We take a short look back at why the two venues have become so popular over the years.
This week's column explores a brief history of two of Ibiza's most famous clubs, Amnesia and Pacha, and their respective paths to becoming global dance music royalty.
Both originally fincas (Ibicenco for country house), the venues ooze charm and character. Interestingly, both were established and in operation as nightclubs long before electronic music started to gain popularity in the '80s. A hippy hang out in the late '70s, Amnesia's name derived from the fact that most went there to forget their troubles. The club enjoyed its heyday in the '80s when open air clubbing in Ibiza was flourishing. Argentinean DJ, Alfredo, represented "Balearic," a feeling and vibe more than any particular style of music, which itself would range from The Rolling Stones to early Chicago house.
By the end of the '80s as clubbing tourism to Ibiza was effectively born on a mass scale with that piece of clubbing folklore involving Paul Oakenfold, Danny Rampling, Nicky Holloway et al., and their trip to Amnesia. It's one of the most re-told stories in all electronic music and we're too short of space to go through it all here; suffice to say that when the roof did go on Amnesia's Main Room in the early '90s, it fundamentally changed things, just like it later would also at Ku (Privilege) and more recently at Space and DC-10. Amnesia's megatron/C02 cannon/smoke machine is a legendary part of the club, just like the tiered levels of the venue, which serve to make the central dance floors a true dedicated dancing space.
Under new management from this early '90s period, Amnesia embraced foreign promoters by the mid-'90s, most notably Cream (who are still there on Thursdays in fact) and, in 2000, Cocoon. Other parties heavily associated with Amnesia are the polysexual madness of La Troya and of course the legendary (never-ending) opening and closing parties. They also host a foam party. While it has been a quintessential Ibicenco club in many ways, it has only really started to see the fruits of the experience by the mid-'00s when Cocoon and Cream entered periods of definite growth. In the last few years, and after a revamping of the terrace space, Amnesia has become the cool club on the island, without ever having compromised the fact it offers two large rooms of intense, full-on clubbing. Infamously, there is no general use, chill-out space in the club. Nevertheless, it has bagged plenty of awards over the last several years and, in 2011, has brought international mainstream stars like Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent through its doors—representing the power and global reach of this temple.
Pacha, by contrast, has developed from the club built in 1973 by Ricardo Urgell to become among the leading club brands in the world. It has numerous global franchises and its cherry logo is instantly recognisable. Through the '70s and '80s, it was most certainly a hangout for the rich and well-to-do with the musical accompaniment being anything from pop, Motown through to funk and soul. Ringo Starr, Roman Polanski and Grace Jones were just a few of those in regular attendance. Pacha's appeal is its character: It has a maze of endless stairs, corridors, low ceilings, back passages and extensive seating and terraces that make it difficult to navigate. It's unlike any club on the island really.
More so than Amnesia, Pacha led the way in working with foreign promoters in the early '90s and parties like Renaissance, Ministry of Sound, Def Mix, Made in Italy and later Subliminal, Defected and Pete Tong made Pacha "the house club" of Ibiza—perfect no doubt for its generally older and more cosmopolitan crowd. Its more recent musical direction (David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia) obviously point towards their generally ultra contemporary electro pop sound and have caused a total change in dynamic of crowd.
Pacha's unique shape and overwhelming VIP area once contributed to a sometimes downbeat, non-club atmosphere. (It had nowhere near the grit and sweat and passion of the Amnesia experience.) Nowadays, though, the sheer fervour and interest in their pop stars DJs (and often pop stars too) makes the buzz at these nights unique. Despite this, Pacha's current phase is incomparable to its previous incarnation. The likes of Guetta and Swedish House Mafia make it more a small concert arena than anything else.
What has been similar in both venues is the prominence that the DJ booth has taken. What was merely a primitive space at Amnesia gradually became the pulpit-like booth now in the Main Room and, more recently, a centralised, more visible booth on the terrace. At Pacha, the DJ booth was barely capable of being found and it has only been in the last half decade that the DJ even faced the main dance floor at all.