For The Record :: Ibiza - Where Have All The Freaks Gone?

Words by: Johnny Lee
Posted: 25/4/18 10:58

Matinée used to be a staple at Amnesia, bringing a unique personality to the island

Ibiza is no longer the decadent, countercultural hub it once was. Why? Very Interesting People have been replaced by Very Important People.

I remember being employed to work on a selection of DJ interviews for Pacha Magazine back in the summer of 2014. That season, the editor was determined to run a gay section in one of the later issues. As you might expect, LGBT themes dominated throughout. I was asked to write a small feature for that section spotlighting the top LBGT friendly nights on the island. Which I did.

The parties we included ran like this: Matinée at Amnesia, La Troya at Amnesia, Sucia at Ánfora, SuperMartXé at Privilege, Pool Disco at Ushuaïa and the WE Pool Party also at Ushuaïa. Garlands boat party and Café Ole at Space also received a special mention in a neighbouring article.

Since then, Matinée and La Troya have left Amnesia. Café Ole no longer exists. Likewise Pool Disco. Neither does Ánfora, the island's only dedicated gay bar, which closed its doors in 2015. While Garlands haven't held weekly parties on the White Isle since 2016.

Some highlights of the good old days of Matinée at Amnesia

Also in 2016, San Antonio town council banned Ibiza's clubs, bars and party brands from making their nightly walk along the sunset strip. The outlawing of Ibiza's traditional street parades was designed to shield tourists from 'dynamic advertising', as well as protecting the environment from the never-ending flurry of paper leaflets and flyers left behind by the drag performers after they had passed. The move was generally seen as a positive one, but there was a unforeseen downside: the sense of decadent celebration that accompanied an evening along the strip was abruptly discontinued and in turn Ibiza promptly lost a great deal of the Mardi Gras fun and colour that made it unique.

With the majority of this season's party announcements now in, it seems fair to ask, is Ibiza really the decadent, countercultural hub it once was? After all, apart from Glitterbox, Defected's sensational disco alter ego, can you think of another gay-friendly club night to really breakthrough over the course of the last two or three years? Hmmm. Neither can we.

Rather than an intentional abolishment, the decline of Ibiza's fringe is a direct consequence of its infatuation will money and VIPs. As soon as the island's top nightclubs began elevating the Very Important People above the Very Interesting People, the freaks' days were numbered.


Also gone are the days of the highly provocative Sucia at Ánfora

Indeed, the reason why the number of gay clubs and gay-friendly club nights on the island are starting to dwindle is relatively simple: the clientele that used to frequent those kinds of parties are no longer visiting the island in the numbers they once were. The Very Interesting People who used to flock to Ibiza in their droves have been replaced by Very Important People driving luxury cars. And where the freaks were genuinely unique in every sense, the VIPs only know how to pay their way into positions of exclusivity.

Indeed, Ibiza's motto used to be 'everyone is welcome'. The conscientious objectors of the 1940s, the beatnik poets of the 1950s, the hippies of the 1960s, and the gay community who followed at the start of the 1970s, were all accepted without prejudice. Then, in the 1980s, the island established one of the first openly gay bars in the whole of Spain, despite political pressure from the mainland. When it came to liberalism and sheer open mindedness, Ibiza was always one step ahead of the rest of Europe. These days, however, the island rarely features in the gay travel guides, and few of the professional hippies who used to spend their winters in Goa and Thailand, before travelling back to Ibiza in the spring, consider the White Isle part of that sacred route.


Without the so called freaks to lead the way, Ibiza has undoubtedly lost some of its inimitable decadence, that irreproducible brand of magic that only manifests when you throw together a thousand mad characters who stopped conforming long ago. More so than ever before, today's crowds want to adhere to a certain image, without standing out as individuals - the ongoing black clad techno fad being the perfect case in point. While a percentage of the local population, 500 of whom gathered in Ibiza Town last Friday to protest the impact of excessive tourism on the island, are ready to tear down the welcome signs altogether.

The fact that Ibiza's position as the summer home of the electronic dance music scene has been aided and abetted at every turn by these fringe groups is often ignored. But should the White Isle lose the endorsement of its most flamboyant support act altogether, it will be interesting to see if the incumbent dance scene can maintain a healthy level of spontaneity amid the creeping commercialism.

Read more of our For The Record series:

For The Record: The Real Reason Illegal Raves Are On the Rise.
For The Record :: Don’t Forget About the Future
For The Record: Please let this be the last of Paris Hilton in Ibiza


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