At two A.M. on a Monday in Ibiza, Seth Troxler was spinning a remixed Gloria Gaynor song amid the red-tinted interiors of the DC-10 nightclub. The popular Detroit D.J. was performing at the weekly Circoloco party, where the dance floor is always filled to capacity with beefy men in tattoo sleeves, elegant blondes in Louboutin booties, drugged-up financiers, and aspiring D.J.’s.
Outside, crowds smoked cigarettes and talked about nothing while planes angling toward Ibiza Airport, a two-minute drive away, soared overhead.
At six A.M., when the party ended, the crowd dispersed to various after-parties—at villas on the north of the island, mansions at Las Salinas, hostels in San Antonio. Circoloco draws a mixed bunch, and the attendees will likely never meet again.
In a world where Instagram and TikTok quickly popularize—and simultaneously ruin—parties, hotels, and restaurants, Circoloco has endured, and it has amassed a varied, international cult following in the process. Now a dance-party company, record label, and lifestyle brand rolled into one, Circoloco hosts events at DC-10 as well as in Asia, the Americas, and Europe. Stars (P. Diddy and Leonardo DiCaprio among them), aristocrats (Princess Maria-Olympia of Greece, Lady Lola Crichton-Stuart), and artists (Maurizio Cattelan) have all been spotted on the dance floor over the last decade, and the signature red lighting is instantly recognizable on social media.
But while memes gloated as Burners left Black Rock City this year with pounds of mud clinging to their raver boots, people shower Circoloco’s posts with compliments. “Everyone respects what it is,” one attendee tells me. “Everyone thinks it’s cool.”
Next week, Circoloco will throw its largest party of the year, marking the beginning of its winter closing (early October to late May). Tickets go for roughly $100, and people fly in from all over Europe for it. “Closing is the best edition every year,” another attendee says. “It’s a real send-off.”
In a world where Instagram and TikTok quickly popularize—and simultaneously ruin—parties, hotels, and restaurants, Circoloco has endured, and it has amassed an international cult following in the process.
In the summer of 1999, the Italian party promoters Antonio Carbonaro and Andrea Pelino hosted a free after-party in Ibiza to attract people to DC-10, their newly minted nightclub in an abandoned aircraft hangar. It was a risky venture, given that the dance floor was only a few feet away from the tarmac.
That summer, when the adjacent nightclub started cutting off its 24-hour “Sunday Party” at six A.M., D.J.’s including the legendary Danny Tenaglia, Pete Tong, and Steve Lawler, started playing for the party’s stragglers for free next door, at DC-10. Before long, Circoloco’s “Monday Morning Sessions” were born, and DC-10 became the place to be for the island’s in-the-know crowd.
“It started as this thing to attract underground talent,” a regular visitor to Ibiza tells me, “but soon it changed nightlife on the entire island.”
By the early 2000s, Circoloco was a night-long residency at DC-10 (going from the afternoons to the early mornings), and the international dance-music press caught on. DC-10 was different from other Ibiza superclubs, where bottle service, polished interiors, and strobe lighting lured the super-wealthy off their yachts. It was grungier, and sexier—more like a 1980s acid-house warehouse party in the U.K., where Ecstasy and house music were popularized in the first place.
After a year-long closure in 2008 due to a licensing mix-up, DC-10 reopened with Circoloco as a headliner, cementing the party’s “cool” status. Respected musicians such as Damian Lazarus, Jamie Jones, Seth Troxler, and others signed on. And unlike most beloved nightclubs, which tend to boom and bust—take Studio 54, which lasted just under three years, or the Warehouse in Chicago, where house music got its name, which was only open between 1977 and 1983—DC-10’s popularity hasn’t waned.
Perhaps its success lies in its talent-scouting strategy. Over the years, the group’s methods for securing talent have gotten more elaborate and elusive. Carbonaro is said to do the lineups himself but isn’t forthcoming about his formula—“It’s a mix of strategies,” he told Hypebeast last year. (Carbonaro did not respond to AIR MAIL’s requests for comment; Pelino could not be reached for comment.)
“Everyone respects what it is. Everyone thinks it’s cool.”
As a result, rumors swirl in the D.J. community about how to get on the DC-10 roster. According to some people, playing at underground parties in New York, like ReSolute, or at clubs in Berlin, like Club der Visionäre, is a good strategy for getting in. Others think producing records and sending them to the Circoloco office is a safer bet. But people just don’t know.
By 2016, as more talent signed on, Circoloco expanded beyond Ibiza, launching its first Halloween party in New York and Los Angeles. Events in Santiago de Chile, Kuala Lumpur, and Tel Aviv followed. In 2018, the same year Virgil Abloh became the Louis Vuitton Men’s creative director, he announced a collaboration between Circoloco and his brand Off-White. (In addition to being a designer, Abloh was a well-known D.J. and played in Ibiza regularly.) Two years on from Abloh’s death, from cancer, the logoed black hoodies he designed for the Circoloco/Off-White collaboration still sell for north of $2,250 on Grailed, an online retailer, and the DC-10 dance floor hasn’t forgotten him.
“I felt his energy in the booth,” the English rapper Skepta said in an interview with MixMag. “There was a guy with a VIRGIL WAS HERE 2017 T-shirt in the crowd. That made my fucking night. God is great.”
DC-10 was different from other Ibiza superclubs. It was grungier, and sexier—more like a 1980s acid-house warehouse party in the U.K., where Ecstasy and house music were popularized in the first place.
Today, like in the early days of DC-10, the best talent still plays for Circoloco for next to no money (rumor has it that every D.J. on the lineup is paid $500 to perform). The cachet that comes with it is, apparently, enough.
A trained eye will notice the Circoloco clown logo around the world. There’s (likely unfounded) talk of a Circoloco-branded private plane, with a D.J. included in the fare. People wear the Circoloco T-shirts and hoodies everywhere. Others buy the signature red sunglasses from the gift shop. Everyone posts the requisite Instagram photo.
“It’s instantly recognizable on Instagram because of the lighting, the planes, and everything,” another Ibiza regular tells me. “People love the brand.”
As for the closing party, the lineup includes Troxler, Detroit legend Carl Craig, Italian electronic-dance-music pioneer D.J. Tennis, and his protegé, Carlita. Some people fly to the island for the weekend, while others fly in just for the big night. “Just look at a Luton-Ibiza flight this Monday,” a Circoloco attendee tells me. “Most of those people are going to Circoloco, and then they’re flying back the next morning at seven A.M. with no sleep.”
Despite all the coming and going, the Ibizan community doesn’t seem fazed by Circoloco. For one thing, it’s the most democratic party on the island. Tables at the Ibiza nightclub Pacha go for $4,000. Amnesia’s legendary “Music On” party was moved to Pacha, and the legendary Space nightclub has rebranded into a fancier version of itself called Hï. Circoloco keeps the island at the forefront of no-frills, authentic electronic music.
“In some ways [it’s] very socialist,” the D.J. Seth Troxler said in an interview. “It’s not about V.I.P.’s, it’s about equality.... It’s about actually being cool, rather than paying for it.”
The Circoloco closing party at DC-10, in Ibiza, begins on October 9
Elena Clavarino is the Senior Editor at Air Mail