If you’re a truly innovative promoter then you’ll always be looking for the next knockout party.
That space that seems too good to be true – that space that no one else has dared throw a party in, but you’re absolutely sure would go right off, if only you could make it happen.
I think there’s something rooted deep within all successful promoters that isn’t just money-driven. If you’re like me, you’ll get a huge kick out of bringing hundreds of likeminded people to a space to experience a party like no other.
This is what always kept me going during my years as a promoter. I just loved the idea of pushing boundaries at events, taking that risk, and giving people an experience that’s other-worldy. Pulling off what others would think is impossible is what will ultimately define your night from all the other also-rans.
Keep reading and I’ll share with you the most legendary parties I’ve ever witnessed. Hats off to all those who put their head on the block and thought big. This is how you do it!
1. Robot Heart, Burning Man
If you’ve not been to Burning Man Festival, it’s pretty difficult to explain in words how completely insane it is.
50,000 people from around the world spend seven days in the middle of the Nevada desert surrounded by 1000s of the world’s best pop-up party venues. Throw in loads of fire, tonnes of LED lights, 1000s of pimped-up bikes, art cars and naked hippies and you’re about 5% of the way there!
It’s pretty hard to choose the coolest venue with so much to go at, but year after year I always find myself chasing the Robot Heart stage, literally. Let’s put this into perspective. Burning Man is huge, like five square miles of open salt plane, known as ‘the playa’. Robot Heart does its best to find the deepest, darkest, furthest possible point on the playa, so it can take you hours to even find it.
Yes, it’s mobile, it’s built on four wheels and it holds 100 people dancing with a huge LED heart made from scrap metal, hovering over the central DJ booth. Add a shed load of LED screens and a ridiculous sound system, and there you have the monumental Robot Heart.
It doesn’t stop there. With it being on wheels, the Robot Heart can randomly just set off driving mid-way through Seth Troxler’s marathon 6-hour set, leaving thousands of party-heads scrambling for their bikes to chase it across the desert until it eventually stops, and then it all starts again.
One of my favourite party experiences was watching Damian Lazarus play his infamous sunrise set with Pachanga Boys ‘Time’ playing in 2013. Some guy turned up with a telescopic boom lift, 20 of us were lifted 30 metres into the sky while the sun came up over the mountains. It still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
2. The World’s Smallest Disco, Berlin
I stumbled across this crazy little tardis-style phone booth whilst trying to find Renate nightclub on a cold Sunday morning last month in Berlin. When I saw the sign ‘The world’s smallest disco’ I just had to go and investigate!
On the outside there was a touch screen where you could choose the track you wanted to play inside the phone box. We chose Dr Alban – ‘It’s My life’, obviously. You lock yourself inside, the music starts pumping, smoke machines kick in and then it’s time for a full-on light show with a spinning disco ball.
You then get photos from the hidden camera inside and if you enter your email, they send you a video a few weeks later showing off your amazing dance moves. Who needs Berghain??
3. Meadows in the Mountains, Bulgaria
Meadows is a small, intimate retreat at the top of the Rhodopes Mountains in Bulgaria. The festival is run by the Sasse family and it certainly has that family vibe going on.
The only way to get up the mountain from the village is a strenuous walk up the dirt track, or on the back of a donkey cart. Once you’re at the top of the mountain, the view of the land is just unbelievable. You can even see Greece through the clouds.
The Festival site is only small but the creative juices definitely flow, and make the most of the surrounding habitat. All the stages are made by hand using reclaimed wood from the mountain or the previous year’s festival.
You really feel the human spirit of this place. Not only all of the love and effort that is invested in it by the Sasse family, but also because of just how it makes you feel so at one with nature.
The way the sun rises through the mist every morning is beyond any sunrise I’ve seen anywhere else, and the very fact the main DJ booth is in a giant tree house just caps it off. Breathtaking on all fronts!
4. Patrick Topping’s Topply Run, Leeds
This isn’t just one venue, it was actually five venues in one Monday afternoon.
It was an amazing PR stunt concocted by the guys at Mint Festival. Geordie boy Patrick Topping did his own take on the Otley Run – a legendary event in the Leeds area.
He played at a Hairdressers, a fancy-dress shop, a coffee shop and a load of pubs along the Otley road, before ending in an Igloo Disco Festival arena, in a pub beer garden! This was all spread over the course of six hours and ended up in The Mint Club. If you’re gonna do it, do it Topply!
5. Arcadia: The 50 tonne, flame throwing mechanical spider
I first experienced Arcadia at Glade festival about 5 years ago. It has to be the craziest festival stage on the planet.
A mechanical spider shoots fire and spits lasers, and then there’s a control booth which is built with components from a TriStar jet engine! According to the creators “the fate of those abducted by the creature remains unknown”… it really does set itself apart from other stages at Festivals.
No matter who’s playing on the Arcadia Stage, you’re guaranteed it’s going off!
6. Ice Cream Van @ Glastonbury
Ever since I was a teenager back in the 90’s, I’d always said I’d play Glastonbury Festival, even if it meant playing from a burger van.
It’s a long story but about six years ago I accidentally bought an ice cream van and converted it into a DJ booth with a huge 10k sound rig. We managed to blag it into all the big festivals as a mini-stage. One year we managed to get booked for Glastonbury Festival, and for the Wednesday night we were the only source of music on the whole site.
So here I was in 2011 playing from a converted ice cream van to 2000 people at Glastonbury. I spoke about this on my Dragons’ Den appearance – this was actually the moment I made the decision to set up my events company, and the rest is history…
That pretty much sums it up. Be sure to share your favourite stages and venues. I’d love to hear them!