Oobah Butler travels to Europe's club capital on a quest to find the one person having it largest
I have never been to Ibiza. I don’t really like clubbing, I share the same complexion as an A4 piece of paper and I am terrified of swimming in the sea. Yet here I am, 35,000ft above the Bay Of Biscay with that most infamous of Balearic Islands in my sights. See, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re a bricklayer from Reading, a superyacht racing maverick or one of the Vengaboys, we’re all drawn to Ibiza.
And the reason for that is down to one common goal that every Ibiza tourist has – to obtain the commodity that the island has in abundance: fun. Take Scott, a perfectly normal gentleman sitting beside me on the plane. He’s travelling to the ‘party isle’ for work and is planning on looking for alternative flights home because he “knows he’ll miss his one tomorrow” and “doesn’t plan on sleeping” during his visit. Would he do this in any other place? Probably not. So what is it that possesses people to behave like this? What is it that makes Ibiza special? There is only one way to find out: I’m going to venture into fun Valhalla and find the most fun person in Ibiza and ask them what the secret is, and I have two days to do it.
MARTIN SOLVEIG, DJ
Stepping off the air-conditioned plane, a wave of warm air hits and, with that first inhalation, people transform. I try to speak to a lady beside me in the passport queue and she literally clutches my shoulders and shrieks “Ibiza!” Leaving the airport I arrange to meet with a man whose face is emblazoned on billboards at every corner; a messiah of Ibiza’s partying; one of the world’s most renowned techno DJs, Martin Solveig. If anyone can help me dip my toes in the eternal font of fun, it is this man. “People say there’s a special energy on the island, and I think that’s very true,” Solveig explains as we sit outside a seafront café. Laughter from the nearby docks echoes as around us children playfully skip by, fishing nets in hand. “While fun is usually limited to the craze of a night, this place is about sustained fun.”
And he would know about that. He’s been here for the best part of 15 years, dictating fun and casting spells on tens of thousands across the island. He stirs his espresso and gazes over the docks. “Ibiza has exactly the vibe I need for any given moment. When I first came here in winter to relax, I remember unexpectedly walking through fields of magnificent flowering almond trees. It was like the island knew what I needed.” His eyes meet mine. “That’s the essence of Ibiza: follow your heart and you’ll find your almond trees.”
Solveig tells me that I may find exactly what I seek at Café Mambo’s sunset pre-party in San Antonio, where, somewhat handily, he’ll also be making an appearance in his capacity as a room-moving DJ. Wheeling down to the beach, people are beside themselves with happiness. A girl named Danielle is particularly jazzed. “I can’t explain it; I didn’t know what to expect when I came out here three years ago but I haven’t been home since,” she says. Who’s the most fun person she’s met? “We took Jack Whitehall to Space last week – he was so fun! We had to smuggle him in with a hat over his face.” Could that honestly be the answer to the grandest of questions: Jack Whitehall? Surely not.
THE MAMBO BROTHERS, CLUB OWNERS
Arriving at the decidedly uncaffeinated Café it’s clear what Solveig finds so attractive about the Mambo brothers, the venue’s eponymous owners. They have an infectious pedigree for fun, Alan with wild, long hair, swaying between dancing groups clutching a bottle of spiced rum to pour in willing mouths, and Christian sitting down, contentedly chewing on a cigar and cracking jokes. They’re like Buzz and Woody, Schwarzenegger and DeVito, Tucker and Chan – you want to be around both of them, but for completely different reasons.
Sons of hippies who used to hang with the likes of the Bee Gees and Led Zeppelin, their bar hosts regular parties for the renowned DJs and denizens of the island. Sipping on an iridescent cocktail I ask Solveig who has the most fun at these parties. “Whoever is in the DJ booth,” comes his reply. “People go mad at that – you don’t know fun until you get in there.” My eyes light up and before I can ask, I’m humoured, the Mambo brothers cajoling me to step inside the booth. It’s an empowering thing, pressing a button, looking up and seeing everybody worship you. Is this what it feels like to be Paris Hilton? Maybe I am the most fun person in Ibiza? I’m on top of the world, until I spot a commotion across the dancefloor. It’s one of those fellas from JLS being papped; stealing my thunder and killing my vibe. Just like that, my fun has ended.
MARTA, SCUBA-DIVING INSTRUCTOR
I awake with the sun blasting through my window and a sense that maybe I’m missing something. Sure, last night was fun, but I need to go deeper if I’m to get closer to the island’s spiritual lure. Outside in the pool, the hotel’s owner Jason is already awake, tossing his kids around with a giant grin on his face. I head down to say hello and for advice on where I should head next. He suggests somewhere a short walk away that’ll be full of just the people I’m searching for. And, boy, is he right. Strolling the east coast of the island, people lackadaisically swim and do yoga as a lady gives me an “Ola!” This turns out to be Marta, somebody who “came to Ibiza to chill out”. Marta has been a scuba-diving instructor, a safari guide in Africa and, most recently, ran and DJ’d at Magnolia – a trance beach club in South America. She sold the club and is now here. But why? “I’m done with partying, I’m at peace. This is my Zen place and it is exactly what I dreamt of when I thought of ‘Ibiza’.” I don’t point out the weirdness of describing a place renowned for drug use and mayhem as “Zen”. Watching her smile whimsically out toward the folding waves, you can tell that she’s danced through sunset to sunrise enough times in her lifetime to know what she’s talking about.
On the precipice of a spiritual breakthrough, I bid Marta farewell and wander towards the famed Space club. Winding up brightly coloured staircases, I surface on an open-roof terrace and there, standing tall and proud, is a gift from the gods: Rowgelia - the mascot for long-running resident Space club night Elrow. Who better to resolve my curiosities than one who belongs at the heart of that grandest philosophical riddle: a chicken.
ROWGELIA, PARTY MASCOT
Or rather, a man in a 7ft anthropomorphic chicken outfit. He rushes over to greet me and I pose the question, “Who is the funnest person in Ibiza?” He stops, tilts his head and utters, “Qué?” I ask again. He pauses for a moment and simply starts dancing. Soon, I’m poppin’ alongside him. This is not entirely what I was looking for but, admittedly, it is fun. Aptly at that moment I receive a message from Solveig. “Pacha tonight. There’s a special guest and you need to be there!” Maybe my Ibiza dream would yet become a reality.
DAVID GUETTA, DJ
As we journey to the superclub, Solveig excitedly describes how there is “magic within the walls” and, strolling through its leafy stone courtyard, you can feel it. Dancers hypnotically move atop platforms, cannons shoot confetti and strobes contort the building’s architectural make-up – it feels as if I’ve passed into another dimension. Something is going on and I need to find out. So I dart between people asking “what is fun?”, craving a taste of whatever the hell it is they’re emitting, but nobody answers. When all hope seems lost, I see a Jesus-like silhouette appear in the DJ booth.
I rub my eyes. The special guest is David Guetta: the world’s most renowned EDM meme. Led by Solveig, the pair of us rush towards the DJ booth to greet him. As I work my way through a cluster of people I call out his name: “David! Who is the most fun person on Ibiza?” He half turns around, shrugs his shoulders and sticks his thumb up. Was he pointing… towards God? I’m ushered away without an answer.
BILLY, LOCAL AND PART-TIME FISHERMAN
Leaving Martin and David to it, I amble into the night. Strolling the beaches of Ibiza Town, I curse my own name. I came here to find fun, but I’ve failed. Waves lightly hit my ankles as the sun rises over the horizon and I hear a whistle from across the beach. There a man sits, clutching a fishing rod with one hand and beckoning me with the other. As I’m clambering over the rocks towards him, he introduces himself as Billy, nodding and smiling through his bushy white moustache. I ask what it is he’s smiling about: “Life, my friend.” He replies in broken English, “For the past 15 years, every day is like this. Every day is a holiday; every day is beautiful.” Soon his grin is reflected in my face. Solveig was right; the island knows the exact vibe for any given moment. I didn’t need fun, I needed to see pure, unadulterated contentment: I needed Billy. He is my almond tree.
We say our goodbyes and I head back to the hotel – it’s not long until my flight home. Packing my bags, I see Jason, once again playing with his children in the pool – living the dream. And it dawns on me, the answer to my quest has been under my nose the whole time. I rush down to greet him. And here, he tells me his story.
I was a roofer for years in Southend, then 22 years ago, I came here with just the clothes on my back and no specific dreams; just to enjoy myself.” The man has a magnetism about him and has been giggling the whole time I’ve been here, so it’s no wonder that the likes of Carl Cox, Sven Väth and Marco Polo choose to party with him at Es Vive, the hotel he now owns, a small empire built from nothing. Did he really achieve all of this just by trying to enjoy himself? “I think so,” he says. “Fun has value, of course it does. And it morphs; I love spending time with my wife and kids as much as I’m susceptible to running into a mate and it turning into a three-dayer.”
I beg Jason for his secret. “Be positive, love the island for what it is and what it stands for, and enjoy every moment. It’s an amazing place and incredible things happen here because nobody gives a f*ck – it’s a place of dreams.”
With my taxi to the airport waiting, I ask one last question. “Jason, am I talking to the most fun person in Ibiza?” He tries to suppress a smile, but he need not answer. You see, Ibiza represents a lot of things. Sun, parties, bass drops, spiritual serenity or even just a fresh start. Ibiza has everything for everyone. And I had found its spirit here, alive in one man.