José Padilla took the reins at the latest edition on Sunday. The Ibiza veteran, now in his 60s and having spent a period sidelined with health issues, was a conventional choice by Sun Down Circle's standards. The crew have carved out a niche for themselves in Bali's crowded nightlife scene by booking DJs more used to playing to trendy crowds in Brooklyn or East London than barefoot bo-bos on a swanky vacation. (Recent guests include Horse Meat Disco, Jack J and Tim Sweeney.)
Sun Down Circle's real draw, though, is the surrounding scenery. As well as the Instagram-friendly sunsets, there are the modernist-inspired designs from one of Indonesia's leading architects, Isandra Matin Ahmad. The venue's crescent-shaped building cocoons the dance floor, while its exterior is coated in weathered teakwood window shutters.
On the central lawn, punters clutched tiki mugs filled with signature house cocktails, dressed up well beyond the shorts-and-sandals look favored by the sunburnt Kuta crowd. Because of the Sunday evening start time, the party never quite spilled over into a mid-weekend rager, but a few souls kept the dance floor simmering away. Padilla's extended set carried a free-spirited Balearic groove well past sunset, before veering towards acid via summery house. He signed off by winding back the clock to vintage disco. The only disappointment was a couple of trainwrecks late in the set—a DJ this well-versed should be able to beatmatch in his sleep.
Although reasonably priced for a Western audience, with just a 100,000 Rp ($7.66) cover charge, that would still be out of reach for most Balinese. The resort is also undeniably posh, which resulted in a fairly homogenous crowd. And the security check out front, complete with machine-gun-toting guard and a bomb-check for incoming cars, didn't exactly lend itself to a carefree vibe.
Whatever sense of abandon that comes with dancing to the sunset in Bali must be tempered by reality. Clubbing is not a natural state in this part of the world, and while the majority-Hindu island is more tolerant of alcohol and nightlife excess than the rest of Indonesia, the memories of the 2002 attack at a nightclub just down the road are never far from mind, especially considering that last month ISIS declared war on Indonesia. While Ibiza may have its own problems, the threat of terrorism is enough to make anyone nostalgic for a simple Balearic sunset.