By Doug Gray, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – When the sound of samba gets too much and the yearning for a little 4/4 beat takes over, Rio may not be able to rival neighboring São Paulo for sheer quantity of nightclub options, but as far as quality is concerned, slowly but surely the city is catching up.
The Week International in the port area of downtown is a prime example. The biggest gay club in Rio, it opened its doors in 2007 as the sister venue to the Paulista original, and has helped to symbolize the cultural shift of a city’s youth that now has the capacity to support a genuine ‘super club’. With ample space for 2,000 people, two rooms and a terrace complete with swimming pool, The Week (as it is more commonly known) regularly welcomes global DJs playing both commercial and underground house music.
Offering a similar level of glamor to a night of dancing Zero Zero and Nuth both cater for the smarter end of the nightlife scene. The former is located in Gávea and has a large terrace out front complete with sushi bar to offer something of a Balearic touch to proceedings. Recently the likes of Londoner Ashley Beedle and New York legend Tim Sweeney have graced the decks on Thursdays, whilst Saturdays with DJ Cobra offer something a little more mainstream.
Nuth has two venues, one in Barra da Tijuca and one overlooking the Lagoa, where you can hear everything from samba (usually midweek) to hip hop and electronica, but as usual it is Fridays and Saturdays where things really heat up, and the queues lay testament to their popularity week in, week out.
It seems there are few venues that are willing to pigeonhole themselves as ‘electronic’ clubs, with most giving themselves over to independent promoters. Thus at Copacabana’s underground bunker Fosfobox, you are as likely to walk in on a goth night as a techno show if you don’t check the listings carefully.
However when it comes to the dirtier end of dancing, its one of the best the city has to offer. Industrial décor and a thumping sound system, it may not have the sophistication but it certainly has the spirit, and regular nights like Gettotech and Gang Bang pack out the dance floor, with local DJs such as Sany Pitbull running shoulders with international guests like Crazy P.
As with Fosfobox, its like-minded sibling in Ipanema, Dama De Ferro (“Iron Lady”) also bills itself as ‘GLS’ (for Gay/Lesbian/Sympathizers). The vibe is similar and the quality of house and techno nights up there with São Paulo’s for the discerning electronica-admirer.
Maurício Lopes has built up a huge following with regular Friday night ‘Trust’, and ‘Do Hauze’ on Saturdays brings regular local and international up and comers, though in its eight years of existence Detroit legend Carl Craig and Parisians Justice have been among the notable spinners.
Two hours east of Rio in the beach haven of Búzios, both Pacha and Privilege have state-of-the-art venues with big name DJs during high season. Often closed or empty the rest of the year, it is well worth checking the schedule before planning your bus trip over though.
So whilst samba and carnival still rule the roost, musically there is more diversity than ever heading into the city. The annual Rio Music Conference and events such as last weekend’s Chemical Music Festival also show that when the big sponsors are on board, Rio can throw the biggest parties with the best of them.
Last but not least, during carnival it is well worth keeping an eye open on the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana for impromptu sound-systems that, while sometimes closed down by the Guarda Municipal, just as often carry on unhindered until sun up, though these are all but extinct the rest of the year.