Big room or small? Bottle service or tinnie of beer? Low ceilings or podium dancers? From tiny subterranean caverns to big-budget Ibiza destinations, there’s no universal standard for the “perfect club”.
But no one knows more about the ingredients that go into a great night out than the selectors themselves, who spend an unhealthy chunk of each year’s 365 days on the road, commanding crowds in venues of all shades. So to find out what clubs DJs rate above all others, we quizzed eight of the world’s best and biggest on their favourites – asking them to take anywhere they’re currently a resident as a given. Here’s what they picked.
“I have so many favourites. Every gig is special! But The Block in Tel Aviv definitely stands out. It’s got an amazing sound system, and the mixer was custom built by the club owner and it’s a dream to play on. And the vibe there is really good. I could play there for hours.
Gare Club in Portugal is great too. It’s got this really intense energy. It’s like this big ball of energy packed into a tunnel where you just lose your shit with everyone. Arma17 in Russia was really cool, but unfortunately the club itself doesn’t exist anymore. But thankfully it’s legacy lives on: it’s now an events company that runs raves in warehouse and old factories which are fantastic.
I really love Dommune in Tokyo too. It’s like a live broadcast over the internet, but the room technically is a small club that fits about 60 or 70 people and it’s such a cool energy in there. It feels like a family. And Gashouder in Amsterdam is awesome too because it’s just such an incredible location.”
“If you really put a gun to my head and told me I have to pick one, I would say Ushuaïa. But that doesn’t really do it justice, because the event I did [in 2015] at Luna Park in Sydney was a one-off and it was really amazing.
There was a vibe going on. People make the party – not the promoter, not the DJ. At the end of the day it’s the people. You can have the best club in the world with the best sound system, the most expensive high-resolution LED wall, really expensive fireworks and lasers and whatnot – but if the crowd’s not there, and they’re not feeling the music, then there’s no party.
So, technically I really love Ushuaïa in Ibiza. I also think Echostage in Washington DC is also a really, really great venue, but that’s just because of the set-up. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the people that are inside.”
“Fabric is still one of the best venues London has to offer. There’s another club in Singapore in Zouk which has been an institution for the Asian market.
There’s a club in New York called Output in Williamsburg and it’s just phenomenal – great sound system, you’re not allowed to make phone calls, take pictures, or film videos. It’s all about the music when you go in there. And it makes a nice change, to go to a club where people aren’t on their phones and are just dancing. That’s what makes it so unique. And so I end up playing from the beginning of the night until the end, I start at 9pm and end at 4am. There’s no two hour sets from me in there. I get to take people on a real journey, and I love that. So they’re some of the best clubs I like to play in.
I think biggest isn’t always the best. I think if you have a good 300 or 400 person club, the people are there because they want to be, because of the music. And that’s what makes you want to go out. You don’t want to be in a massive cavernous room where you don’t know anybody, you want to get to know people so it can be a social experience. So I really like the idea of a smaller club rather than a bigger club.”
“I have many, many favourites and there’s a lot I keep returning to. There’s one called Tenax in Florence. I don’t know why, I just had a really good first gig there 12 years ago. Ever since then I’ve gone back every year, it’s a real event.
Space in Ibiza I’ve been playing for 20 years. It’s very close to my heart. At this point in my career I remember clubs with a good vibe to them, and I’ll make room in my schedule to go back to and play there again. Some are quite small clubs – they’ve just got that certain thing.”
“Can I give you two? Number one right now is The Tabernacle in Atlanta.
We went there on the HDYNTN tour and had the best show of the entire tour, and that’s tough because our hometown is Chicago and that show was incredible. But at The Tabernacle there’s basically a 180-degree balcony that goes up really high, and then a massive floor below. So if the club’s sold out, everywhere you look there’s people – up, down, left, right and centre – so you’re really surrounded by the crowd.
On the opposite end of that spectrum, I’ll say Chinese Laundry in Sydney. We played there in 2013 with Lunice and it was one of the most insane shows we’ve ever played. Not because it was so big, but because it was so tiny. It gets so foggy in there, so it’s kind of a dope club because you really can’t take pictures in there; you can’t get on your phone and text.
You know that mode that people are still in at shows where they’re just looking at a screen? I feel that it gets people out of that zone and gets them to really live in the moment.”
“There’s a really awesome one in Lisbon called Lux. It’s the perfect combination of everything: the sound is amazing, the club looks cool, the lights are good, the size is just right, it’s like 700 to 800 people. It has the perfect vibe, you can play whatever you want and it’s always a good party. It’s got this wooden floor and anywhere you stand the sound is amazing, and it’s right by the sea so it’s super nice.”
“My heart’s always at Fabric, just because of the education I got playing there. At Fabric they’ve got three rooms— Room One, Room Two and Room Three — and they’re all so different. Room One is like the main room. The second one is almost like a live venue. And Room Three is a very intimate club venue. So if you DJ’d all those rooms, it sets you up to DJ anywhere around the world.
But when I think of other clubs I’ve done over the years there;’s The Arches in Glagow, which unfortunately was shut down recently. Output in New York is an incredible club — it reminds me of Fabric. Then there’s obviously Panorama Bar, which for house music is an incredible place.
“Out of them all I’d say Pacha, it’s always had an almost mystical beaming to it. I think it was one of the first clubs I heard about outside of Sweden and one of the first clubs I really played too, when I got to New York. The Pacha memories I have – especially in New York, from almost before I started touring – are so nostalgic for me.
And even if I didn’t have a residency there, I probably would’ve said Ushuaïa too. I think when Ushuaïa came it kind of knocked everything out of the ballpark and set a standard for everything around the world. Ever since they started, they’ve done something no one else did and people tried to copy them after that. Even before I went there, I remember seeing photos of Ushuaïa and thinking it just looked insane. It’s one of the best outdoor parties in the world.”
Katie Cunningham is one of the Editors of inthemix. She is on Twitter.