Lest I start to sound grinchy, it should be said again that there are a whole lot of worse things in the world than sitting by a pool drinking free rum out of a fucking pineapple. We spend most of the afternoon doing exactly this, and we’re well-refreshed indeed by the time evening comes around, bringing with it the “Black Magic Halloween Pool Party.” This is held at the hotel’s private water park (yes, of course it has a private water park), and is clearly something that our fellow guests have invested a lot of time and effort into planning for — the costumes are extravagant and flamboyant. There’s sexy bacon! Sexy hot dog! Sexy Transformer! Sexy bewildered music journalist! Sexy cirrhosis of the liver! Sexy angel on the verge of chundering exuberantly!
It’s all a bit much, to be honest, and I’m starting to feel a bit under-dressed as not-especially-sexy cat, being as my costume consists of some cat ears, some makeup, and, um, that’s it. We retreat to the backstage area and befriend a couple of Puerto Rican kids who worked on constructing the stages for the event. They’re friendly and genuinely lovely, to an almost humbling extent, and decide to toast our newfound friendship by cracking open a bottle of… Bacardí!
The next morning, we awake with suitably brutal hangovers and vanished dreams of venturing out of the hotel complex to actually explore San Juan or visit the Bible Museum. Instead, we end up cowering by the pool until it’s time to go to the Private Island™ to see Kendrick Lamar. As we walk down to the marina, we discover that someone appears to have punctuated their experience the night before by taking a shit on the stairs.
Getting to the Private Island turns out to be a shitshow, although hey, I’m glad it’s not me trying to work out how to get nearly 2,000 people across a three-mile stretch of the Caribbean with two fishing boats and a medium-sized ferry. It’s dark by the time we arrive, and while the island’s Private status is rather undermined by the large marina and the distinct lack of privacy, it’s still a lovely setting for a party. The (triangular) stage is set up on the beach, which is covered in sand that has clearly been shipped in for the occasion. There are fire-dancers and a drum circle, because of course there are. Ellie Goulding plays a set that’s as competent and functional as a Toyota Prius. Dinner is eaten.
To be honest, I’m not entirely convinced that Kendrick’s gonna show, especially given his non-appearance yesterday. But hey, he actually goes on early, and he’s fucking great! I’ve not seen him live before, and he’s a far more extroverted and charismatic performer than one might expect from the creator of the claustrophobic, downbeat good kid, m.A.A.d city. He seems genuinely pleased to be here, too, explaining that it’s his first time in Puerto Rico and that it’s also his DJ’s birthday — the latter is celebrated with a cake that ends up mostly in the birthday boy’s triumphant Afro. It’s all good fun. Even Lamar’s decidedly uncharacteristic single “i” works well in this setting, acting less as a song-length non sequitur and more as a good-time party jam. At some point, we see our Puerto Rican friend from the night before. He’s beaming beatifically and hugging everyone in sight. “Tonight,” he confides proudly as he embraces me, “is the first time I take molly!”
It has to be said that the majority of the crowd is significantly less excited at seeing Lamar than I am. The rapper himself seems largely unfazed by this, save for the occasional exhortation for people to “increase the energy,” but you get the sense that songs about alcoholism and violence are lost on a crowd that’s basically here to party. (Still, there’s a pleasing irony in watching a bunch of drunk people at an alcohol-sponsored party sing along enthusiastically to “Swimming Pools (Drank).”) Perhaps the people here are all waiting for Calvin Harris, but given that it took us about three hours to get here and the prospects of either sleeping on the beach or queuing until 4 AM to get back aren’t especially appealing, we jump on the first boat back to the resort. (We do have to wait an extra half hour while Lamar’s comically huge entourage piles onto two separate boats.)
The morning brings more Bacardí cocktails, which no one seems to want. It’s at this point that you might start questioning the entire strategy here — I hear several queasy-looking folks declare at this point that if they never drink Bacardí again, it’ll be too soon, and if I’m honest, I probably won’t be staring a mojito down in a hurry, either. The island of Puerto Rico comes out of the weekend significantly better — it’s gorgeous, and I’d be very much interested in coming back without staying at the strange rich-person theme park that is the El Conquistadór Golf Resort and Multi-Pool Extravaganza.
All in all, though, it’s the sort of experience at which you have to just kind of shake your head and giggle, because it makes no sense. Bacardí Triangle? Sure, why not?