The shows that we put on at Ushuaïa Ibiza are an absolute testament to the knowledge and ingenuity, the creativity and experience along with the passion and drive of the High Scream team. Ushuaïa is a living, breathing and working venue, a constantly evolving space that houses not only festival-scale, daily events but also individual guests with their own agenda and holiday schedule. We only have between midnight and 6am each morning to take down the previous night’s entire set and production, to then prepare for the following night’s show, which is always an extravaganza of similar or even larger proportions than the one before.

During the summer. this is a seven-day-a-week operation. Planning is everything. Preparation of timing and logistics is critical in the execution of each production. The last seven years have given us the knowledge required to carry out what some would call a daily conundrum, for the team it´s the daily work cycle, to transform a world-class venue from one entirely themed and styled production to another in under 6 hours. 

Autumn Leaves

When the final parties of the season are finishing, we’re already looking ahead to the next summer - new concepts and ideas that come naturally through the season suddenly get the opportunity to spring to life. Around November, once The Night League has booked the artists for the on-coming summer we make contact with the artists and management and start to look at creating an experience for people, an experience that is immersive for them; requiring true cohesion between venue, artist and show.

The question we always ask ourselves is: ‘How are we going to make next year better?’. Every year we want to produce something bigger or do something new that people don’t expect. Generally, people that come to the shows come to more than one event so every show needs to be completely different. Every show needs to wow the crowd, every moment, and every corner of the venue needs to transport each person into a world that they´ve never seen before. 

“The artists trust us to come up with something fresh, innovative and, above all, exciting. Something that works with their music and elevates a show to THEIR night - encompassing visuals, lighting, performers and anything we can imagine to draw even more emotion and investment from the crowd”, says our project manager Caroline Harrington. “Once a concept has been agreed we begin to bring it to life, by rendering drawings in 3D to scale so that we can all step into that space on the Ushuaïa and Hï stages. The stage in Ushuaïa for Martin Garrix, for example, involved an immense deal of planning as the DJ Booth and its specially designed framed took up the entire stage and all moved separately. We had to show this idea and how it would work beforehand using a video render. This is when everything starts to become reality. It’s a great feeling.”

The Stage Design For Martin Garrix

Winter’s Content

By the end of FEBRUARY we generally have all the designs and concepts confirmed. We then start work on the costumes - hugely intricate and important as the finer details for the shows, each are individually thought out to fit the overall concept. They’re fabricated in Brighton and Spain. The costume designer only works with us and has a complete understanding of the level of detail and commitment we require to really communicate with our audience.

Between Ushuaia and Hï we need around 500 costumes. Some of those costumes have special pieces - custom metal elements for instance - that will take weeks to make. Similarly, we need to have all of the decoration in production by the end of February. Our season begins in May, the time between concept finalisation and go-time is extremely short given the need for completely different productions for each event.

“The decorations team are exceptionally quick but we want to give them as much time as possible to get the absolute best result,” confirms Caroline. “So, yes, the end of February is when we like to have all of our ideas confirmed and in process.”

Spring Into Action

In March we start work on the video content and lights - these elements have a huge impact on the overall show and often differentiate a great, from a truly incredible experience. The option to rehearse often does not really exist - that’s why we like to oversee every element and step meticulously to ensure it all fits together. You can’t have one element being done by one company and something else by another - any slight disconnect in information or knowledge can, potentially, disrupt the entire production. We maintain a finger-on-the-pulse operation. But that’s High Scream; we do everything - and that’s new. Before people were going to one stage designer, one costume designer, one company that creates video content and so on, you would then need to make sure all those fit together - but any slight difference in understanding and small diversions from the core concept will start to create cracks in the overall production. It´s because of this that we have created a team and network that effectively ensure a well-organised, centralised process. 

From the design and planning stage there’s then a huge process of working out how we’re going to physically put everything together. We are very fortunate that we work with amazing people - no is not in their vocabulary. They find a way to turn every idea into reality - but it does take a lot of clever planning and the experience of individuals who have made it all happen time and time again. This is where the knowledge we’ve accrued over the last seven years comes into its own. We can cover every eventuality.

At the beginning of May the team begins to arrive on the island. We do one run through of putting each show together in each venue, beginning to end - ensuring the entire setup and takedown process is flawless. When you first start it can take two days to just go through one set. There are so many elements we need to check; so many little things that need adjusting. We’re living proof that necessity really is the mother of invention - we have to do almost everything by hand because of the high level of customisation that comes from each idea being individually designed for each artist and concept. Things that you’d normally use machines to achieve - putting up a giant 10 metre-high tap for David Guetta last year for example - have to be done using human ingenuity. 

“The parameters are so strict in an environment where changes are constant and flexibility is non-negotiable,” explains Caroline. “There are so many health and safety issues with the venue. We’re working with pyrotechnics so our specialist team ensure that everything is flameproofed and tested 50 times. This is all in the building process; we make sure everything is built to work, built to last and, most importantly, built to meet the standards we´ve set for an awe-inducing show.”

The variables are immense and hugely influential - we’re on a beach so the wind is a huge issue. Sometimes the weather can really pick up and we have to make sure everything is built to withstand huge gusts of wind - all the objects have to have holes in them so it can pass through. They have to be light so we can remove them quickly if necessary. This is all figured out in the pre-season, it´s tested, re-tested and improved until every safety measure is met, all while maintaining the integrity of what we do and the show, in-tact.

Summer Showtime

Once summer comes around and the shows start we really see all the hard work come to life. The production is always larger than life and the timing we have to logistically pull it off is extremely short. We have 6 hours to dismantle that night’s set and then assemble the next - efficiency is the key. 

The security is amazing, they get people out really quickly; we’re talking 10 minutes. 10,000 people in 10 minutes - all of which leave an enormous mess afterwards. The entire venue is covered in things the the guests have left behind plus huge amounts of confetti. At midnight our team are there, ready. They’re breaking the stage down as the artists are leaving - its a very strict, step-by-step process. The pyro comes off first and the machines; these have to be stored elsewhere while we’re putting the new stage up. The decorations team are there ready to come in and remove that night´s set-up which might take two hours, meanwhile we have another group of people erecting the next set.

Apart from environmental challenges, time restrictions and the need to maintain a stringent work-flow, noise is a huge issue. If we were working in Wembley Stadium, it would be no problem! When we did something at Bercy we used as many tools as we like & made as much noise as we needed. The challenge at Ushuaïa is that it´s a fully operational, luxury hotel with guest, other staff and an overlap in show venue / hotel public area. You’ve got a door not much bigger than a normal door - you can’t bring in huge tools and machines. In one show we used palm trees that were seven metres high and we had to get a crane that was large enough to pass it over the door. 

“Planning how we’re going to put it all together takes the most time but it´s what enables efficiency and effectiveness later on,” says Caroline. “With technology and the way we can design many elements on computers, we can get it down to every last centimetre. We know what is going to fit, how we will fit it and where it needs to be at what exact time. Yes, something might not join correctly, but we can get it pretty much spot on every time. It´s what we do - we take ideas and turn them into real designs and concepts, we build a production around it with every element a reflection of the experience we want to create.”