Whoever said that travel broadens the mind probably wasn't thinking of times like this, but it's certainly stretching any previous conceptions of what outdoor clubbing is all about. Stood behind the decks as Carl Cox rocks out another thumping groove, we're surveying a club rammed with 8,000 people in the middle of the baking-hot Brazilian countryside. With a sea of arms waving as far as we can see and smiling faces as standard, it's like no other club we've seen.
The world's latest destination venue, Green Valley might be the most recent venues to join the Brazilian party, but it's undoubtedly the biggest. For two years now, it's been putting the super in to Brazilian clubbing, winning a bunch of domestic accolades in the process and drawing the cream of the world's DJ superstars to its breath-taking location.
Located at Balneário Camboriú, in the Southern State of Santa Catarina, Green Valley's tropical region is fast making a name as the Ibiza of Brazil thanks to its abundance of clubs, beaches and high-rolling party people.
And with flights to Sao Paulo and Rio taking little over an hour, Green Valley is now the premier place to catch the largest house and techno heavyweights when they're in Brazil, their big room sounds resounding in a club space bigger than any other imaginable.
Already they've played host to everyone from Erick Morillo to Armin Van Buuren, while the unstoppable Swedish house don Steve Angello has been recruited to mix the first Green Valley CD, out in early 2010.
But it's original Brit rave legend Carl Cox who has forged the most special relationship with club owners, Ricardo Flores, Duda Cunha, Eduardo Phillips and Ricardo Tolazzi, who all boast varying backgrounds in business and investment.
Rocking their inaugural party in 2007, Cox's performance impressed the four so much that he was invited back for both their first birthday and tonight's second anniversary celebrations. In return, he's named it his favourite club in the world. No small statement from a man whose talent has taken him to every corner of the globe and played just about every venue worth its salt.
We first touched base with the Green Valley crew when we arrived at our hotel, the Praia do Estaleiro guesthouse, earlier in the day, where we also sampled the famous Brazilian hospitality for the first time. Home to Green Valley's weekly pre-parties, the Praia do Estaleiro is an exclusive 14-room boutique hotel just metres from a deserted, golden sandy beach.
A four-person Jacuzzi hot tub in the bathroom hints at the usual goings on here, and once installed in our room the Don Pérignon is soon flowing freely amongst the guests. All are here this weekend for one reason and one reason alone - Green Valley.
Warming up the invite-only crowd around the hotel's central pool is Rodrigo Vieira and DJ partner Ferris. Born in Rio and DJing since 1979, Vieira now runs UC Music in Miami, bringing Brazilian DJs to the US, and regularly promotes the night We Love Brazil across Miami. But it's his past life working for both Sony and Universal that provides the most colourful illustrations of his native country's free-wheeling attitude. From tales of bribing drug gangs to allow Michael Jackson into the favelas for the 'They Don't Care About Us' video, to dealing with the fall-out from Axel Rose throwing a TV out of his hotel window, Rodrigo is clearly a cat that action follows around like a hawk.
Right now, though, he's spinning a selection of pumping vocals anthems and remixes of classic tracks alongside Ferris. The pair's early, ear-friendly selection is the perfect musical bridge to take us from afternoon in to night, with a short burst of spring rain the only downside, before the darkness hears them progressing to a tougher techno sound.
Next we grab a pre-action dinner at the hotel with the club owners and Russell Faibisch, head of Miami's huge Ultra Music Festival. With Carl Cox already hosting a huge tent at the festival, Faibisch is here finalising plans for Green Valley to do the same - a sign not only of the club's huge, growing reputation and influence, but also the large numbers of Brazilians now hitting the States for the Winter Music Conference. As if we needed reminding, dance music continues to strengthen its grip on this country.
It's a fact reinforced by our attempts to get to the club. With public transport thin of the ground thanks to Green Valley's remote setting, the only way to get to the club is by car, which helps to explain the mile-long tailback we encounter around midnight. Fortunately, with typical Brazilian improvisation (or total disregard for health or safety), there are soon three lanes of traffic going one way down the two-way road. Any cars leaving the venue are simply forced off-road as they try to squeeze by.
Once we're at the venue, security simply open a side gate and allow us to drive straight into the club, past a postcard-perfect lake and the Green Valley shop (which even sells branded Havaianas and beach towels), and right up to the entrance of the raised VIP area.
It's here, to the right of the huge platform, where we find Ferris warming up. Surveying the site, it's our first opportunity to take in the full vastness of the Green Valley experience and wonder at the number of power points they need just to power the DJ booth. As we stand in the shadow of a huge concert-worthy lighting rig, Ferris is illuminated by a huge cinema-sized screen that fires out projections of eye-popping visuals. Along the front of the stage a massive LED display scrolls the words 'Green Valley'.
Above the swarming, thousands strong crowd, a huge tented ceiling is held aloft by tall metal structures, while around the open sides an array of buildings house not only bars but also a pizzeria and sushi restaurant. Up on a hill at the back of the crowd, is the lounge, a separate building with a second dancefloor and, bizarrely, a hair-dressing salon, where more seemingly immaculate woman are being pampered. When we said it was like nothing else we'd seen, we really weren't joking.
As bottles of vodka and strawberry juice appearance in ice buckets, the prospect of staying even reasonably presentable begins to evaporate in the swelling mass of bodies below. When the chorus of David Guetta's 'We Love Takes Over' booms out, the dancefloor erupts in the kind of collective emotional outpouring normally only found at festivals. An impressive sight only topped when a minimal drop sees hundreds of green balloons released from the distant ceiling, precipitating mass popping hysteria on the dancefloor.
As Carl Cox makes his first appearance on stage, jets of flame shoot up around the DJ booth, flares explode and machines fire confetti into the front row of the crowd. An all-out assault on the senses, it sets the scene perfectly for the return of Green Valley's favourite overseas son.
Renowned for his three deck mixing in pre-digital days, Cox's adoption of Traktor now gives him four deck control at the touch of the button and the mater is soon in full swing - dropping wave after wave of grooving techno via the glowing touch-pads of his Native Instruments Maschine drum pad.
Joining the VIPs and photographers behind Cox to escape the squeeze below, we can view exactly why Green Valley keeps DJs coming back for more. When the lights illuminate the club during a prolonged breakdown, there are people as far as the eye can see - distant, barely visible figures are grooving away on the hill.
Pondering just how to follow this spectacle is Global Underground's Sultan, who has a flight back to Montreal booked for the afternoon. He might be in for a long wait. "Last time Carl played, the next DJ was meant to take over at 4am," explains Rodrigo. "He was still waiting at 9am!"
Indeed, Cox's annual appearance at Green Valley has become such an established event that backstage is a veritable who's who of local officials and club players. There's a politician and police chief rubbing shoulders with the owner of Sao Paulo Buddha Bar and Rodrigo Baretto (a.k.a. Rod B), another Miami-based Brazilian whose Teggno label has been gaining props from Cox.
Also watching are Josh Abrahams and Davide Carbone, ex-members of Future Sound of Melbourne (who pre-date The Future Sound of London in case you're wondering) who are both working with Cox on his awaited, fourth artist album. Listening eagerly as their production cohort roadtests a new track, the unswerving enthusiasm of the assembled masses bodes well. But you can almost see the mental cogs turning as the pair make silent notes on what to tweak in their next studio session.
As we discuss the changing face of Brazilian dance music with some local DJs, talk turns to Jesus Luis. Who, in case you've been hiding under a rock the size of Green Valley itself, is the latest prey of celebrity cougar Madonna. Currently reinventing himself as a DJ, a booking at Green Valley heard his set drowned out by the excited screams of on-looking women. Which is something he might have been glad for given the subsequent rumours he was actually playing mix CDs. A Brazilian TV show even went so far as to suggest there was a midget mixing below the decks.
No such accusations can be levied at Cox, mind, who still has the heaving mass at breaking point. With dawn creeping through, the techno master is chalking up a cool three hours with the aid of a man passing him glasses of freshly poured champagne. As the sun seeps across the landscape, we're finally able to see the green canopy of vegetation that surrounds the valley walls around the club. Sunglasses begin to appear on the faces, but the crowd holds strong with nobody moving an inch from their little patch of dancefloor.
As we approach 8am, Cox finally hands over to Sultan whose opening progressive vocal assault sends a visible pulse of renewed energy through the crowd. With an assembled throng of girls now dancing around the stage, smudged eye-liner hidden behind black lenses, the party spirit is undaunted by the morning. For the locals, the prospect of dancing outside in the daylight is clearly as much a part of Green Valley's appeal as Panorama Bar's infamous shutters.
Come 10am, the party still shows no sign of abating. But with phones and sunglasses lost in the melee, we head back to Praia do Estaleiro for more champagne, breakfast, a morning swim and, finally, our much-needed bed. With plans for taking the club on tour around Brazil, Green Valley's presence at Rio's Music Conference in February is sure to spread the word further as well as complimentinh six nights of conference week parties with back-to-back nightly performances from Erick Morillo, Armin Van Buuren, Steve Angello (with his Green Valley mix included free with the ticket), Bob Sinclar and Kaskade.
Two days later, we're in Rio ourselves, and joining Carl Cox for a totally contrasting club experience. Tonight, Cox is playing at Boox, an exclusive restaurant and club where a chichi crowd of less than 200 will squeeze in to hear him in the confines of a cosy, exclusive venue.
It's a chance for him to return to his roots, digging out classic house tracks and playing a more intimate sound than his global status normally allows. But for now he's still buzzing from Green Valley's second birthday, keen to sing the praises of a club which has put their faith in him, as much he has in them.
"I've seen it grow from a conceptual idea into what it's turned into now," Cox says, recalling the amazing transformation he's witnessed over three visits.
"I think the biggest thing is that it's a club that Brazil can feel proud about. Privilege in Ibiza is as big but it's all broken up there.
"At Green Valley you have one great atmosphere in one great place with enough room for people from all around. It's open air so everyone also makes the effort to look and feel good. As a performer it's fantastic to have an audience like that. The experience of Green Valley is like nowhere else in the world. "
We'll second that, too.
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