Sexing up the city
Asia's premier annual beach party, ZoukOut, on Singapore's Sentosa Island, is proving so popular that this year might be the last chance for loyal revellers to rave up on the beach.
More than 20,000 people are expected for next weekend's dusk-till-dawn music extravaganza, more than double the 9,000 who attended the first ZoukOut seven years ago, meaning the party is about to outgrow its sandy venue.
'This may be the last ZoukOut at the beach as developments have increased substantially on Sentosa, so there isn't enough space to hold an event on the scale we have now,' says Tracy Phillips, marketing manger of Zouk club, Singapore's oldest and most successful club, which organises the annual shindig.
'But ZoukOut is not just a beach party. The event is more about the music, vibe and atmosphere. If we do move, ZoukOut will undoubtedly be bigger and better than ever.'
The event was switched to the Marina Bay waterfront for a year in 2003, when it took place over two days and combined the usual DJ show with a rock festival. While the Zouk gang search for a location big enough to match their ambitions, they plan to go out with a bang on Sisolo beach. This year's party features the traditional big-name DJs including Carl Cox and Armin van Buuren, a live band stage, a drum jam and a three-storey-high inflatable waterslide.
ZoukOut's reputation has spread far and wide, with more than a third of last year's 18,000 party-goers coming from overseas, mostly from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong, but also from the US and Britain.
'It's the best dance party in Asia,' says Julie Li, a 25-year-old Hong Kong clubber who plans to head to this year's event. 'It's great to party outside and watch the sun come up with thousands of people still dancing. Unfortunately, there's nothing like it in Hong Kong,' adds Li, an office worker in Central.
'There's no other party in the region that draws such a wide audience,' says Zouk's Phillips.
The festival has the benefit of strong backing from the Singapore Tourism Board, which is on a mission to sex up the city state once better known for its ban on chewing gum and bar-top dancing. Tour packages, including flights, hotel and ZoukOut tickets, are available from several countries.
'ZoukOut is an event that has grown in strength from year to year. It has a strong local fan base, whilst attracting increasing numbers of overseas revellers who travel here specifically to attend the event,' says Lynette Pang, the board's director for cluster development (events and entertainment). 'This is testament to its standing in the global music and entertainment scene.'
That reputation has been hard earned through booking top-notch DJs who over the years have included Paul van Dyk, Masters at Work, Sasha and Timo Maas. Cox will be the latest addition to that stellar roll call. The Australian-based Briton, who's known for his amazing mixing skills using three decks, makes his ZoukOut debut. He will, however, have many fans around the region due to his regular visits over the past decade. Cox is considered the godfather of British techno and, despite being a veteran, still delivers consistently good sets guaranteed to get the crowd jumping.
After a storming first performance on Siloso Beach in 2005, Dutch trance DJ Van Buuren makes a hotly anticipated return. Ranked No1 in DJ Mag's annual top 100 list, he shot to fame with the kind of pounding trance that can drag even the most exhausted raver back to his feet in the harsh light of morning.
ZoukOut is not just an alfresco club night, however. It's a diverse event based on the sounds and themes that feature at Zouk club's four rooms - Zouk main room, Velvet Underground, Phuture and Wine Bar - and showcases music and genres from each of those venues. In short, there's something for everyone who likes electronic music. There's electro house with Berlin soundsters Booka Shade, deep house from Ame, traditional four to the floor from Osunlade, exhibitionist turntable antics from DJ Craze and dance rock from British electro-punk-indie outfit Does it Offend You, Yeah?
If that's not enough, Zouk resident DJs Jeremy Boon, Andrew Chow, Tony Tay, Brendon P, djB and Aldrin will spin, and a few bands from Singapore and around the region will play the live stage.
Another must-see act in the lineup are James Murphy, the frontman of LCD Soundsystem, who put out one of the best albums of 2007, and bandmate Pat Mahoney of DFA Records. Murphy's disco synthesiser dance music helped bring about a new club scene in New York and the duo's eclectic set could be the highlight of the night.
BBC Radio One DJ Gilles Peterson, one of the world's top spinners of funk and soul, is another worth checking out as he teams up on the Velvet stage with MC Earl Zinger of acid jazz band Galliano fame. It's his first return since ZoukOut 2001. For those who like a bit more action in their DJs, Miami's three-time DMC World Championship winner, Craze, will be displaying his amazing range of stunts and tricks on the stage.
While Zouk has been doing its bit to reshape Singapore's once-staid image since it opened in 1991, Singapore's draconian drug laws means ZoukOut is not associated with Ecstasy or other party drugs.
'It's good clean fun,' says Phillips. 'The crowd come purely for the vibe and the music, which the DJs really appreciate.' There's a ban on swimming in the sea, too, but with a giant water slide, revellers can at least get wet.
ZoukOut 2007, 8pm-8am, Dec 8, Sisolo Beach, Sentosa, Singapore, S$48 (HK$259, advance), S$58 (door). For details, go to zoukout.com