World’s Largest Floating Music Festival Brings EDM to the Coast of Long Beach

DSC 7221

Long gone are the days when—not quite understanding what electronic dance music (EDM) was—Eminem proclaimed that, “Nobody listens to techno.” After all, such a proclamation is hard to prove when Long Beach has the Groove Cruise, a cruise ship entirely dedicated to EDM, leaving its harbor.

Eminem’s jab, fueled by his of-the-time beef with electronic guru Moby, is a moot point by now (especially since Moby’s put-a-stamp-on-it-certifiable DJ set at the massive 2010 Electronic Daisy Carnival (EDC) in Los Angeles). For better or worse, EDM has officially taken over the pop culture scene, as Groove Cruise—with its entire 2,000 room occupancy sold out—proves. And in EDM’s takeover of pop culture—skipping the late 90s popular obsession with bubble-gum-pop and angry hip-hop—it has harnessed the exact underground scene Eminem was mocking: the warehouse raves sprawled across the East and West Coasts throughout the late 90s and early 2000s.

DSC 7202These events were, for the most part, mocked by pop culture for its population of odd kids covered in candy bracelets and necklaces, overly baggy pants, cartoon character backpacks, and glow sticks. Even more, pejoratively phrased as “Eurotrash” (regardless of whether the artists were European or American), these thumping centers of dance brought names that were only known in the niche houses of dance: Tiësto, Armin Van Buuren, Kaskade, Donald Glaude, Paul Oakenfold, DJ Irene, DJ Dan, Mark Farina, Andy C…

The commodification of this scene—SoCal parties such as EDC, Nocturnal Wonderland, and Together as One have now become some of the world’s largest dance events, with EDC having to move to Vegas in order to appeal to its growing popularity—is directly connected to Groove Cruise’s mantra that life is best when it’s a party.

It would make sense why Jason Beukema, founder of Whet Travel, has always felt that a “cruise ship is the ultimate party venue.”

“I had been on a lot of cruises and I was always bored,” Beukema said on the Carnival Inspiration, just hours before the ship set sail this past Friday. “There were always a lot of old people and the music sucked. I thought, what if I could have all my friends on the cruise with me?”

Beukema’s philosophy, however, had always been practiced on the East Coast, where Groove Cruise has been movin’ and groovin’ since 2004. It also had a sister cruise in Long Beach for several years in its beginning, but ultimately lost money with dwindling attendees and a falling market—suprising considering SoCal’s deep history with EDM.

But with a clearing of a drowned economy, it seemed befitting for the Groove to shimmy on back west to tap what has become a relatively untapped market. Long Beach has been home to smaller concert cruises—like Boatylicious, also EDM driven—but has never hosted a major commercial cruise along the lines of Carnival.

DSC 7229

However, spurred by the opening of Descano Beach, Groove Cruise could finally set a path that would cater to Beukema’s EDM-driven adult wonderland. Venues beyond the ship itself are part of Groove Cruise’s approach to keep the party going: after leaving the harbor, it will stop at Catalina before heading to Mexico and stopping in Ensenada—the whole time surrounded by a four-on-the-floor beat to keep bodies moving.

But ultimately, at least in Beukema’s view, venues are second to the people.

“After all my years in the travel business, I now believe it has nothing to do with where you go, it has everything to do with who you are with,” Beukema said. “That’s the philosophy behind Groove Cruise: bringing together like-minded people. People come here because they want to be around people like them.”

DSC 7204Those people are not, contrary to common myth, mostly twenty-somethings looking to rage. Rather, Beukema pointed out that it is working professionals who mostly board the Groove Cruise, averaging 31 years in age and throwing down $800 per ticket to join the dance floor.

And even more, Beukema feels the party doesn’t start and end with EDM. Whet Travel now hosts Aventura, the world’s first salsa-based charter and Shiprocked, dedicated to all things rock (think Godsmack and 3 Days Grace).

It looks like, at least for the near future, Long Beach will be the aquatic homebase for all forms of hip-shaking.

Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.

Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.