Gary Richards (widely known as Destructo) has proven time and time again he can curate a festival with uncontested competence and flair. Though he’s remained humble enough to know even he can outdo himself. From his decisive efforts in erecting the first iteration of Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) to forging the most formidable dance music brand on the West Coast, HARD Events (HARD Summer/HOLY SHIP!), by now, Richards’ emblem is synonymous with success in the national festival circuit.
His latest and most personal entrepreneurial endeavor yet, his All My Friends label/event series, truly comes alive through its sea-bound fixture: the FriendShip cruise. With the unsullied success of HOLY SHIP!—which bred the feverishly familial “Ship Fam,” the festival’s subsequent seafaring sense of community—under his belt, Richards has sought to bring the intimacy of his previous endeavors to newfangled heights aboard FriendShip. And the Navigator of the Seas, touching off in Miami and coursing through the Caribbean, is the vessel fit for the venture.
With fun firing on all fronts, the Navigator of the Seas is a festival-goer’s utopia. From glow-in-the-dark laser tag, to surf simulation, to its sprawling 17 on-deck bars, the ship is stocked to satiate virtually any itch that may arise aboard its four-night (January 6-10, 2020) charter. But aside from the full-scale waterparks and fully loaded culinary accommodations, music is paramount—of course.
Richards requires that each artist enlisted for the maritime mission embrace the experience as the ticket-holders do. Immersion is key. This mindset comes alive in his newly incepted “Dial a DJ” attraction, in which attendees can quite literally order a DJ to their rooms like On Demand. Plus, with two private island anchor drops at Coco Cay on the 2020 FriendShip agenda, more music and more AMF-approved nonsense aren’t just expected, they’re guaranteed.
The last installment of FriendShip saw an unorthodox, genre-traversing musical makeup, ranging from Boys Noize to Busy P, RÜFÜS DU SOL to Rico Nasty. His towering tenure both behind the decks and in the studio has equipped him with the aural awareness of an entrepreneur, an attendee, and a musician alike. Though Richards has yet to officially announce the 2020 cruise’s lineup, it’s safe to assume an all-bases-covered unveil.
With a 90% return rate for FriendShip alone, and over two decades of experience in the exceedingly competitive event arena, Richards sat down with EDM All Day to expound on his vision for FriendShip, what to expect, and paramount updates he and his team secured for the affair’s upcoming voyage.
Tickets to FriendShip are still available here.
In what ways does FriendShip eclipse other festival cruises?
The fact the we are able to use so many unique spaces on the boat to have shows really makes it special. We have a service called ‘Dial a DJ’ that was a massive hit with the fans where people can order a DJ to the room like room service. For 2020, shippers can expect a more enlarged menu to choose from. The community that we all have all built over the years with Shipfam is incredible. The bonds are strong and always continue to thrive and live on well past the events.
What do you think Navigator of the Seas and Coco Cay offers that prospective attendees should keep in mind?
Navigator of the Seas and Coco Cay have received a combined 365 million dollars in upgrades this year. Royal Caribbean delivered something so over the top.
The improvements for FriendShip are going to be felt throughout the entire experience from better venues on board to longer hours spent at Coco Cay (private island) complete with massive water slide parks, wave pools, and swim-up bars. The Sunrise Sermon will take place on Coco Cay this year so we can all watch the sunrise together from the private island. I could not even have dreamed of something this amazing to present to the family. We get to stay at Coco Cay two days in a row and have the island all to ourselves with with longer hours and so many so many fun things to do. I cannot wait for everyone to experience it.
What goes into curating an atmosphere for a festival cruise?
The key ingredient on the ship is amazing music and most important the people who attend the event. FriendShip family are the ones who make the party so special and are always on the same page. Last year we had zero damage to the ship. I appreciate so much that our group is so respectful. We have a plus 90% return rate so we are doing something right.
What’s your vision for the lineup?
The main key is booking artists who are going to immerse themselves in the event. People who I know are going to get involved with Shipfam and be part of the party. We want artists who are excited to DJ in peoples cabins just as much as the main stage. If they just want to hide in their room then they should just stay at home. I am also looking for a variety of styles music. Obviously the main style is always electronic, house, and, bass but this year we are going to add a little more hip-hop and even some reggae. I have been really getting into the reggae vibes lately. We are also going to expand with other types of entertainment with burlesque, comedy, and maybe even a little magic.
Would you consider FriendShip the cornerstone AMF event? How is it emblematic of your brand as a whole?
Yes it really embodies the essence of All My Friends. People meeting new & old friends through music and events. There is no better way to do that then on FriendShip.