The Scene Document: Groove Cruise’s twentieth Anniversary, Miami 2024

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(Credit: Scott Rizzo)

January 24 – 28

The Scene:  Some people compared the sense of community and escapism at Groove Cruise to Burning Man. But there’s a comfort difference: GC offers a 24/7 food buffet, bathroom attendants, comfortable bedding, and instead of hot sand you’re on an ocean of water. 

Both events create a familial bond that lifts everyone into a utopian state. Everyone is embraced and brought into the fold. Cupid and Darthy, attendees who hosted “Speed Friending” on the first day, that uses the corny speed-dating concept as an introductory activity for GC virgins to meet GC veterans. 

The Report:  The party culture at GC can be summed up with two words: FERAL and SILLY. 

Subsequently, there was no low point during the festival. The dance floors were healthy 24/7, a feat both impressive and exhausting to think about. Walking through the hallways was an adventure. Multiple staterooms hosted parties, and entertaining decorations were strewn throughout. The elevators were especially silly. Cramped elevator? Let’s play Twister. Need music during transportation? I mean, seriously, you don’t really need it in the time it takes to get from one deck to another, but a squished mobile DJ provided funky beats anyway. Need to let out your inner child? Hundreds of bubbles floated about in some elevators for people to pop. 

While other large festivals have pushed trance and DnB to the sidelines, it is alive and well at GC. Nearly every subgenre of techno and house was represented, along with bass music. The lineup was an impressive mix of headliner DJs, established DJs and emerging DJs such as Vintage 72, Tee So, Keith Christopher, Chris Blackburn/Trance Jesus, Drums of the Sun, Madison Orange. 

Groove Cruise also features a Hip Hop stage takeover headlined by Scooter and a “Taking Back Emo” takeover with So Tuff So Cute and Nikita Page.

The music begins on Wednesday in the terminal as attendees board the ship and ends when they disembark Sunday. 

It is common to have DJs play marathon sets. Doc Brown, Gene Ferris, and Markus Schulz had flawless five-hour sets that could serve as master classes in DJ mixing. No one has embraced the ethos of non-stop music more than Team Jetpack. A staple of Groove Cruise since 2013, its 20-person team marches around with battery-powered speakers on their backs as David Adamec spins on his wireless DJ controller, as attendees wait in line to board the tenders for trips ashore. The top deck of the liveliest tender raged as Vintage 72 of Team Jetpack provided tech house beats and Gene Ferris hyped the crowd.

Markus Shulz playing in the Atrium (Credit: Scott Rizzo)

GC showcased a staggering amount of stage takeovers for their 20th Anniversary. 

On the first night, Higher Ground took over the theater stage, featuring the tech house beats of Biscits, the impressive soulful disco house set from LP Giobbi, and a solid set from Diplo. John Summit + Friends took over the main Pool Deck to close out the festival, which included the undeniably monumental set from Deeper Purpose B2B Biscits. 

An undercard of impressively talented DJs took over smaller stages. Doc Brown’s Unlearn Records showcased dynamic sets from Lizzie Curious, Lavelle Dupree, 22 Weeks, Ollie Sanders, Casmalia, and Doc Brown. 

No Boys in the Booth featured all female DJs. Andira kicked off the NBITB stage with infectious dub techno tracks, paving the way for Devyn Key’s and Romi Lux’s melodic house and techno sets; Tee So transitioned seamlessly to a higher BPM with her lively bass house set. Sax Sells (Tee So & Cora) closed the stage with a unique performance from Cora playing the saxophone while Tee So spun a mix of funk, house, and melodic dubstep.

Gene Ferris on a boat returning from Great Stirrup Cay (Credit: Chris Blackburn)

Neon Owl organized a panel that provided insights into the industry. Questions were answered thoroughly and respectfully. 

The festival encourages attendees to discover new DJs. Celebrating music as art instead of music as marketing is a cornerstone of the GC ethos. And emerging DJs experience the same hyped-up enthusiasm headliners have come to expect. 

Who was there:  Attendees, lovingly referred to as “GC Fam,” go hard on the dance floor, show off their creativity with thematic outfits, exchange personalized gifts, and easily make new friends. 

Nearly 4,500 attendees made up the 2024 GC Fam, littered with people who began raving in the ‘90s and early 2000s. Festival goers used the old-school PLUR handshake to exchange kandi bracelets. Everyone was noticeably engaged and present, evidenced by the lack of phone cameras recording on the dance floor. Instead, the phones took pictures of inventive outfits that match the themes. 4,000 people partyied together wearing race car-inspired costumes. The dance floor resembled Mario Cart more than a rave during the “50 Shades of Nintendo” theme, and aliens commanded the ship during the “U Are The Universe” theme. 

Doc Brown’s Unlearn Stage (Credit: Mark Saunders)

Here’s What You Missed:  Groove Cruise loves surprises, from guests to unannounced B2B and renegade parties. 

Kyle Walker invited Deeper Purpose to play with him in the Atrium on day two. LP Giobbi, VNSSA, and Casmalia went B2B2B towards the end of the Femme House stage takeover. On the last night, John Summit moved to the theater and went B2B with Max Styler, Ranger Trucco, and Kyle Walker for an extended after-hours set that filled the ship with music until it docked in Miami. Deepfake brought the underground atmosphere by holding a renegade party on the pool deck with borrowed speakers.

The After Show:  E11even in Miami, Florida, hosted the official GC after party. The GC fam packed the club, not ready to go home. Markus Shulz and Joel Corry threw down crowd favorites to keep the vibes from the ship going on land.

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