Location: Zrće Beach, Island of Pag, Croatia
Before Croatia became an essential dance music destination for festival-goers from around the world, Aquarius was laying the foundations for its now-famous summertime scene. Located on the Island of Pag on the pebbly Zrće Beach, for 16 years this open-air club has entertained holidaymakers and, over time, has become a rite of passage for dance fans.
“Aquarius Zrće has grown from year to year,” says club manager Dejan Labor. “Today we can proudly say that we are an integral part of the most famous party destination in Croatia.”
For its three-month summer season the venue welcomes several key dance festivals to take over its two dancefloors and pool area. Sonus focuses on techno and has hosted Maceo Plex and Ricardo Villalobos; Hard Island is a hard dance event; Hideout locks down electronic artists of the bassier stripe; and there are a plethora of other festivals there too, including Black Sheep, Area 4 and Sweetland.
In 2017, the venue unveiled its new live stage. This year, in addition to massive EDM artists booked for one-off performances — including Alan Walker and Ummet Ozcan in June — Labor promises plenty more wow factor: “We have prepared a lot of surprises for our guests and a season full of great performances.”
Location: Porto Belo, Brazil
El Fortin makes good use of Brazil’s warm climate by being an open-air club house in a grand wooden pyramid. The exposed structure is like an overblown beach hut and is bathed in warm red and blue lights with lush greenery all around it. Elsewhere though, the decor is dark and shady, which lends the place an underground and intimate feel. The last year has seen the team add a Funktion One soundsystem throughout, as well as a new stage, making it three in total.
“Called Origins, this stage is intended to give local producers and DJs an opportunity to show their talent,” says the club’s Diego. “We also reformed our VIP area, with new bathrooms and bars.”
Bookings tend to be on the tech-house end of the spectrum with Sharam Jey, Julian Jeweil, Kolombo, Denney, Leftwing & Kody and Avrosse just some of those who’ve played in the last year. Each year the club’s birthday is one of the biggest events around, with all the stops pulled out and biggest bookings secured — definitely not one to miss if you find yourself in South America.
Location: Manchester, UK
“We’re privileged to work with every amazing club brand under the sun,” says Will Orchard, Head of Marketing at The Warehouse Project in Manchester.
He’s not overstating things. Originally held in a disused brewery, aside from a brief spell at an industrial site on the edge of the city centre, The Warehouse Project has long called the car park under Manchester Piccadilly train station home. The club that kick-started the British trend for booking acts a season at a time, you could argue it’s not really a club at all, given the location, and the fact it runs for just ten weeks of the year.
Despite the brief lifespan, the events pack more big names than most could in a full 12 months. 2017 saw LCD Soundsystem perform back-to-back shows, with everyone from Larry Heard to Ricardo Villalobos, Daphni and Jon Hopkins, to Annie Mac and Andy C calling in. This is in addition to esteemed residents, which last year came in the form of Artwork, Peggy Gou, Special Request, and Denis Sulta, not to mention local heroes like Krysko, Greg Lord, and Rich Reason. Put simply: compelling proof incredible things often come in surprising packages, or places.
Location: Brooklyn, NY, USA
Output reigns supreme as one of the most respected clubs across the entire American East Coast. Founded in January 2013, the club recently celebrated its fifth anniversary at the top of this year with a four-night run featuring Jamie Jones, Seth Troxler, Louie Vega and Onur Özer. Its culturally aware bookings focus on quality artists and emerging styles from the worldwide underground, while pushing the evolving boundaries of electronic music via resident DJs and regulars like Seth Troxler, Cassy, DJ Harvey and others.
While Output is relatively small, standing at 700 square feet within a former warehouse, it packs a heavy punch. Sporting an industrial vibe, the venue is comprised of four distinct separate areas: the raw main room; the ‘70s-inspired Panther Room; Halcyon, a speakeasy bar and record shop; and the roof deck, home to one of the city’s best panoramic views. The venue’s first-rate Funktion-One soundsystem was recently upgraded, as was the main room, which underwent a complete renovation with a rebuilt DJ booth and an expanded dancefloor. It’s no surprise, then, why Output is featured on this fine list and why it won Best Club: Northeast in our first-ever Best of North America Awards last year.
Location: Valinhos, Brazil
Capacity: 5,500 people
Situated slap-bang in tropical paradise due north of São Paulo in Valinhos, Laroc is a truly singular venue in every sense. A breath-taking open-air structure in the middle of a lush valley surrounded by forests and mountains, it’s a place where festival and super-club vibes combine by way of a pool, huge LEDs, a precision soundsystem and a stunning sunset vantage point.
A less-is-more party policy amplifies its reputation, too; only hosting 19 events a year — one every three weeks — Laroc doesn’t just throw down parties for the sake of it. The club invests hugely in each night and the local-championing and top level international line-ups reflect. Last year saw the likes of Kölsch, Armin van Buuren, Alesso, Galantis, Robin Schulz, Guy Gerber, Luciano, Jonas Blue, Hernan Cattaneo, Erick Morillo and Tchami all hold court in the venue’s unique arena, supercharged by dancers, confetti bombs, pyrotechnics, CO2 cannons and all the theatrics expected of a venue at this level… Or from a team who’ve had experience with some of Brazil’s biggest events since the early 2000s (including São Paulo’s Electric Zoo and Tomorrowland in recent years). Still very young at three years old, Laroc’s climb up the Top 100 proves its buzz is only just beginning to grow.
Location: Las Vegas, NV, USA
Hakkasan is celebrating its five-year anniversary as a nightlife staple on the Las Vegas strip… and yet another year where it makes an appearance in DJ Mag’s Top 100 Clubs poll. It’s decidedly Sin City’s superclub to be reckoned with, open Thursday to Sunday, featuring residents with platinum credentials like Tiësto, Zedd, Steve Aoki, Kaskade, and DJ Mag’s 2017 Top 100 DJs poll winner Martin Garrix. If, for some unfathomable reason, none of those names tickle your musical fancy, there are always performances from hip-hop megastars like Drake and Travis Scott too.
Speaking of tickling fancies, when it comes to food and drink, there’s something for everyone at the strip’s most notorious club: with 60,000 square feet of space to occupy, Hakkasan serves up an array of atmospheric options in which to eat, dance and be merry, including its famous restaurant, a private dining room, the captivatingly intimate Ling Ling Lounge, the Garden Bar in the pavilion, a lush VIP mezzanine and, of course, the main nightclub.
A custom DJ booth and suspended performance area, enveloped with floor-to-ceiling LED screens top things off in grand style on the main floor, with earth-shattering sound that ensures the night is high-energy no matter how tired you are from a day of slots.
Location: Los Angeles, CA, USA
This club lives up to its name in plenty of ways, not the least of which is the historic structure it inhabits — The Hollywood Playhouse, built in 1927, has been home to countless prolific acts and events spanning generations, from the Beatles to the Grammys.
The club received a major upgrade a few years back which included, among other things, the world’s largest subwoofer club installation (40-inch cones — just ask Google what that means). And according to owner John Lyons, “it creates earth-crushing subbass.” Needless to say, DJs taking the stage for Avalon’s wildly popular Friday night trap and dubstep-centric Control series are probably pretty happy campers.
Of course, earth-crushing bass doesn’t mean obnoxiously distorted: it means clean, crisp and all-encompassing. That’s why you’ll see the best names in deep house, techno and electronica show up for work here, too. Case in point, in a single week last month, Avalon’s booth hosted trance man Andy Moor, old school drum & bass icon Dieselboy, and masters of progressive melody Darren Emerson, Danny Howells and Dave Seaman. Old Hollywood would be proud to see legends still playing at its beloved Playhouse.
Location: Pirovac, Croatia
There was a certain amount of serendipity in the founding of Barbarella’s. When Garden Festival founder Nick Colgan had to find a new location for his respected dance music event, he went scouting for sites near Tisno (where The Garden brand now hosts many other dance festivals rather than its own).
Colgan discovered a derelict venue in Pirovac that seemed to tick all the boxes, and then some. He fell in love. “It used to be an old club, which lay dormant for a good few years,” Colgan says. “It was exactly what we wanted — open-air, by the sea, surrounded by pine trees. There’s nothing else quite like it, and it tapped into iconic clubs of the past — especially from Ibiza’s very early days, plus with a great Funktion One soundsystem we installed and an intimate dancefloor for everyone.” Spruced up — but not excessively — Barbarella’s now holds parties for some of Croatia’s best festivals.
In 2018, shindigs are promised from Love International, Soundwave, Dekmantel, Suncébeat, Hospitality On The Beach and Defected. And when you consider that talent of the magnitude of DJ Harvey, Ben UFO, Kerri Chandler, Kenny Dope, The Black Madonna, Craig Richards, Midland, Horse Meat Disco, Josey Rebelle, Medlar and Alexander Nut have played there, it should be on the bucket list of any self respecting dance fan.
Location: Zrće Beach, Island of Pag, Croatia
Those looking for the early roots that helped Croatia’s now-globally renowned electronic music scene grow could do worse than check Kalypso Beach Club. Situated on the stunning Adriatic coastline at Zrće Beach, arguably the most hedonistic spot in the Balkans, the venue first opened its doors in 1987, making it the godfather of the region’s nightlife. Skip forward to today, and elements that first made the place so special remain intact — that stunning location, the infectious vibe — but plenty has changed.
Now operating a mammoth 12 bars across two floors, separate day and night stages mean punters aren’t won’t get bored when knee-deep in one of the club’s musical marathons, for example during Sonus, Barrakud, or Hideout festivals, with celebrated VIP areas ensuring it is possible to take some time out of the mayhem. 2017 saw the likes of The Martinez Brothers, Seth Troxler & Monika Kruse, Richie Hawtin, Adam Beyer, Ben Klock and Ellen Allien grace the booth, with overground faces coming in the form of Marshmello and R3hab. Indicative of the diverse acts that have played, and range of crowds you might find partying here, it’s place on our list is unarguably deserving. Institution barely comes close.
Location: London, UK
An ever-present in the Top 100 clubs poll since 2014, and winner of Best Large Club at DJ Mag’s Best Of British awards last year, the Egg team haven’t been resting on their laurels as they aim to meet ever-higher eggspectations (sorry). Aiming to become the most dynamic club in the UK, the main room has had a revamp with a new lighting rig and a meaty KV2 Audio soundsystem to complement the industrial warehouse aesthetic. All this, plus three other rooms, including two heated smoking areas with KV2 and d&b soundsystems powering the club.
Key to its popularity has been reaching across the dance music divide. Fridays are a more commercial mix of house, and increasingly drum & bass, while Saturdays resonate to a house and techno soundtrack led by names like Charlotte de Witte, Laurent Garnier, Pan-Pot and resident DJs Kyle E and Luther Vine.
Egg turns 15 this year — an incredible milestone in today’s clubbing climate — and is rightly celebrating with a 12-date world tour spanning Brazil, Germany, Turkey, America and more. But, as Londoners can attest, there’s no place like home, and when the main room is in peak hands-up, heads-down mode, there are few finer dancefloors in the world.