It's been five years since Zouk Singapore moved to its current venue among the converted warehouses of Clarke Quay, an entertainment district by the river in the city’s centre. Boasting three club spaces — Zouk, the main room, Capital and Phuture — plus social gaming bar Red Tail, the venue’s futuristic stylings spare no expense: the club’s customised Gary Stewart Audio system is joined by a giant, immersive lighting rig that’s affectionately nicknamed ‘The Mothership’.
Forced to curtail its nightlife activities during the pandemic, the club impressively repurposed its 31,000 square feet into a restaurant, spin cycle gym and pop-up cinema, retraining its staff. The former also continued to entertain local music lovers, with diners attending nights featuring curated playlists, including Flashback, an evening harking back to the ‘90s and 2000s, and the trance-celebrating Transfix.
In June last year, Zouk even managed to throw a three-day Zoom festival called Phuturescapes. Supported by the Singapore Tourism Board. It featured national live acts, such as Jasmine Sokko and Yung Raja, and international headliners, including Diplo, San Holo and Christina Novelli, alongside the club own residents, Nash D, Jeremy Boon, Hong, Ghettoo, LeNERD and Che’Molly.
With nightlife still closed in Singapore till further notice, Zouk's diversification continues to guide the club and city through uncertain times.
Location: Los Angeles, USA
Exchange LA’s stunning historic decor showed itself off even more than usual during the pandemic. The venue was closed to the public, but it hosted numerous livestreams with marquee names on YouTube and Twitch for Insomniac TV. Always camera-ready, Exchange’s combination of classic architecture and modern elements lent themselves nicely to the streaming platforms, providing a gorgeous backdrop for the remote experience.
With mask policies, sanitation stations and deep-cleaning procedures in place, Exchange reopened in summer 2021 with a bang and a load of top DJs. Among these, Alesso, Deadmau5, Diplo, Kaskade, Tchami, and Claptone. The club doesn’t have residents, but it does have regular favourites, such as Green Velvet, 12th Planet, Dillon Francis, KSHMR, Chromeo, Oliver Heldens, and Andy C — whose pre-Thanksgiving pilgrimages are a particular highlight.
Hopefully, Exchange can remain open, as it would be a shame for the 25,000-square-foot, four-storey venue to be forced to shut its doors to the public again. As fabulous as the space is remotely, the impact of Exchange is unmatched in person. The LA Stock Exchange, from which the club gets its name and its location is retained in the bones of the building, the design of which draws from Near East and Native American styles. It houses a Funktion-One audio system with EVO6 speakers and a line array. Additionally, there are 70 moving lights, over 300 LED lighting fixtures, four RGB 6W lasers, a floor-to-ceiling LED video wall, and projection mapping.
Near-future plans for the Exchange brand include expansion to new locations.
Location: Manchester, UK
Launched in 2006, Manchester’s The Warehouse Project is a rite of passage for many. Led by local nightlife entrepreneurs Sacha Lord and Sam Kandel — who also run Parklife festival — its unique approach presents line-ups that reach all corners of electronic music, rotating within a limited three-month window. Events have been curated by Caribou, Annie Mac and Jamie XX over the years, while collaborations with brands such as Rush Hour, elrow and Defected are a core part of the brand’s appeal.
The venue has switched between several vast, industrial spaces. After leaving the iconic Store Street, the 10,000-capacity Depot Mayfield became The Warehouse Project’s new home in 2019. Hi-tech specs transformed the disused railway station into a clubber’s delight; the main room, Depot, boasts huge LED screens and seven-strong stacks of d&b audiotechnik J8/J12 speakers, while Concourse encourages 360-degree dancing. Though only running for six months before Covid-19 forced clubs to close, huge festivals such as Homobloc, and all-night-long sets from pioneering duo Underworld, cemented its reputation as one of Manchester’s must-visit spots.
Adapting to Covid-19 led to the launch of Freight Island, a hub of food, drinks and entertainment across 7,500 square feet of outdoor space. In 2021, more promoters will use other previously untouched parts of the venue. Sticking to its seasonal schedule, The Warehouse Project will reopen in September this year, featuring collaborations with Chic, Repercussion and Bicep, and a roster of residents that have risen throughout the past 12 months: Anz, Effy, Bklava, India Jordan and Jaguar.
Location: Zrće Beach, Croatia
Papaya on the gorgeous Island of Pag is one of the world's best beach clubs. It is almost completely open-air, with a shell-like main stage and famously oversized production, all just a few steps from the sea. Since opening as a sister venue to Papaya Zagreb in 2002, it has helped put Croatia on the clubbing map by hosting famous pool parties for six hours every day, and some of the most notable European festivals each summer. These include the likes of Hideout, Sonus and Fresh Island, but the club also boasts its own rich programme of events and a killer resident team who play across the electronic spectrum, including Kosta Radman, Trevon, and Tony D.
The club's sprawling wooden decking and dancefloors, towering palm trees and uninterrupted views of the Adriatic remained accessible to clubbers throughout the pandemic. The only concessions were a reduced capacity and socially distanced events with a more local focus.
After opening as a bar in June, July saw the club get a green light for full events and it hasn't hung around: so far Papaya has hosted shows with the likes of Mike Williams, Brooks, Tony Junior, James Hype, Ellen Allien, and Sick Individuals. Returning festivals like Lunar, Barrakud and Bavaria Goes ZRCE are all yet to come. If you can make it out to Croatia, there are few finer experiences than dancing under a hot sun at Papaya.
Location: Berlin, Germany
The allure of Berghain starts outside. A former power plant, the blocky structure straddling Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain stands tall in the sparse landscape surrounding it. Lined with rectangular windows, you can hear the distant boom emitting from the club’s acclaimed Funktion-One soundsystem, adding to the sense of mystery seeping from Berghain, Panorama Bar and multiple dark rooms inside. Deemed a cultural institution by German law in 2016, Berghain remains a rite of passage for ravers and artists alike.
The club was founded in 2004 by two seasoned promoters: Norbert Thormann and Michael Teufele. The pair had promoted their Snax parties — a male-only fetish event — since in the early ’90s, before opening their first club, Ostgut, in a derelict repair depot in Friedrichshain. The glassy Mercedes-Benz Arena now looms in its place, but Thormann and Teufele took Ostgut to its current address of 70 Am Wriezener Bahnhof. A strict door policy, a palpable sense of hedonism, and in-house record label — Ostgut Ton — has endured ever since.
With 24 world-renowned artists making up the club’s resident DJ roster, including Ben Klock, Etapp Kyle and Tama Sumo, the club adapted as Covid-19 snaked its way around the globe. Doubling as an exhibition space, the non-profit Boros Foundation recently hosted the ‘STUDIO BERLIN’ showcase to shine a light on contemporary Berlin-based artists, taking place in pockets of the venue that are still unknown to the public. Outside, Berghain’s Klub Garten has seen FJAAK, Gabber Eleganza, and Miss Kittin soundtrack the sun-drenched spot over the summer. Pandemic or not, the legacy of Berghain prevails.
Location: London, UK
Launched in 2017, the former newspaper-printing factory Printworks has fast become one of the UK’s best-loved large-capacity music venues. The expansive southeast London warehouse space is best known for its main room, Press Halls, where remnants of the original printing equipment are still visible, and exposed rafters and balconies look down onto a lengthy dancefloor. There’s a labyrinth of space to explore too, with an array of food stalls and bars across the venue. The Press Halls’ stage area and DJ booth are backed by a high-reaching LED screen that can be used for bespoke lighting and visuals. Even more developments with the lighting and production have been made since last year to enhance the Printworks experience even further now events can return. This season Printworks will also reveal a brand new space within the venue, which will allow an expansion in musical programming.
Since its inception, Printworks has hosted a diverse range of concepts, artist takeovers, live performances and club nights, from Aphex Twin live, to regular Defected and Glitterbox soirées, Tale Of Us presents Afterlife, longstanding London party The Hydra, and the in-house Printworks Presents. Promotions change every season, and now that things can move forward again from September, Printworks has been working on its biggest line-ups to date: alongside regular partners the venue will reveal some new collaborations, presenting big headliners and plenty of emerging talent.
Location: Cologne, Germany
Bootshaus — German for Boathouse — was once exactly that, a storage facility for boats on the eastern bank of the Rhine in Cologne. The space was reinvented over 17 years ago, however, as a venue for electronic music, and has since become a true destination club for those seeking big beats and a boisterous atmosphere.
“The club became famous mainly because of the top-class line-ups and the wild crowd, which is strongly reminiscent of rock concerts,” explains Bootshaus’ CCO, Niclas Aigner. “Almost every major artist has played here, but also many upcoming artists have played here in their early years.”
Where he avoids name-dropping, we’re more than willing; in 2019 alone, Bootshaus hosted the likes of Don Diablo, Yellow Claw, Alan Fitzpatrick, Miss K8 and Illenium, to name just a handful. Week to week, the club usually hosts everything from EDM to techno, psytrance, hardstyle and more via their main events Blacklist, Nibirii, Loonyland and Musical Madness, and one-off parties too. Support comes from an extensive list of resident DJs — Autodrive, Björn Grimm, Björn Torwellen, Brandon, Dave Replay, Elle Rich, Emin, Kevin Arnold, Marco Franica, Oliver Magenta, and Shippo — who help prep the crowds across the venue.
The Bootshaus complex consists of three rooms and an open-air area. Mainfloor is “the heart of the club,” says Aigner, and home to its headline performers. Here, Funktion-One sound thunders out across a pit-like dancefloor that churns with eager ravers, while flamethrowers and CO2 cannons blast overhead. The second room, known as BLCKBX, has become famous for its backlit ceiling fans and thumping Martin Audio sound, which regularly pumps out the best in bass music. And last but by no means least comes DREHEREI, a deliciously grimy techno sweatbox set in an old workshop, complete with industrial features.
Of course, March 2020 brought a catastrophic halt to proceedings at Bootshaus — at least IRL, that is. “The closure presented the club with a difficult financial situation, also partner companies, staff and local DJs were directly affected by the closure,” explains Aigner. “However, we have recreated the Bootshaus in virtual reality and have already held some concerts here. Artists like NGHTMRE and Andhim, and events like elrow and Exit Festival (pre-party) took place in virtual form.” These VR shows have already clocked up over a million unique viewers, with concurrent viewers so far peaking at 32,000, allowing more electronic music lovers to enjoy the Bootshaus experience simultaneously than ever before.
Looking ahead to a proper reopening, Aigner hopes that winter 2021 will finally bring that sweet release, and says Bootshaus is ready to comply with any testing procedures deemed necessary. “There will be some changes, a new floor and many visual adjustments,” he adds, revealing a chillout room is being built. “We have not slept!”
We don't imagine there'll be much sleeping going on when the Bootshaus doors finally open again either.
Location: Ibiza, Spain
Capacity: 1,500 for Palmarama concept
Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel was a concept imagined by founder Yann Pissenem, who stumbled upon "a wild and almost undiscovered empty beach in the middle of nowhere" in Playa d’en Bossa when he first moved to Ibiza in 2008. Starting out life as a beach bar, the venue was an exciting new addition to the island's legendary nightlife scene, naturally becoming a destination to party in the daytime and dance under the sun. Nowadays, the lights of Ushuaïa shine bright across the White Isle, as one of its most popular and globally recognised destinations.
Since 2011, it’s become famous for offering a high-end clubbing experience; the venue boasts an Adamson soundsystem with speaker cabinets stacked high alongside each side of the stage, meaning far-reaching, crystal-clear sound that travels to every corner of the venue and then some.
The hotel boasts an impressive 415 rooms, and the venue is set across two buildings: The Ushuaïa Club and The Ushuaïa Tower. Over the years, the venue has been applauded for its finer details, providing one-off concepts, unique decor, and, of course, the open-air parties that run day and night within a stone’s throw of the Mediterranean sea. The hotel balconies overlook the action, and the bar and rooftop of the Tower provide stunning views across the ocean.
Alongside the club and hotel, there’s also an array of restaurants on offer, whether you’re in the mood for steak, Italian food, Japanese sushi, or oysters and caviar. The whole experience is designed for both ravers — old and young — and the more refined club-goer.
The club had been closed since October 2020 due to the pandemic but returned in July this year to reveal a brand new sit-down concept called Palmarama, turning the space into a luscious tropical oasis decked out with palm trees, plants and fancy new furnishings. In line with the island’s Covid guidelines, the capacity is 1,500 (down from 7,500), offering table service and a special Japanese-fusion menu alongside the opportunity to experience world-famous DJs.
In previous years, Ushuaïa has presented club nights such as ANTS, BIG by David Guetta, Cocoon, Tomorrowland, elrow and performances by Kraftwerk, Calvin Harris, Swedish House Mafia, Martin Garrix, Carl Cox and many more. This year, Palmarama kicked off the season with Black Coffee on 31st July and Damian Lazarus on 1st August, and future headliners include Tales Of Us, David Guetta and The Martinez Brothers, to name just a few. Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel consistently rides high in the DJ Mag Top 100 Clubs poll and its prestige continues to grow worldwide, far beyond the Balearics.
Location: Ibiza, Spain
Finishing its last season on a massive Hï, pun intended, expectations were huge for this latter-day White Island mainstay as 2020 arrived, thanks to a host of big-sell 2019 residencies. These included Black Coffee, Tale of Us’ Afterlife, David Guetta’s F*** Me I’m Famous, and the iconic Glitterbox, which released its own movie, ‘Where Love Lives’, earlier this year.
Needless to say, though, the past 17 months have been unnervingly quiet at the Playa D’en Bossa hotspot; its doors closed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with authorities keeping indoor clubs shuttered for the duration. At the time of writing, there is still no fixed date for the resumption of normal service, although there has been some action coming from the address. For example, a collaborative livestream with Defected Records featuring Melon Bomb, raising money for Ibiza Food Bank. Even without parties, though, Hï’s position in the 2021 DJ Mag Top 100 Clubs poll is understandable, considering our most recent memories of this spectacular address.
Room One’s Italian amphitheatre-inspired setup is arguably the biggest selling point, a cavernous space boasting the island’s most technologically advanced production gear, with razor-sharp audio via a custom-built Adamson Soundsystem and a visual rig that’s so powerful it can effectively change the entire look and feel of the place from one night to the next. Those moving kinetic lights and LED screens behind the booth and across the walls are truly transportive.
Lower-ceiled and generally more underground in vibe, Room Two contrasts the bigger one with sparse but vivid hues set in and among darkness, an eye-level DJ booth creating a deceptively intimate situation.
Last but not least, the so-called Wild Corner is an unofficial third club hidden in the unisex bathroom. Decks in the round, sleek speaker stack maximise space, while a revolving door of notable faces have played often-unannounced sets: Fatboy Slim, MK, Idris Elba and DJ Pippi, to namecheck a mere handful.
Topping it all off — or, more accurately, surrounding the building — punters roam freely over two outdoor zones: The Secret Garden and The Magic Garden. Ideal for cooling off after marathon spells deep in the action, the lush surrounds pack unique installations, trees and more, ensuring that while Hï Ibiza is very much a 21st-century benchmark venue, it retains the all-important and thoroughly timeless al fresco clubbing elements that have drawn revellers to the wildest and most free-spirited Balearic island for decades.
Of course, words can only do so much justice to a place like this, and while the future remains unclear, one thing is obvious: along with sister address Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel, you can expect a serious turnout at Hï once the music is finally allowed to play again.
Location: Camboriú, Brazil
Just as the pandemic spread internationally in early 2020, Green Valley carried off its fifth Top 100 Clubs No. 1 award — the venue’s third in a row. “It felt like a breath of strength amidst the uncertainty of the moment,” says Antonio Afonso, International Managing Director of Green Valley. “We were happy, even without being able to celebrate this achievement with our audience, the true ones responsible for getting us there and being in that position.”
After shutting due to Covid and trying to look after its workforce, disaster struck at the end of June. A cyclone ripped through southern Brazil and the state of Santa Catarina, leaving nine people dead — and decimating the sprawling Green Valley complex. The main stage was destroyed, the huge tented area rendered useless, while the roof blew off the UNDERline_ second stage and landed in a lake 100 metres away. “All ravaged, broken and on the ground,” says Antonio. “Years of struggle, construction and beautiful stories. Years of good feelings dedicated and exchanged between people and artists. Everything, destroyed in a matter of minutes.”
After a few days of despondency, particularly on the part of owner Eduardo Philipps — who has devoted a significant part of his life to the club — GV was cheered by the support it received from DJs, friends, regulars and partners. Out of this came the Together We Rise project — “a movement of love and solidarity that made us see a light at the end of the tunnel” — whereby clubbers purchased tickets upfront for the reopening on an unspecified date, with DJs offering to donate their sets for free. This sold-out event allowed the rebuilding work to begin almost immediately. “All this love we received turned into determination, gratitude and the desire to bring a new Green Valley — bigger, better, more comfortable than the previous one,” Antonio tells DJ Mag.
The outdoor club has put in a new main stage — “virtually indestructible”, according to Antonio. New bars, new toilets, new areas have been built — basically, the levelling of the club has been used as an opportunity to build back afresh. “We’ve created a new ‘greenish’ electronic atmosphere in the middle of our natural green valley, combining new technologies of sound, light and visual systems,” outlines Antonio. The new design is under wraps at the moment, but DJ Mag has seen a sneak preview of the plans — and they do, indeed, look amazing.
Green Valley is also constructing a memorial wall, featuring the name of every person who has helped with the rebuild. “This monument is being made by a Brazilian plastic artist, with materials collected from the destruction of the club after the cyclone,” says Antonio. Other bits of the destroyed club are being upcycled into exclusive fashion items too.
Due to Brazil being one of the regions worst affected by Covid, GV doesn't know yet when it'll be able to open its doors again - but the team hope it'll be by the end of 2021. Despite being closed all this time, its fans have still voted in droves for GV as their favourite club. It may have been knocked off the top spot this year, but No. 2 in the world is still a highly respectable position to be in when it does return.