Location: Nescastle, UK
“Eight-hundred-and-seventy-four tonnes of solid concrete box enclosing four rooms of perfect Funktion One sound, two live stages, and an epic main clubroom,” says Aaron Mellor, Founder & MD of a genuine British treasure.
Thirteen years young in 2018, if Newcastle’s DIGITAL is known for anything it’s breaking new ground. When the first parties were thrown here, circa 2005, DJ Mag was quick to apply the label ‘Fabric of the North’, and those who have been are unlikely to argue with us. At the time it was home to one of just three Funktion One system installs in the world, and this desire to create a club without compromise continues today.
While live stages add a different dimension to what’s possible once through the door, DJs still rule the roost. Hence Sven Väth, Fatboy Slim, Skream, Ben Klock, TQD and Leftfield, all making booth-side appearances in the last year alone, while residents Jacky, Cristoph, and Patrick Topping hold it down. Crews such as the legendary Shindig, Motion and Defected look to this address for their parties, and that famously full-throttle North East English party spirit. A jewel in the UK’s clubbing crown, we can’t imagine this poll without it.
Location: Beijing, China
Despite being only six years old, Elements has become one of China’s premier nightclubs. Hosting the likes of Alan Walker, Sebastian Ingrosso, Deorro and Paul Van Dyk in the last year alone, its growing reputation has seen it climb the ranks of the DJ Mag Top 100 Clubs at a rapid pace. Founded by Beijing nightlife mastermind and former DJ Mark Zhang, the club recognised the need for high-quality, high-end clubbing, offering a VIP experience and tailoring to a growing hip-hop and r&b market in Asia with a second room hosting the likes of Run DMC. Having also founded the prestigious Coco Banana club, Zhang installed a Turbosound system in Elements, proving that high-end experience isn’t just about the money.
Over the past 12 months, the club has shifted its focus, adding more styles like tropical house, bass music, trance and hardstyle alongside its residents Counter Flow, Neobie and Tyo. Elements is undergoing refurbishment at the moment and is scheduled to reopen with a new look in April, with the club claiming that it’s “turning into a more modern, sophisticated venue that will still be the heart of the action in Beijing”.
Location: Berlin, Germany
Celebrating 15 years in the game last year, and with well over a decade of impressive line-ups, Watergate remains one of the most popular destinations to party in Europe. In 2008 the owners launched Watergate Records, an outlet for residents and friends of the club that now receives worldwide acclaim. The label has just released its 46th release, and over the years has invited the likes of Kerri Chandler, Tiefschwarz, Ellen Allien, Pan-Pot, and Culoe De Song to contribute to its highly regarded compilation series.
Set across two floors, the club’s upper level comes equipped with a unique LED light system across the entire ceiling and the water floor is most famous for its beautiful views across the Spree; at its best when night turns to day in the early hours of the morning. Notable parties include Anja Schneider’s old Mobilee sessions, Cinthie Invites with guests including Glenn Underground, and regular in-house nights with residents like Marco Resmann, Matthias Meyer and La Fleur, who have all achieved global recognition over the years. Watergate has also taken to the road achieving global success, with label showcases at Snowbombing in Austria, to Off-Sonar in Barcelona. From its respect in Berlin and beyond, the legend of Watergate lives on.
Location: Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand.
A staggering 1.3 million-plus party people have raved on Illuzion’s dancefloors since 2016. You can add at least another mill to that if you go back to the Phuket club’s grand launch in 2014. Visitor stats aren’t the only thing impressive about the Thailand superclub; a converted four-storey shopping mall slap-bang in the capital’s centre, its sprawling space is a dizzying maze of bars, balconies, private rooms and dancefloors big enough to house six massive CO2 cannons and mammoth LED screens. Constantly growing up the building, they’ve added a new club called Empire on its upper floor and plan to convert the roof into a new party space in the near future.
Illuzion’s rise up the Top 100 matches its constant developments. A new entry in 2016, it continues to rise through the ranks as its reputation builds among travelling music fans and touring acts who range from the likes of Bassjackers, Oliver Heldens, Marshmello, Mike Williams, Tujamo and Nicky Romero to live performers such as Soulja Boy, Tyga and Sean Kingston. Fully adaptable and versatile, open 365 days a year, and consistently warmed up by local residents Kraiz & Nyed, Fingaz, Samatsky, R-Cue, BKK Invaders, Jenil, Juicytrax and Juan Cuba, Illuzion is fast becoming one of South East Asia’s most popular clubbing experiences.
Location: Hasselt, Belgium
Belgium has a strong dance music history. It birthed the proto-house new beat genre in the ’80s, laid the foundations for hardcore, and boasts some notable techno dens, among them Brussels’ Fuse.
As such, the enormous Versuz has a lot to live up to. The venue appears to be modelled on Ibiza’s biggest super clubs, and looking at its plethora of impressive features, it could soon join them in the big leagues. Equipped with a VOID soundsystem, its palatial, chandelier-laden main room regularly plays host to the flashiest names in big room house from Martin Solveig to Bob Sinclar. One of its bars offers speciality Belgian beer, and high flyers are well catered for thanks to the VIP room, whisky and cigar lounge, and outdoor swimming pool.
Versuz hosts more credible fare too: when Barcelona and Ibiza club brand Elrow dropped in for a big blowout in November last year, Alan Fitzpatrick, Patrick Topping and Bastian Bux played, sprinkling a little Balearic magic, while Pacha hosts regular events at the club.
On Saturday nights, Nightlife is the club’s flagship event, featuring its residents playing an accessible mixture of house music. It’s not all flashiness, either: on Thursdays, Versuz has an affordable student night, ensuring that all bases are covered.
Location: Paris, France
While the Parisian scene has blown up in the last five years or so, cementing the city as one of the world’s finest dance destinations, Rex Club has flown the flag for the French capital’s underground far longer, with the building hosting parties since the 1950s.
If walls could talk we can only imagine the stories, from Laurent Garnier’s Wake Up sessions back in the Rex's formative days, to latter day residencies from the likes of Jennifer Cardini, DJ Deep, Ivan Smagghe, Chloé, and Phil Weeks. The venue’s single dancefloor ensuring that if you were there for any of those events, you were really there, immersed in a room that ranks as one of the club scene’s best-loved, and best-equipped.
Now three decades old, don’t think for a second that Rex has become comfortable keeping things familiar, with line-ups still focussed on showcasing guests at the forefront of electronic music. Hence San Proper, Resom, and Auntie Flo playing January 2018, a month that also saw the likes of to Chez Damier, Tony Humphries, and Mike Huckaby stop by. A king amongst European night spots, this could all be summarised in three words: ‘Rex Club nous t’aimons’.
Location: Brooklyn, NY, USA
This peculiarly named club is the new kid on the Brooklyn block — sort of. Schimanski, named after a cop character from an ‘80s German crime TV show, today lives in the same space where former hotspot Verboten once called home. After that club was forced to shut down and seized by the New York state government for “nonpayment of taxes” in 2016, nightlife impresario and former owner of Pacha NYC Eddie Dean took over and rebranded the club as Schimanski later that year.
Officially debuting on Halloween two years ago, the newly minted Schimanski has since shed the negative juju of its former self and has quickly become a favorite stop in Williamsburg for fans and artists alike. While the two-room venue remains relatively small, its mighty Dynacord Alpha sound system, combined with the three video projection walls in the main room, together create a cozy yet immersive environment. It’s the perfect setting to get up close and personal with your favorite DJs and artists, which have included Chris Liebing, Jackmaster, Kerri Chandler, Loco Dice, Marcel Dettmann, CamelPhat, Chance The Rapper and more in recent years. Every weekend, the club hosts a mix of international and local artists/producers, while Thursday welcomes its popular hip-hop party, SHIFTED, making Schimanski a truly versatile location for the musically curious.
Location: Paris, France
With the bonus of picturesque views across the River Seine, Concrete is a three-floor boat with a 24-hour license seven days a week. The main room is kitted out with Funktion Ones, and the Woodfloor is an outside dancefloor ideal for those all night long DJ sets.
It’s most prolific rendezvous is their monthly Samedimanche party that runs for a supercharged 28 hours with 12 to 15 artists invited to play over the duration. In the last year the club introduced the chillout floor complete with sofas and space to take some time out; a perfect pit-stop for those who are in it for the long haul.
The club supports the finest local French talent and quality residents including Leo Pol, Cabanne, and François X. Leo’s last EP was released on wax via the venue’s very own Concrete Music, a label that mirrors it’s music policy. The space also hosts other label residencies including Minibar, Demented, Aeternum Music, and Latency. Over the last year the likes of Marcel Dettmann, DJ Harvey, Zip, Robert Hood, Andrew Weatherall, Helena Hauff and plenty more underground house and techno heroes have been invited to grace the ship. If you haven’t already, we recommend you jump on board.
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Since the turn of the millennium, the sprawling Razzmatazz has entrenched itself as one of the most forward-thinking venues in Barcelona, a city hardly impoverished when it comes to
forward-thinking venues. Across its five rooms, it caters for underground shenanigans of all stripes; the Fuego room has played host to indie rap sensations like Princess Nokia and J Hus this year, while the likes of DJ Stingray and Studio Barnhus co-founder Kornél Kovács have torn it up in the LoLiTa. The Loft has boasted Denis Sulta and Rødhåd, while big hitters like the Chemical Brothers and 2manydjs have held court in the main club space. The Intimate Journeys parties have become a staple too, bringing in the likes of Floating Points, Jeremy Underground, Dixon, Gerd Janson, The Black Madonna and Hunee.
“I think we find a good balance between all sides of our program, using the big rooms for consolidated names and small rooms for new talents and more underground stuff, including Barcelona’s local scene, which we think it’s important as well,” says Estela Velasco, the club's press officer. Whatever they're doing, it sounds like it's working.
Location: Indaial, Brazil
We’d need another few pages to really describe the wide-eyed joy that is Matahari, but we’ll do our best to condense the feel and party vibe into this tiny block. A sprawling jungle paradise located on a former farm on a stunning hilltop next to a lake, Matahari is a 5,000 capacity space that — somehow — further elevates Brazil’s standing in the international club scene. With a hands-up party feel, indebted to some incredible production, including CO2 cannons, a giant LED ceiling and a serious confetti addiction, the club has continued its impressive bookings with Sharam Jey, LouLou Players and Amine Edge & DANCE indicative of where the booker’s heads are at. If you’re going, make sure to hit the sunset sessions that rival any venue in the world as the sun descends behind the jungle canopy.
Excitingly, the club is being renovated as we speak, adding in an updated backstage area, new cabins and bringing the DJ booth on both dancefloors closer to the action. With more themed parties, and more support for Brazilian stars like Alok and Vintage Culture, 2018 looks set to be even bigger.