Location: Xiamen, China
Inspired by the movie Interstellar, Stellar Night Club is a truly cosmic experience, complete with an epic battleship situated 15 metres above the dancefloor. Multi-directional screens, impressive LED light displays and a Funktion-One Vero soundsystem create a full-on sensory adventure, soundtracked by residents such as DJ Moby, DJ April, and DJ Tony. The out-of-this-world clubbing experience is accentuated on nights such as Halloween, when the club is transformed into an “alien workshop”, divided into a human laboratory, body storage room and human body transformation factory — all assisted by faced-paced, high-energy electronic music.
During the pandemic, while booking overseas artists wasn’t an option, Stellar presented a live stream with Timmy Trumpet and DJ Soda for clubbers to enjoy and focused on booking local Chinese talent across plenty of genres, such as the experimental electronic artist Chace, acoustic act M3ssiah, and the all-female collective Ketchup. This year, the lighting system has been renovated, and there are plans to divide the club in two, in order to programme more music and provide more unforgettable experiences for the masses.
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
The 1,500-capacity superclub, Insanity, is found among the bright lights of Bangkok's nightlife strip. Guests glide through the grand entrance, before heading into the huge 14-metre-high, hanger-style main room, awash with Technicolor lights. A larger than life halo lighting rig acts as Insanity’s breathtaking centrepiece, as costumed performers add a flavour of Vegas or Ibiza to each evening.
An L-Acoustics soundsystem effortlessly fills the room with the heavy bass and punchy electronic sounds that attract over 1,000 ravers to the club every day of the week. Although currently closed due to Covid-19, Insanity has been upgrading its lighting and sound to even higher levels for when those grand doors reopen.
Launched in 2015, the last six years have seen the club welcome a selection of international artists, including NERVO, Ferry Corsten, Rave Republic and Marina Bo. Local DJs play out the mixture of electro, EDM and open-format sounds that keep guests flocking to its dancefloor, while recent Sugar Fest showcases have added hip-hop to the line-up. Seasonal events such as New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year are huge spectacles at the club, while weeknights are made just as big, hosted by Damien N-Drix, DJ Litchi and Martin Hygard.
Location: Guangzhou, China
Catwalk is one of the most prominent dancing destinations in the nightlife powerhouse of Guangzhou. Like so many clubs in China, while it's been operating for the majority of this past year, it’s been very different to how it was pre-pandemic. With no guarantees that international bookings will be allowed through border control, the country’s scene has seen a major shift in line-ups, with the vast majority of performing artists now based in domestic locations.
In addition to guests, prized residents Cookie, Angel Lee, Xixi, Fly, Miko, Benson, Lee, Bomberman, Keen Jork, Hyman, and Cross are all familiar faces to regulars in the Catwalk crowd, who are also accustomed to state-of-the-art production. EAW Avalon sound from the US, a 360-degree LED display screen and immersive effects by one of Asia’s most-renowned visual companies, PR Lighting, all combine to deliver an unforgettable experience once on the floor.
Meanwhile, extensive dining and bar areas prove punters never need to leave once inside. It’s a winning formula, which is why August 2021 saw the opening of a brand new sister venue, Catwalk +, offering a more diverse music policy, and firmly positioning the team as a "spiritual leader of night entertainment”.
Location: London, England
Situated by East London’s historic Tobacco Dock, bordering the sleepy neighbourhood of Wapping, E1 radiates calmness from the outside. Inside, of course, is a different matter. The venue underwent major changes to the soundsystem and interior architecture in 2017, allowing it to be spread across two main rooms: the Warehouse and Black Studio.
Before it was E1, in 2012 Studio Spaces was launched. After a few years of garnering a name for itself, “the venue moved away from pop-up events and invested in a world-class soundsystem, installed by long-term partners Sound Services, featuring a bespoke Funktion-One system and each interior space optimised for a precise, powerful, full-frequency-range acoustic experience,” says Fraser Bush of E1. Since then, E1 has gone on to feature the likes of Juan Atkins, My Nu Leng, Heartless Crew, Ellen Allien, Adriatique and Solardo.
During the pandemic, E1 opened a Covid compliant outdoor bar and food court - Site 5- while successfully applying for an Arts Council Covid Recovery grant. "Post-pandemic, E1 envisions a return driven by the same vital force that sustained it through those periods of difficulty in the previous decade," Bush says.
Location: Berlin, Germany
2021 marked Tresor’s 30th birthday and taking into account the club’s continued temporary closure due to the pandemic, it was a bittersweet moment that still went off with a bang — just without the usual celebratory series of parties to coincide. Instead, Tresor has streamed Nene H, DJ Stingray, Objekt and more from the Basement, in addition to reissuing one-off releases from its record label. Set for general release in October, a special boxset of sounds by Surgeon, LSDXOXO, Jeff Mills and more aligned with the club and label will also signify the occasion, as well as a book of unpublished photos and flyers that detail Tresor’s storied history — keeping the spirit of the club alive during Covid-19.
Dimitri Hegemann initially opened Tresor in the vault of a defunct department store in Leipziger Platz, before migrating to a former power plant in Mitte in 2005. Hegemann christened the colossal, industrial space Kraftwerk, where Tresor remains today in the building’s stripped-back basement.
Comprising three rooms connected by various tunnels and stairs, Tresor’s Basement, Globus and +4Bar have played pivotal roles in shaping Berlin’s club culture. While Tresor itself remains silent, upstairs in the Kraftwerk building, Berlin Atonal’s audiovisual exhibition will take place from 25th September to 30th October.
Location: Changzhou, China
First has crept up the Top 100 Clubs poll after placing a healthy 80th in 2020. The club launched in August 2018 and, as the biggest venue in Changzhou, began to attract EDM heavyweights like Steve Aoki, Martin Garrix, Mike Hawkins, and Firebeatz. Resident DJs CY, Tseng, MOMO, and Nina have also kept the First dancefloor busy with natively inspired electronic bangers.
Owing to pandemic-related travel restrictions, First has had to rely on local talent to bolster its line-up of late. This has, in turn, switched up the styles and themes on show for Changzhou party-goers, which may explain this year’s ascent. The sprawling complex covers 2,000 square metres and boasts a capacity of 2,000. Add to this its towering main room, bespoke Clair Brothers soundsystem and hi-tech light display, and you can see why the relative newcomer has landed further up this year’s poll.
Though currently closed, First will continue to offer high-end performances for both local and international revellers in the coming years, bringing ever-evolving sounds to one of China’s most populous cities. Roll on 2022.
Location: London, UK
Studio 338 opened up in 2014 with a goal of bringing an Ibiza-style clubbing experience to the UK capital. It didn’t succeed, it exceeded — securing a loyal base of fans who religiously ventured to the colossal Greenwich Peninsula venue in the southeast of the city. Home to a mammoth terraced dancefloor centred around a huge glass atrium, it inevitably built up a roster of well-known dance nights: including Cocoon, Hospital Records, Sankeys and Space Ibiza. While punters danced under the stars as dusk fell and bass filled up the darkness, Studio 338 was carving itself a reputation as London’s mega-club.
But when the pandemic brought the dancefloor to a dramatic drop that not even the most meticulous DJ could have planned, the club somehow remained positive. In March 2020, the dancefloor was transformed into a food bank and a series of successful social-distanced events were staged when restrictions allowed for them. 338 also used the time to renovate the garden area, fatten up its flagship VOID soundsystem, and diversify its music programming. As the venue finally emerges from lockdown — with a nearly sold-out 10-week reopening programme — the excitement and possibility afforded by the space are enough to inspire even the most disillusioned clubber.
Location: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Avalon is a fixture of Hollywood. The historic building has stood firm through many iterations, the pandemic is just another blip on its radar. The home of progressive house and trance on the West Coast, Avalon hosted many livestreams with international trance superstars during lockdown. The venue’s staff stayed busy during this time, redesigning the stage and DJ layout and adding hanging trusses above the dancefloor.
This facelift was a fun surprise for the venue’s patrons when they were able to return to the ornate venue this summer. Avalon hit the ground running with Wolfgang Gartner, Hook n Sling, and Borgeous, and has Morgan Page, Julian Jordan, and Thomas Gold coming up, among others. Saturday nights host Avalon’s two-decade-strong house, progressive house and trance night, with Kristina Sky and Randy Seidman in the warm-up slot quite often. The latest musical style featured on Fridays is reggaetón, in the form of the Gasolina party. The venue is getting ready to launch a techno night on Thursdays.
No matter what the genre, Avalon’s state-of-the-art sound, lighting and visuals, combined with its ideally sized dancefloor and overlooking balcony form just the right setup.
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Part of the Crobar family of clubs in Chicago, NYC and Miami, the Buenos Aires-based leg of the brand is one of Argentina’s most recognisable superclubs for exceptional production and stellar talent bookings.
Crobar bears a futuristic theme, with a high ceiling paved with LED panels and luminous lasers lining the walls of the mammoth space. Considered an institution in Argentina, the club has previously seen the likes of Sven Väth, Amelie Lens, and Booka Shade soundtrack the venue, and in late 2019, hosted a Boiler Room with electronic duo HVOB, live artist Juan Hansen, and DJ Victoria Engel.
Throughout the various lockdowns that have taken place in Buenos Aires since March 2020, the club's spirit migrated to streaming, where 'Crobar Project Online' took off on Crobar’s YouTube channel, powered by sets from local talents Ariel Rodz, Eme Kulhnek, LeFrak, and more. Though Crobar remains temporarily shut for the time being, undoubtedly the club’s regular attendees are craving a return to Crobar’s LGBTQIA+ nights promoted by Rheo, and trance night Pixel, amongst a regular dose of house and techno.
While the club awaits further details on reopening, rest assured that the resurgence of Crobar will be one big fiesta.
Location: San Antonio, Ibiza, Spain
In 2019, Eden was a cornerstone of the Ibiza season, with Defected, Paul van Dyk’s Shine, Wndrlnd and Terminal 4 presents Tronic among its highlights. With its current owners at the reins since 2013, they’ve been steadily building the world-renowned brand that started in 1999, after Eden was born from the venue’s previous incarnation as Kaos Klub.
The Covid pandemic, however, has forced the club’s closure on the island for the whole of 2020 and 2021. This time has been used to upgrade the venue, adding a new DJ box, bars and lights to a spec that already includes a VOID Incubus soundsystem — one of the largest in the world — in the main room, and Pioneer’s flagship, wall-shaking GS Wave system in room two.
With home still closed for now, Eden has taken to the road, with a series of shows at EGG London, featuring DJs including Spencer Parker, San Proper and Saffron Stone. Remaining positive about clubbers being able to visit again in the near future, for now the rest of 2021 sees Eden continuing to take its sound to the world instead, with dates including Projekt in Leeds, The Green Room in Maidstone and a variety of international locations.