Franchising successful brands comes with considerable risk, and when the original is as revered as Ibiza's Circoloco the potential pitfalls are great. This is because Circoloco simultaneously achieves two things every week of the season at its home base of DC-10—packing in a staggering number of top flight underground DJs from around the globe and drawing a crowd that manages to not just revel in hedonistic excess but to do so in a remarkably relaxed, carefree way. There is simply nothing quite like it in Ibiza (or probably anywhere else).
Having been twice in September, I was a little nervous that the Sydney iteration would suffer in comparison. As it turned out, while the original is still the best, the Sydney version was in many ways as close to capturing the magic as one could hope for.
The biggest issue was, of course, that we weren't on a sunny island that draws in the international hardcore of partygoers. Not only were skin tones more pallid (exacerbated by the proliferation of zombie and vampire make-up to suit the Halloween theme), but before darkness set in there seemed to be an air of hesitation about letting go in the full glare of daylight. There were also the small technical details that can mean a lot—the Greenwood's paucity of toilets, painfully long waits for bar service and patchy sound in the main arena.
But this was more than made up for by the historic venue, a crowd that slowly warmed to the task of abandoning its inhibitions and (most importantly) bloody good music. Arriving to hear rising Sydney talent Brohn laying down the Subb-An remix of Tiga's "Pleasure from the Bass" on the main stage, a quick trip to the chapel saw Ben Korbel channelling the recent revival of '90s house, as he laid down classics from Murk and Chiapet as well as acid and some more modern fare.
Then it was Margaret Dygas outdoors, layering chunky, stripped back house and more outré selections one would expect from a Perlon DJ, in a set that seamlessly built a groove and had the dancers fixated despite being filled with obscurities. DJ W!ld, a veteran of the French scene who has only recently broken through more widely, followed on from Dygas with a set that was a pleasant surprise. Usually known for a tough, jacking sound, he focused more on funky, warm melodies and a dash of disco-boogie, such as his own "Belgicana," and concluded with an instant crowd-pleaser, a remix of Max Romeo's reggae standard "I Chase the Devil."
Jamie Jones, who hit the top of the RA top DJs poll last year, was on last, and despite the energy built by Dygas and W!ld he played the kind of set that only someone at the top of their game would attempt. He modulated the energy, providing both moments of hands-in-the-air release and extended periods of heads-down grooviness. Not limiting himself to any micro-genre, the Welshman stitched together rolling, percussive tech (Paul C & Paolo Martini's "Magic Hill"), emotive retro-tinged house (Romboy & Bodzin's "Hyperion"), reconstructed classics (Green Velvet's "Flash"), more esoteric electronic cuts (Arttu's "Transfiguration") and a smattering of his own productions (2007's "Panic" being a particular highlight) across three flawless hours. This was complete mastery of the material, a simple mixing style that subtly highlighted the continuities and shifts, and which kept people dancing frenetically despite a lack of bombast.
It was the kind of set you could imagine closing a night at DC-10, leaving smiles and contentment all around. In the end, whatever the limitations of transposing a legendary experience to a radically different setting, I felt I had come away with a dose of the same kind of satisfaction that something more than a little special had transpired.