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Dominican Holidaze Attendees Explain What Keeps Them Returning To Holidaze Year After Year

Anyone who’s been to Dominican Holidaze knows that it’s the ultimate music destination getaway. With an ideal lineup drawing from the top tier of jam, funk, jamtronica and electronic performing on a stage situated literally on the beach and parallel to the ocean, this is just about as good as it gets. The event’s laid-back vibe is truly unique, with hotel rooms just steps away from the beach. Late nights under the stars, watching the sunrise on the beach with your best friends, and spontaneous hangs with your favorite artists…it doesn’t get much better.

Ten years ago, Carribean Holidaze took over Runaway Bay, Jamaica, with its inaugural destination festival featuring fiery performances from host bands, The Disco Biscuits and Umphrey’s McGee. Since then, the festival has been in a constant state of evolution, with Holidaze becoming one of the longest-running and most cherished destination festivals in our scene. In 2011, the festival ramped things up a notch, adding a third host band, STS9, and moving to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico for its first-ever Mayan Holidaze. Now, we are just a few months out from the fourth installment of Dominican Holidaze —which will take place from December 1st through 5th at Now Onyx and Breathless Punta Cana Resorts in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. This year is poised to be better than ever and we’re happy to let everyone know the stage is turning back to how it was in years past, parallel to the ocean, inviting guests to dance in the ocean while listening to their favorite bands.

Like years past, the three main bands—STS9, Umphrey’s, and the Biscuits—will each perform five sets across three shows during the festival, with two two-set shows and one special “sunset show” featuring one extended set. The four-day festival will also see performances by GRiZJoe Russo’s Almost DeadLotusThe Motet, TAUK, Spafford, and more, each of whom is scheduled to perform one show at the beachfront main stage. Making for the most enjoyable afternoons, guests will enjoy poolside sets in addition to artist-hosted activities and available excursions. All-inclusive packages for Dominican Holidaze are currently available and going fast. For more information, check out the event website, and for additional updates and event information, join the Facebook Event page.

We decided to get some inside information about the festival straight from the horse’s mouth by asking a few past attendees about their experiences at Holidaze. Here’s what they had to say:

L4LM: What is it about Holidaze that makes it so special and keeps you coming back year after year?

Garrett (5 timer): People who really love the music are willing to make the experience as great as possible by traveling to paradise to enjoy their favorite bands. There aren’t bad attitudes nor anyone who doesn’t belong there—I mean that in the best way possible because everyone is welcome. Cloud 9 really values the atmosphere and wants to keep the right types of people coming back.

Brett (6 timer): If you are into those bands, then it is close to perfect. You get a ton of music from your favorite bands—including sunset shows—on the beach in paradise. Wowser.

Beef (8 timer): What keeps me coming back every year? Well, the Disco Biscuits honestly! I have seen this band over three hundred times, and I would travel to the end of the world to see them if I had to. If they weren’t a part of this event, I would still consider coming back to Holidaze because the event is amazing.

Tyler (3 timer): For me, the bond you make with others is what’s so special. There is nothing like being in a different country, toes in the sand, drink in hand, and getting down with this group of fans. Such a class-act group every year.

Steve (5 timer): It is a special place with special people. There is no festival like it. My favorite bands and my favorite people in an all-inclusive resort on a beautiful beach—you just cannot beat that!

Holly (7 timer): What makes Holidaze special enough to keep me coming back is the community. Returning to an annual, intimate, tropical festival allows for a fun, relaxed, and meaningful setting to celebrate personal and communal growth from the past year. It’s been fascinating to observe and take part of this evolution. On the music side, I love to see what the bands bring to the beach each year! I’ve noticed that, much like this world we live in, Holidaze gets better each year! The more we realize we can leap over limits, tap into our true selves, and create at our best, the better it all gets. For me, Holidaze puts this perspective into action while leaving me with lasting memories. It’s inspirational memories like those that allow me to continue to excel creatively in life as my best true version of me.

Shane/Grace (4 timer): The musicianship, the fun, the sun and the people.

L4LM: What made you decide to go to your first Holidaze?

Garrett: The possibility of the world ending. [laughs] And lots of peer pressure.

Brett: Hello?! For some of us, that is a Holy Trinity of bands. It’s in paradise and with unlimited drinks. Heaven on Earth. All I had to do was save up.

Beef: I knew about the “Disco Biscuits’ vacation festival” from friends but had never attempted to make it happen before. The first year, I went to Mexico. I had two friends bail on their room, and I snatched it up cheap last minute. I ended up having the best vacation of my life, and I swore I would never miss another one again after that first year.

Steve: The idea of seeing my favorite bands on a white sandy beach with the surf between my toes was too much to bear. I made it a point to be there.

Shane/Grace: The experience! The fact that it is a destination musical experience that is all-inclusive. It’s a vacation for everyone there. The people are amazing and all like-minded folks. It is great to be able to hang out with family, friends and interact with the bands on an intimate level.

L4LM: Other than the music, what’s your favorite part about Holidaze?

Garrett: The atmosphere is perfect, plus eating food whenever. My buddies and I do “bang bangs” at least twice each year. That’s when you eat at one restaurant and then immediately go sit down at another for a second meal after finishing the first.

Brett: There are times where I can’t imagine it being better. Favorite bands, yes, but some of my favorite people in absolute paradise and a gorgeous space with unlimited drinks and unlimited jokes.

Beef: I can honestly say that the best part of Holidaze for me is the people and the atmosphere. The only way that I can describe Holidaze to people who haven’t gone is that it feels like a dream inside of a dream. Have you ever woken up from a dream and wished you could fall back to sleep and go back to into it? That’s what Holidaze feels like except it feels like you’re dreaming about the best dream you’ve ever had, and you are stuck there for four days and nights with some of the happiest people in the world. The atmosphere at Holidaze is electric. Everyone is in a good mood, there’s food and drinks everywhere. The feeling is literally indescribable. You have to experience it to truly understand it.

Steve: My favorite memory is the sunrise—being out on the beach in the early morning, watching the big Caribbean sun emerge over the horizon line, and beginning a new day in paradise.

Holly: My favorite part about Holidaze, in addition to seeing favorite bands play intimate concerts on a tropical beach, is the special people who attend. I’ve made many amazing, inspiring friends of all ages from all over the country at this festival! And the artists’ families come and enjoy the vacation. I’ve noticed with the comfort of family present and space away from the mainstream, there’s great freedom for artists to create and produce. I love the camaraderie between the different artists and the fans. We’ve cultivated a growing community over the years.

Shane/Grace: The people. There are so many great genuine folks. From the staff all the way to the locals. You build relationships and friendships that last a lifetime. You become one big family where everyone is looking out for each other. After those four days you take a step back and think to yourself, if only the world could be a little like that. In my eyes the world would be a happier place and we would be better off.

L4LM: What is your favorite memory from Holidaze?

Garrett: My first year, I was with a bunch of newly acquired friends, and we were all getting ready for the supposed Mayan Apocalypse. Barber comes out on-stage, and the Biscuits immediately start playing “King of the World,” but with the lyrics changed to “It’s the end of the world!”

Beef: I can’t just pick one single moment because there have been so many special ones. It would be unfair to choose one. Some of my favorite moments from Holidaze are the sunrise beach parties every night. If you stay up late enough, you will notice everyone flocks to the beach for the sunrise. Every year, it’s the most magical experience watching the sun appear on the horizon surrounded by friends and the people you love. It’s like something out of a movie.

Tyler: My favorite memories from Holidaze are actually when I arrive and get off the plane every year. There is music playing, you see all your friends, you’re all laughing in the Duty-Free store, and you know you are about to have the best time of your life.
Steve: Holidaze is an all-inclusive vacation that happens to be built around music. You have the flexibility to go off-site and explore different food and drink, adventures, towns, people, and more. You can also just hang on the beach and relax or enjoy one of the many on-site pools, restaurants, or even spas.

Holly: If I had to choose just one favorite Holidaze memory, it’d be in Tulum when Sound Tribe played at midnight on the Winter Solstice in 2012. It was the night perceived as the end of the Mayan calendar, and we were outside on the beach in the heart of the Mayan Riviera! I stood in the ocean and watched the quarter moon, Jupiter, and Venus disappear then reappear from the clouds, the whole time thinking about how grateful I was to be there. Then, Sound Tribe busted out “20 – 12” into “When the Dust Settles.” Sound vibrations melted away old energy, opening up space for me to receive a cosmic revelation. I found a greater appreciation for and understanding that we, as particles in this great Universe, each hold keys to our destiny—that thoughts matter, that we matter, that anything we believe in and take action towards can be possible!

Shane/Grace: Playing flag football with the Umphrey’s and Tribe guys. Really wish they would bring this back. However, I think Joel may be a little sour after Ryan and I took him down. Much love, Joel!

L4LM: What’s a song lyric that makes you think of Holidaze?

Garrett: The Disco Biscuits’ “Home Again”—”Never had to think twice, always knew my home was in paradise.” Cliché, I know, but it fits.

Brett: All of Tribe’s old-school lyrics. These are the jokes, people!

Beef: The lyrics to the Disco Biscuits’ “Spectacle”—”Shock me, Tell me about the story that you heard. We’ve got all day to hammer out just where it is absurd. Spectacles and roundabouts and details afterward. You’re gonna get it all today.”

Tyler: Poolside’s version of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” makes me think of Holidaze the most. The lyrics are “Just like children sleeping, we can dream this night away. But there’s a full moon rising, let’s go dancin’ in the night. We go where the music’s playing, let’s go out and feel the clouds.”

Steve: “Above the Waves” by the Disco Biscuits—”After the sun and light were gone, before he found himself at home, Corrinado swam, fought the waves, remembering when, a myriad of falls, behind another day.”

Holly: Lyrics that remind me of Holidaze are from the Disco Biscuits’ “Magellan”—“One with the raging wind, Alive on the highest tides, My ship at sail can climb a mountain, Ride it to the sky.”

Shane/Grace: “In the Kitchen”, when Brendan says, “Will you still be here tomorrow.” Everyone roars and then the second time around he replaces it with will you be hungover tomorrow and everyone erupts with cheers. This is especially cool because unlike other runs absolutely everyone will be there tomorrow, and I’m sure more than likely hungover.

L4LM: What’s your best pro-tip for first timers?

Garrett: Leave the resort and explore a little, whether it’s an excursion or a casual trip to the city center.

Brett: Everyone has their own hot tub on their balcony, and nobody uses it!

Beef: My favorite pro-tip is to book at least two extra days, one before the festival and one after. When I have the extra money, I usually book four extra days. Last year, I had eight days in paradise. I spend a week at Holidaze with a bunch of my friends, and it was worth every penny to book the extra time. When you have time to decompress before everyone arrives and time to chill out when everyone is frantically packing up and leaving, you just feel all the stress in the world melt away. There’s no struggle to get there on-time or leave. It’s always a nice stress-free way to travel before and after the best party of the year. Take those extra days and stay at the resort, it’s worth the money and alleviates so much travel stress.

Tyler: My honest pro-tip. Pull the trigger! It’s worth every penny, and there is nothing else like it.

Steve: Stretch! Dancing in the sand for four nights works muscles in your legs and hips that you never knew you had!

Holly: I’d recommend first timers bring open hearts and open minds. I’d book restaurant reservations and spa treatments in advance. And I’d have a solid plan for unwinding from it all before travel if possible.

Shane/Grace: Bring your own Mug. Have fun! Cherish the time and memories, but DON’T forget it is a marathon not a sprint!

L4LM: Besides the big three (STS9, tDB, UM), who is your favorite act you’ve seen at Holidaze?

Brett: The New Deal set in 2014 was absolutely bananas. I know it sounds like heresy, but it was definitely one of the more mind-blowing sets of the whole weekend.

Beef: My favorite act I’ve seen at Holidaze besides the Biscuits is probably Lotus. I honestly think they should be added on as a permanent fixture to this festival. In my opinion, they are one of the best bands in the scene and one of the most enjoyable to watch at any time of day. The first time they played at Holidaze, all their equipment was stuck at customs and they had to play on borrowed gear. Although the band had a difficult time adjusting to the situation, I honestly think it was one of the best sets at Holidaze ever. Lotus played a bare-bones set of old school songs that sounded just like they did back in the day before they had so much extra equipment. The set was very old school and took me back to the vibe they had when they wrote their album Nomad. I would vote for them to come back every year if I could!

Tyler: Joe Russo’s Almost Dead last year was something special. Nobody plays the Grateful Dead like they do.

Steve: In 2016, Cloud 9 really stepped up the lineup, adding Shpongle, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, and Lotus. JRAD on Sunday night was a pretty unforgettable experience, so I’m going to have to go with that.

Holly: Lettuce’s grounded funk vibes brought down-to-earth elements of joy, kindness, and love to Holidaze! And I was also stoked when Joe Russo’s Almost Dead joined last year, adding familiar feel-good Grateful Dead vibes that nicely tied the festival together. But hands down, my favorite non-Holidaze set was Shpongle last year! Shpongle joined for the first time ever with a sunset DJ set on the beach after The Disco Biscuits and before STS9. Simon Posford played my favorite songs, and I enjoyed the magic of this with many well-loved Holidaze friends from over the years! I experienced a complete mind, body, and spirit re-programming during this set—it really got through to me!

Shane/Grace: I would have to say Lotus, Lettuce and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. I am so thrilled that JRAD has been added to the list and I hope they keep coming back.

L4LM: What’s the best set of music you have seen at Holidaze?

Garrett: I’m a Biscuits fan, and honestly, it was Joe Russo’s Almost Dead last year, hands down!

Brett: Geez. That’s tough. I’m gonna go with the Tribe set at the end of the world—12/21/12 at 12 am. I don’t think it was the “best,” but what a special thing to be at. I was going for it like it was the end of the world and my favorite band was playing. Perfecto.
Beef: The best set of music I’ve seen at Holidaze? Well, that’s a tough one. There are a few memorable Disco Biscuits sets that I can never get out of my head. My friend Billy Boy and I went through between fifty and one hundred bottles of champagne in a day on the beach. I remember popping bottles at the Biscuits set while “making it rain” pesos in the front row. As far as fun goes, that set was the most memorable. I would like to give an honorable mention to Poolside. I think that their poolside set at Holidaze was probably the most fun I’ve had at any DJ set ever—the music and the setting were perfect, and every human I saw was smiling from ear to ear.

Tyler: This is a hard one. Either the Disco Biscuits’ first set on December 5th, 2015 (Dub Dribble > Mr. Don > Down To The Bottom [inverted]> Astronaut [inverted] > Mr. Don) or the second set from Umphrey’s Mcgee on December 3rd, 2016 (Der Bluten Kat > OG Cut the Cable > Der Bluten Kat > I’m On Fire > Der Bluten Kat, In The Kitchen, Night Nurse, Bad Friday, The Floor)

Steve: In 2013, the Disco Biscuits played an amazing set centered around an inverted “Humuhumunukunukuapua.” It was absolutely perfect. Listening to that jam while splashing in the ocean pretty much sums up what Holidaze is all about.

Holly: My favorite Holidaze set to date is from my first Holidaze in 2011. The Biscuits played under their instrumental cover, Tractorbeam. This set on 1/23/11 included “Mirrors,” “Papercut,” and “Svengali,” which are a few of my favorite Disco Biscuits tunes.

Shane/Grace: Every set, Every year has been amazing! I’m not really one to be biased and rate one over the other. I think the musicians are at there best at Holidaze because they are relaxed with their family and friends. They get to really express their artistic musicianship on a whole different level.

[Cover photo courtesy of Josh TimmermansCloud 9 Adventures]