As clubbing culture comes under fire, we meet the team behind Spain’s biggest party to discuss the elements that ensure success.
In recent times, a lot has been made of the state of the rave and overall clubbing scene. Whilst certain proclamations declaring that today’s nightlife is as soulless as it is formulaic have caused a stir (look no further than Bloc. founder George Hull’s amusing rant here), it appears it’s not simply the apathy amongst the current generation that’s of grave concern, but the decline of venues and spaces they’re hosted within.
It’s a bleak reality that the night life that once proudly proliferated and represented the country’s landscape is in sharp decline. Take London for example, a formerly celebrated capital that played host to a seemingly limitless volume of parties, has lost over 35% of its venues in under a decade due to superfluous government officials and developers whose agenda to gentrify has severely damaged the essence of our clubbing heritage as we now know it.
Of course despite all the negativity and pressure from ruthless developers, it’s important to remember that clubland will never die, and that’s in large part to some downright incredible parties that are pushing the boundaries through unrivalled production, tireless attention to details and themes that symbolise a carefree experience that, in turn, force you to leave all pretensions at the door.
One party in question that represents and champions this ethos more than any other is the all-conquering Spanish institution Elrow. As the brainchild of the Arnau family – whose credentials for party curation stretch back a staggering three centuries, the Barcelona brand’s mission statement is simple yet spectacular; “to make people happy, entertain them and surprise them every time” booking director Victor de la Serna tells us, before emphasising “our only goal is to make each party better than the previous one!”.
It’s a straightforward but effective policy that becomes a reality the second you step foot into the transformed fantasy land that was previously recognised as a club venue. By managing to tread a line somewhere between prodigious tech-house rave and fancy dress party on psychedelics, it’s mastered an equilibrium that’s built on the foundations of fun, and you’ve seldom seen anything like it.
Yet it’s carnival-style approach would not be possible without the painstaking levels of detail that goes into each individual party. “We are constantly working and producing” de la Serna explains, ‘whether it’s a brand new decoration or re-doing, changing and upgrading the ones we have’. It’s this relentless approach to push the boundaries that makes parties like it’s recent festival edition in Valencia somewhat breathtaking, with 15,000 revellers packed into a hallucinatory Brazilian jungle aesthetic (see here) as they surpass themselves with every party, across every continent.
With spaniards on stilts strolling through endless streams of confetti and airborne inflatables as the aesthetic illuminates, it’s no wonder the DJ’s largely remain unannounced until arrival. ‘It’s very important to work with people that understand and love the concept of what we do” admits de la Serna. Yet with the likes of Eats Everything, The Martinez Brothers, Jackmaster and Skream all on regular rotation, it’s refreshing these accustomed heavy hitters are happy to play second fiddle to the show itself. As Skream pointed out during last year’s legendary Singermorning session; “if you don’t go to elrow and have fun,you shouldn’t go out!”.
Beyond the parties facade and musical programming, a crucial catalyst in its successful functionality comes in the choice of venue which, considering it’s traditionally daytime scheduling, needs to facilitate for as much sun and euphoria as possible. Lucky for us that Barcelona is one of, if not the perfect locale for such an occasion and in Row 14, they have the perfect desert land nestled away on the outskirts of the city where the temperatures soar and sound limitations become a thing of the past. De la Serna is quick to conclude; “It’s simply a beautiful experience seeing everyone dancing and smiling under the sun”.
Whilst many institutions continue to suffer in the wake of restrictions, closures and profit maximisation, Elrow has become a stronghold for house and techno lovers as it spearheads an alternative culture centred around unadulterated amounts of fun that many have had limited opportunities to experience in today’s scene. Quite simply when it kicks off, it’s about as much as much fun as any party in the world. What’s equally as impressive is the sheer momentum that brand has built on a global scale in recent times, with demand for tickets to it’s shows skyrocketing.
After an incredibly successful spell at East London’s balearic-esque Studio 338, the elrow family are currently gearing up for one of their biggest occasions yet as they prepare to host its first UK weekender. With it’s vintage far-west theme set to transform Shoreditch’s renowned Village Underground for three consecutive nights, we took the opportunity to sit down with Victor de la Serna and uncover the secret behind running one of the most exciting party brands in recent memory.
- Firstly we’d love to know how the initial concept for ‘Elrow’ started? Was it an idea that the Arnau family had been developing over a long period of time?
Elrow started with a whole different concept, it started as a night club and with a quite different music policy, but it just didn’t work. Then when we were close to giving up we thought, why not make an after party in the morning and play games with the crowd, throw confetti and make it like a real fun party? And it just clicked with the people and the rest as they say, is history!
- What is it about Barcelona’s Row 14 that made it so perfectly suited for Elrow? Were there any other venues under consideration?
The venue in Barcelona is simply a beautiful space to make daytime parties. As you well know, all our events in Barcelona run for 12 hours from 10am to 10pm on Sundays and sometimes on a bank holiday. Being in Barcelona we are very fortunate to enjoy the climate and temperatures we do have all year round, so having a venue that is 80% open air and be able to enjoy it is something that you cannot put a price on. It’s simply a beautiful experience seeing everyone dancing and smiling under the sun.
- With Elrow widely recognised for it’s unique production, can you give us an idea of the time and effort that goes in to each theme and it’s creation?
We are constantly working and producing, whether its a brand new decoration or re-doing, changing and upgrading the ones we have. We have a warehouse in Barcelona and Ibiza and another workshop in Mexico that are constantly working to be able to keep surprising all of you everytime we open the doors of the clubs we work with worldwide.
- In five years the Elrow brand has become one of the biggest and best in the dance music world, did you ever anticipate the success the brand has had?
To be honest, it has been amazing to see how welcoming and happy everyone is with our party. To anticipate such a huge success would be naïve on our side. We just want to carry on working hard to make people happy, entertain them and surprise them every time. Our only goal is make each party better than the previous one!
- Was the overall goal always to take the party worldwide and to host festivals? Where have you experienced the best crowd thus far?
We never set up a specific goal and we have never forced any of our parties onto any promoter anywhere. Things have happened quite naturally with promoters that have come to our shows contacting us to bring the party to their clubs and festivals, so everything happened organically, there was no big plan to conquer the world! Lol
- Although the line-ups always remain a secret, how meticulous is the process when selecting the DJ’s? Is there anyone you would particularly love to see play in the future?
We are pretty specific about the music we want to program at elrow. It’s very important for us that the music is fun and uplifting as it needs to complement the craziness of the performers and what’s going on on the dancefloor. I don’t think these days there’s someone unattainable, but for us it’s very important to work with people that understand and love the concept of what we do. This way they also become part of the party and enjoy themselves even more!
- Are there any other promoters or brands out there that inspire you, or equally consider to be your main competitors?
We don’t see this as a competition. There are obviously promoters out there doing a great job with similar or different concepts. It can change a lot from one place or the other, some people prefer a dark room with no deco and full of techno, some others prefer day-time parties in the sun… it varies a lot. From the parties I have attended lately I have to say I was very impressed with Get Lost Miami, the location and music programming was simply perfect for that moment.
- With the summer fast approaching, what can we expect from the forthcoming parties?
Summer is all about Ibiza and festivals. We are coming back to Ibiza for the last year of Space and we have quite a few surprises that I just cannot announce just yet but that I think are going to be extra special. Obviously having the honor of working with Space on their last year in Ibiza is a very big thing for us. Space Ibiza is without a doubt one of the best clubs in the world, with 27 years of history behind and we are super proud of being part of that history.
On the festival side of things, we are doing quite a lot of them this year in a lot of different countries, but still cannot name all of them as some have not been announced, but I can assure you is going to be a hectic summer.
- Lastly with parties now taking place across five continents, where would you like to see Elrow in a few years time? Is there a plan to develop and expand the brand even further?
We are big in Europe and not in all countries, so I believe there is still a lot of room to expand. We have just done our event in Miami and we had well over 2000 people attend, which is quite impressive for a conference gig. We are also announcing our first show in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on April 22nd so I think America can be our next step!
Elrow ‘Far West’ goes to London is taking place next Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Village Underground. With tickets almost sold out make sure you’re a part of the experience and purchase via their official resident advisor page HERE.
For further proof of the parties potential, check out Valencia’s ‘Fallas 16’ festival session earlier this month for a taste of what to expect.
Words by Mikey Corrighan