuristic eyewear and space age silver cuffs, and they move entrancingly in a cage constructed of lasers – the visual elements of this night are almost as important as the music. Ushuaia provides the perfect set up for a DJ who excels in commanding an outdoor stage in front of thousands of people. It looks like the next nine Tuesday nights at Ushuaia are set to be a high-octane rollercoaster ride. Hold on tight.