Originally published in Mixmag
Brazil mixes ostentation and poverty like nowhere else, throwing dollops of sex, sun and sleaze into a bubbling cauldron of music and culture. For lazy, sun-drenched days and spontaneous partying head to Rio, where the whole city turns with the indolent revolutions of the sun. Beach parties replace after parties, and the best way to get hooked up is to strike up a conversation. Clubbers and promoters rely on networks of friends and instant messaging to spread the word about events, or fuel spontaneous after-parties. For something a little more familiar head to Sao Paulo, home to a thriving scene running the gamut from drum and bass and hip hop to ice cool minimal. With a population of over 10 million it’s like London on steroids, and has the clubs and thriving music scene to match. It’s full on, full time, but if it all gets too much there’s always Warung.
Warung Beach Club: Is Warung the ultimate beach club? Probably. It’s worth the trip to see Itajai beach anyway. Throw in acres of beautiful tanned flesh and A-list DJs and it’s downright unmissable.
D-Edge: The neon-laced D-Edge is Sao Paulo’s coolest underground venue and a magnet for world-class DJs. “It has a huge soundsystem, it’s beautiful and attracts really cool people,” explains Gui Boratto.
Love Club, Rio: Because you can’t be at the beach all the time… Love Club is Rio’s answer to D-Edge. It’s intimate but equipped with cutting edge music, pumping sound and gorgeous people.
According to locals national character is a matter of coastlines. Brazil and Argentina, sitting on the Atlantic coast, are brasher, livelier, more cosmopolitan. The Pacific countries like Chile are more conservative, less Euro-influenced. Which meant dance music took longer to find its way into Chile, but when it did it was bleeding edge European electronica and Detroit techno (Juan Atkins and Derrick May played the country’s first ever rave). “There were a lot of Chileans living outside the country in the 90s and when they came back they brought electronic music, with them,” Luciano says. You can still see the effects in the clubbing culture where huge events like Creamfields are balanced out by house parties or intimate after-hours bashes. Santiago, the capital, is the heart of the year-round club scene. In the summer hire a car and head 120km to the seaside clubs of Valparaíso.
La Feria, Santiago: With huge aquariums built into the walls, porthole windows and white leather everywhere it looks like a Bond villain’s lair – if only Dr No had been into techno.
Dominica 54: An after hours club-cum-sushi restaurant? It shouldn’t work, but it’s a favourite haunt of Chile’s expat DJ A-list (Villalobos, et al). Sushi till 1am, dancing till 10am.
Deck-00, Muelle Baron: Set on Muelle Baron, the main public access to Valparaiso’s seaport, Deck-00 hosts huge one-off events with the likes of Fatboy Slim in a glittering setting.
Buenos Aires boasts the same mix of sun, sex and tunes as Miami or Rio, but for about half the price. It’s also the most European of South American countries, which means plenty of English-speaking clubbers to befriend and a cosmopolitan flair to its nightlife. A tragic club fire two years ago led to a huge safety crackdown on club venues (Pacha Buenos Aires saw its capacity reduced from 4000 to 2200) but massive events like the 10,000 capacity Moonpark festival have filled the gap. With a mix of international tourists and out-going locals Argentina is an ideal start to a South American clubbing adventure. “The people make Argentina totally unique,” Hernan Cattaneo says. What he means is last time he played Southfest the crowd literally stretched as far as the eye could see – all going mental. “In other countries people go to the bar. Here, they dance like it’s the last time they’re ever going to dance.”
Crobar: Buenos Aires’ best Friday night, the newly established Crobar sticking with the formula that’s made its US clubs successful: big international talent (Armin, FC Kahuna, etc) and a sleek setting.
Pacha Buenos Aires: Though its capacity was scaled down after the Buenos Aires club fire tragedy Pacha BA is still one of the biggest draws in town. A host of A-list international guests keeps crowds flocking in on Saturday nights.
Club 69 @ Nicetoclub: Like many South American clubs Nicetoclub hosts everything from rock ‘n’ roll to hip hop, go on Thursday for dance music accompanied by fancy dress, cabaret performances and general madness.
You could fit the entire population of Uruguay into London comfortably. Twice. But there’s nothing you can tell the three million strong population about partying. Every year in January the young, rich and beautiful flood to the seaside paradise of Punta Del Este to romp on the beaches and soak up the bar life. “Everyone’s there – Brazilian, Argentine, Peruvian… It’s a millionaire’s playground. I went to a private party there with 2000 people, a huge swimming pool and an open bar pouring with champagne and vodka. It went on for days,” says DJ Greg Vickers. The season is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it short but look out for big outdoor events like East Festival, which hosts the likes of Sasha and Erick Morillo. For year-round clubbing head to the capital Montevideo. “Check out Milenio, it’s underground but everyone goes there,” Tania Vulcano advises. And after you get your club on go replenish your tan on one of the white sand beaches that surround the city.
Milenio: A big-yet-cosy three-storey affair, Milenio has a reputation for top notch music and a liberal attitude, which has made it a magnet for hedonistic tourists, the gay crowd and hip locals.
W Lounge: You’re never far from the beach in Montevideo, especially not in W Lounge which capitalises on the Ibiza-of-the-southern-hemisphere vibe with two dancefloors and a gorgeous seaside terrace.
Punta del Este: Not a club, but a destination. Throw caution and credit rating to the wind and head there in January to party at the many beach bars and mini-festivals that spring up during its brief season.
The club scene in Peru is small but cutting edge – the rule is minimal music, maximal partying. “You’ve got people in their 20s and people old enough to be their grandparents, all getting involved. It is purely hedonistic. By the end of a night here I can never remember the name of my hotel,” says Greg Vickers. A typical night finishes at 8 or 9 in the morning then everyone staggers to Larcomar, a huge shopping mall-cum-hangout overlooking the Pacific, to catch the sun.
Gotika: Handily located on the fifth floor of Larcomar you won’t want to leave before sunrise. Better write the name of your hotel on your hand before you go out.
Aura: A slick, trendy, industrial space in a Soho chic style, Aura hosts a mix of local and international talent. You’ll want to put on a fresh tee-shirt before you go.
Home: A distant memory in the UK, Home is alive and well in Peru, where it’s just celebrated its first birthday. Think high stakes glamour and non-stop house music.
For serious eye candy try Circus in Medellín. Ministry events manager Nick Leonard has fond memories: “Every woman in the room had her nose and boobs done. God I wished I could speak Spanish!” Apart from a few big clubs nightlife revolves around warehouse parties thrown by promoters like Techsound and Ultrabass. Despite the headlines you’re more likely to be hanging out with working class kids than narco villains. “People are very outgoing and friendly, even if they have no money they manage to party,” says Techsound boss Luis.
La Sala, Bogota: One of Bogota’s hottest clubs, the slickly styled La Sala plays host to the likes of Poker Flat, Subliminal and Ministry tours, as well as top local talent.
Circus Club, Medellín: An hour’s flight from Bogota this Pacha style club holds 3000 glammed up clubbers. And with an average ratio of two gorgeous women for every guy it’s worth the trip.
Warehouse parties: You’ll have to do a little legwork (try the phrase “donde está una fiesta de techno?”) but for authentic Columbian clubbing head to one of the regular bashes thrown by local promoters.