World travel for the partygoer (Part 2: Germany, US, and South America)
Germany is another great clubbing hotspot. Germany has a unique party style, due to the fact that East and West Germany were once separated, and Easterners were not allowed to have any sort of fun under the strict rules of a poverty-stricken country. Once the wall came down, though, the music came out. Paul van Dyk was there to attest that all around the wall, parties went for days and days after the fall, in old warehouses and torn-down buildings. And yes, they do know how to party. I was lucky enough to visit Sven Vath's club, Coccoon, in Frankfurt during a trip to my birthplace (Bad Kreuznach) in 2008. 15 euros got us in, and 8 euros got us drinks in ultra-tall plastic cups. The decor was the best I've seen in a club; classy deco wallpaper adorned the outside walls, glass art deco sculptures provided a loungey area right outside the restrooms. The inner dance area sported a large pod high above the dance floor where the DJ reigns supreme throughout the night, and numerous wall-openenings bathed in green light and leather cushions provided a space-like seating atmosphere. Dancers in colorful, non-sensical costumes did their robot-dances for us (one looked like Ms. Pac-Man with a cheese-head while another was painted red from head to foot) and provided entertainment on the dance floor.
Germany is not without its giant music festivals, and was the original harbinger of electronic music to the public during the first Love Parade in 1989, in which DJs and electronic music lovers broke out from the underground and poured forth music onto fresh ears. The Love Parade has become such a huge phenomenon now that its presence is sporadic, and due to concerns is not held every year. And there's little possibility of it continuing after last year's events in which a number of people were crushed in a crowd rush. You don't have to go far to find an alternative, however, with The Netherlands' Dance Valley Festival and trance-loving city of Utrecht (a Tiesto hotspot).
Many US cities now offer a miniature version of the Love Parade. I've attended the San Francisco Love Parade (also known as LoveFest or LoveEvolution) twice, and was going for a third time but it was canceled due to the events in Germany. The main streets of SF are closed down for a few hours while giant speaker-fied floats drive slowly toward the Civic Center, booming electronica and inviting you to dance (naked or not - it's your call) next to the float down the parade route. Floats park at the Civic Center in a square, and you can float-hop to see the DJs you like best, from Christopher Lawrence, to Andy Caldwell, to the local DJs of the Bay Area Drum n Bass scene. Through the day the shenanigans continue, and then there's a massive afterparty, a smaller but no less impressive after-afterparty, an afterparty after that, and then there's the EndUp. Breakfast anyone? San Francisco is definitely a great party destination. It has its own intimate dance community, a gang of SF-born international DJs, and style of house music not found as you move further east across the US.
The US is also the proud home of Burning Man, an annual gathering in the Black Rock desert of Nevada. Once a year, an entire city, deemed Black Rock City, develops out of thin air (and playa dust). People come in from all over the world with gear to last them a week in the harsh desert climate. This being a non-monetary city, people pack items for trade; a small package of popcorn kernels in exchange for a ride on someone's art car, or a free breakfast in exchange for an item of clothing. Anything can be traded at Black Rock, and any and all services are provided, just like in any other city. Booths are set up with signs that range from normal (i.e. "psychological services available here from a licensed psychologist") to quirky ("free kisses" or "get your palms read and a spank on the @$$"). This is a place where you can follow your heart's desires. A freedom festival with art, music, dancing, drinking, and nude bike-rides. The only thing that is not readily available is a supply of fresh water.
The art at Burning Man is perhaps the most memorable aspect. Cars adorned with giant tentacles, bug-eyes, or butterfly wings drive slowly around the playa, most with speaker systems blasting music, some with full bars and lounges. Art seems to grow out of the sandy ground, and almost everything lights up at night. This city never sleeps. A number of open-air clubs in the city center host DJs and music non-stop. Surprise guests such as Way out West or Tiesto pop their heads in, and there are no age restrictions, liquor laws, or in fact any regulations whatsoever in this city. For a week you are free to be the person you want to be, provided you don't get too cranky due to lack of sleep.
At the end of the festival they burn the Man. The Man is a giant effigy who stands in the center of the playa and watches over the festival-goers. He is burned in an amazing display of pyrotechnics, to symbolize the fleeting and temporary nature of our lives. Things come and go, temples get built and burned to the ground. Life is short, so do everything you can to enjoy it and, most important of all, be yourself.
On a 2008 trip to Portugal I stopped in at the most popular nightclub in Lisbon, Club Lux. It may have been due to the face that I was traveling with my man and my two besties from London, but that night was definitely a topper. After getting a
head start in the barrio district of Lisbon, we made our way into the giant vaginal opening (literally!) that is Club Lux. A little bit S&M, a little bit pop, and right on the beach, the club was outfitted with bright red sofas and pillows, most of which ended up being thrown across the room or used for pillow fights by a our hyperactive English-American-Brazilian group. Edgy house music provided background stimulation for our night of debauchery.
And then there's South America, an underground of hot latin lovers just waiting to be unearthed! Well, you won't suffer from a lack of them at the clubs! Visit Pacha Argentina and dance the night away with thousands of sweaty Buenos Aireans gettin' their latin grooves on. With any luck, you'll meet one that speaks spanglish. Buenos Aires boasts a non-stop party scene. Parties are thrown in clubs, warehouses, public toilets, and even in the jungle (I was kidding about the public toilet part, although London does indeed sport a club that used to be a public toilet. But alas, I digress...). Home of the original Creamfields, Buenos Aires is your Latin American party destination.
Brazil hosts multiple parties per night as well, although I didn't make it to many of them, considering the entrance fees topped 100 Brazilian Reals. In Brazil, they give you a card at the door, in which the entrance fee is entrapped, along with any drinks you buy with that card (cash is not accepted at the bar). On the way out, you are blasted in the drunken face with the exhorbitant amount of money you owe, and leave annoyed, slightly sober, and wondering if it was all worth it. However, ladies usually get in for a discount or sometimes for free if you can work your mojo in the right direction. It's your man that's going to have to pay up at the end of the night.
I did, however, visit one Campinas club a number of times; Club Kraft, which has now been shut down due to drugs, or a death, or possibly both. Since my man was booked to DJ there, I was treated as VIP and lead backstage to spend the majority of my time there, guzzling free vodka and red bull until just about anything would have sounded good to my ears. I danced behind Gui Boratto while he was doin' his DJ thang onstage, busy twiddling buttons and mixing mixers (as in electronics, not alcohol) throughout the performance. This was an honor, as he is one of my faves. I liked Kraft, with its giant bass and many colorful lights (Brazil is really into excessive amounts of lighting), but there were a lack of female bodies and an overall atmosphere of absolute mayhem. I think this is the case in many Latin American clubs.
In 2009 I was in Rio de Janeiro for Carnaval, the yearly Samba and national pride celebration that happens all over Brazil, with a center in Rio. During Carnaval, the Rio Music Conference was also in town. This is much like the Winter Music Conference in Miami, Florida, only on a smaller scale. After a day of music conventioning and guest DJs right on the beach, I attended the Pete Tong and Gui Boratto party under a canopy near the sea. A Digweed bash was happening right next door. Though this was a commercial crowd and not one I was used to, the music was great and the decor fantastic. The best part of it was coming out of the club at 6 am and running smack into a sky of flaming pink and orange. As we strolled along the beach during sunrise, kids ran down and played with crabs on the sandbar, only silhouettes in front of the blazing ball of the sun. Another memorable moment to add to the scrapbook.
Bahia, Brazil is the proud host of Universo Paralelo, or Parallel Universe, a 7-day New Year's beach party with all kinds of DJs and entertainment. As the palm trees sway and the caiparinhas flow, the DJs play on, contemplating the beauty around them and wondering why they ever celebrated the New Year anywhere else. If you head to Universo Paralelo, keep in mind that the style is very Indian or Amazonian, so bring some war paint and beads and you will fit right in. Either that or learn some yoga moves. Also, don't forget your thong - it is Brazil, after all.