Cover photo: Benedikt Bentler
The room was dimly lit with a smoky red glow. To my left, there was a kid hand rolling a cigarette, because who doesn’t roll their own cigarettes in Europe? And to my right was a couple that couldn’t keep their hands off of each other. Maybe it was the music or maybe the ex had just hit? I realized I was significantly more sober than everyone else around me and decided to get a drink. “Do you accept cards?” I asked the girl behind the bar. She looked at me bewildered. “Targeta?” I tried, hoping the Spanish word was the same in Italian. “Si,” she replied. “Vodka Redbull,” I said, knowing that needed no translation. I scanned the dance floor while she fixed my drink and thought, Alright Rome show me what you got.
After almost three months of traveling, I was finally heading to a club for techno, and to see one of my favorite DJs, the legendary Roman Flügel. The event time was listed as 11:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., which was a nice departure from the 3:00 a.m. closing time in ATL. Google Maps led me to the club, but without any large signs, I wasn't sure what I was looking for. Usually, you can spot the techno crowd by the sea of all black chain-smoking cigarettes, but as I looked around, everyone looked so Euro cool. When I found Goa Club, I walked in solo, not sure what to expect.
I generally associate techno with a gritty underground scene, but this Italian place was swanky - very unlike the Edgewood spots I was used to going for my electronic music fix. Rich wooden floors, velvet curtains, and big chandeliers. Everyone was dressed exceptionally well, but the crowd was younger. Clubs in Europe are 18+ instead of the typical 21+ in the US, so not only is there the 18-20 crowd, but there's also the 15 and 18-year-olds sneaking in. The rules felt lax here, though, like no one really cared how old you were as long as you looked cool enough and spent money at the bar.
The opening DJs were throwing down a little tech house. It was still early for Euro standards, just a bit past 1:00 a.m., but a small crowd on the dance floor was moving rhythmically. Although I was nervous about coming alone, after seeing what it’s like in US and Europe, I took comfort in the fact that no matter where you go you see the same shit. People in the corner pointing their phone’s flashlights into little baggies, a thick cloud of smoke looming over the crowd, the girls dancing by the front trying to grab the DJ’s attention, and a group of partygoers who were all brought together by the promise of music, booze, sex, and drugs.
Roman Flügel delivered a great set that took the crowd on highs and lows, but ultimately I left the club around 4:45 a.m. - going out by yourself in a foreign city sucks when you’re pretty sober. I would have left earlier, but every time I wanted to grab my coat, Flügel would drop a track that kept me dancing in my spot. Ultimately, though, I ended the night missing my ATL people and my ATL vibes.
Last weekend I was finally back in my old stomping grounds, ready to see the same amazing DJ. This time the party would be different from the last time Flügel was in town. You may remember when the venue known as Alley Cat shut down in December last year, but founder Hernan Piraquive, also known as Tocayo, reworked the brand and turned it into something more than just a venue. Alley Cat Music Membership is now a “large scale music community” that will be throwing well-curated parties all over Atlanta and more.
Walking into Music Room felt like walking into my living room. Same red smoky vibe as the venue in Rome, but the literally underground club held a charm that no European spot could replicate – it had that Atlanta Soul. Tocayo was on the decks passionately amping the crowd up, and the smell of herb lingered in the air. The crowd might not have been as chic, but they were going hard and it was only half past midnight. Although I saw lots of familiar faces, there was also a lot of newbies. Three months away from the city, and already a whole new set of partygoers had been drawn to the underground. Flügel came on at 1:00 a.m. and picked up the same heavy pace where Tocayo had left off.
It was significantly more cramped than in Rome, and the dance floor felt sticky with sweat and hot bodies. That Dirty South heat filled the room, and everyone was grooving. As I took in the scene I allowed myself to let go completely. I was back home, and the music was hitting me in intoxicating waves. I might not have known everyone in that room, but during the time I was there, I felt surrounded in the familiarity of my city. Flügel delivered the perfect three-hour set that went well into 4:00 a.m. again taking the crowd up and down with eclectic electronic sounds.
After his set, I asked the DJ and producer how he felt playing here versus back in Rome. He admitted that although both cities are fun to play, down here we have something special – unlike anywhere else, and I can’t help but agree. ATLiens are a unique breed. Without a doubt, it was one hell of a night. A party is a party no matter where you are in the world, but there’s something so delicious about ending up at Waffle House at 5:00 in the morning with a group of your favorite people. ATL, it’s good to be back.