Ellie Goulding, Kendrick Lamar And Calvin Harris Perform At Bacardi Triangle: Review
In theory, the Bacardi Triangle event could have a total disaster: A crowd of sweaty, heavily (read: responsibly!) sauced people stranded on a small deserted island in the middle of the Caribbean with all-but-no cell service?
But, of course, it wasn’t. In fact, a once-in-a-lifetime experience would sort of be the understatement of the century.
Over the past weekend, as part of Bacardi’s special Bacardi Triangle experience, journalists, bartenders and hundreds of contest winners were flown in from cities all across the world including New York, Los Angeles and London to Puerto Rico, put up in a 5-star resort (El Conquistador) and then ferried to a deserted island for a triple-headlining concert between Ellie Goulding, Kendrick Lamar and the Motion maestro himself, Calvin Harris.
Thursday and Friday were dedicated to on-site pool parties and Halloween bashes soundtracked by the booming sounds of Tensnake, Paper Plates and dozens of other DJs across the resort, the major live music action came on Saturday.
Late in the afternoon, herds of people, many of whom toting massive coconut rum drinks, were ferried over to a small island called Palomino Island in the Caribbean Sea, roughly twenty minutes off the coast of the resort. And, from the moment we stepped off the boats, we were bombarded with an explosion of lights and music on the otherwise pitch-black island.
Fire dancers greeted us on the dock, spinning madly in the dark and lighting the way to the main portion of the island. And from there, we were led to what was essentially a tiny pop-up town, as well as massive buffet-style dinner hidden within the trees. (The chicken skewers and Puerto Rican steak bites were the best bits.) And of course, everywhere you turned, there was a Bacardi pop-up bar, supplying the increasingly thirsty crowd with ice cold bevvies in what was a sweltering, humid and, ultimately, sticky evening. (Shockingly, not nearly as smelly of an affair as one would assume.)
The main event, the actual performance stage, was unmissable: A massive neon triangle-shaped stage erected right in the middle of the beach right against the water, surrounded by boats full of partying visitors.
And so, at around 9 PM, the stage lights dimmed as the first act of the night came strolling out to the roar of the crowd: Miss Ellie Goulding.
Whether it was her increased stage presence and confidence in the past years since we first started writing about her over 5 years ago, or just the warm tropical air, the girl was positively feeling herself, winding and grinding her hips and hair-flipping her way across the stage as she excitedly tackled a slew of tracks from Halcyon Days (and a bit of her debut album Lights thrown in for good measure). Kicking off the night with “Figure 8,” the pace was entirely uptempo, as she delivered her Calvin Harris-assisted smash “I Need Your Love,” “Goodness Gracious,” “You My Everything” and “Lights,” during which she commanded the audience (and the boats!) to shine their lights onto the stage. (Diva!) She also had her fun with the instruments: With “Starry Eyed,” the diva launched into an almighty drum breakdown. And with the night’s crashing finale, “Burn,” the diva strapped a guitar around her neck for a mini-jam session to bring the track to a crashing close. The night wasn’t just special in the sense of being a surreal performance venue for Ellie — it also marked her final live show until next year.
Enticingly, she teased that she’d be back around stateside next summer…with “a new album” to promote. If all goes according to plan, that means we’ll likely be a spring release for new Goulding. Score!
Following Ellie’s set, the crowd broke into a mass exodus for bathroom breaks and drink refills as a DJ came onstage to keep the party relatively turnt up. And, soon enough, it was Kendrick Lamar’s turn, as the rapper came coolly walking out onstage to the wild screams of the crowd, serving up earworm hooks and mile-a-minute verses on confident cuts like “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” as well as his A$AP Rocky assist “Fuckin’ Problems.” The crowd was enamored, doused themselves in drinks, and, briefly even sent a few willing participants surfing overhead. By the time he left the stage, the crowd was worked into a complete frenzy— until Calvin, that is.
From the first moment he first stepped out onstage, the entire crowd lost it. But Calvin kept it cool and quiet in the shadows behind the turntables for the entire evening, save for one or two pleasant shout-outs from the mic. Instead, the music was the focus — and he pulled out all the stops to make it a showy affair: With each adrenaline-racing beat drop, the stage would explode in a chaotic burst of smoke, flashing lights, streamers, confetti and — when the songs were particularly amazing — an explosion of colorful fireworks high above the stage.
The set felt tried and true: Although Calvin’s new album is dropping this week (Motion), the set largely stuck to his biggest singles and classics, throwing in summer smash “Summer” and the John Newman assisted “Blame.” (None of those new Gwen Stefani, Tinashe or HAIM collaborations, sadly!) Instead, he stuck to current club crowd pleasers, including Kiesza’s “Hideaway” and Route 94’s “My Love,” as well as his global Rihanna smash “We Found Love” which, as it turns out, is truly best experienced on an island in the middle of the Caribbean. The euphoric, sweat-drenched set effectively rendered a crowd of less than 2,000 people — 1862 to be exact, in honor the brand’s birth year — into a mini-Electric Daisy Carnival.
Calvin, Ellie and Kendrick all served up fantastic sets in their own right, but the best part of all? The fact that the partygoers went wild for the entire eclectic mixture of pop, hip-hop and dance acts all night long. It truly was a celebration of (good) music throughout the night.
And that, more or less, is how the best Halloween weekend of the decade went down.
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