Flying into Ibiza on a Monday afternoon can be quite the escapade.
As you descend on Aeroport d'Eivissa, the view from out the window reveals a former jet hangar at the end of the runway. This famed hangar has long since been converted into one of the top clubbing destinations on the map. The letters DC-10 glisten distinctively from its signage.
An hour later, you're there. Engulfed in one of the world's most legendary shindigs. The planes now pass overhead. Powerful reverberations from takeoff are the only match for the throbbing beats at ground level.
Welcome to Circo Loco, a beacon of the hedonistic party ethos of Ibiza. What started 15 years ago as a free daytime party meant to lure the surviving ravers leaving Space's 24-hour Sunday session, has now evolved into a definitive symbol for the underground spirit of dance music culture.
I've arrived at the opening with one mission in mind: to discover just what it is that makes this place so damn special.
Before I boarded that plane and my adventure began, two North American reps for Circo Loco, Ryan Saltzman and Supreet Wahi, were kind enough to give me some advice: "The only sense of time you'll have will be the colour of the sky [outside] and how many people are in the club." Point taken.
Meanwhile, Apollonia's Dyed Soundorom is in blazing form mid-set on the Garden. Dyed has told me in the past that nowhere compares to Circo Loco. He appreciates new talents being given the chance to evolve into a major artist in the scene. Take himself for example, he first came as a fan, then as a guest, then as a resident DJ, and now he's here as an international star.
Dyed wraps up at 7 PM and Crosstown Rebels boss Damian Lazarus assumes command. Usually ever-present on the island, this season was different. Damian's only Ibiza dates have been booked exclusively at Circo Loco.
"Let's be honest, Circo Loco is one of the best parties on the island and possibly on the planet. The brand has always stood for cutting-edge, even knife-edge music," he says. "The feeling inside DC-10 week in and week out is unmatched. To perform here is like a dream come true."
Damian plays like it too. But not wanting to completely miss Subb-an, I dip into the Terrace to catch the end of his appearance. The UK native is a veteran of The Warehouse Project, Fabric, Watergate, D'Edge, Electric Pickle and others. All revered venues with acclaimed soirees on different continents. But for Subb-an, something sets Circo Loco at DC-10 apart.
"The people. But mainly the fact you're in Ibiza with the history of the club adding to that atmosphere. It's legendary. And Circo Loco is a Mecca for where the crowd and artists really make it," he illustrates.
I'm starting to see that for myself. It's not about glitz, glamour or production in here. But rather, raw energy seen bouncing off the walls and floor.
The sun sets by 8:30 PM. Up next is Shonky, Dyed's Apollonia stablemate. It's the first time I've heard him spin solo and he's superb. As a Circo Loco veteran, he has a sense for what the house wants and how they'll perceive the shifts in his set. I swear he could read them with his eyes closed.
The versatile Cassy picks it up in succession. But with an especially short slot, I have no idea what she has in store.
"At DC-10, like at other clubs in Ibiza, people come to go for it, enjoy their holiday, let loose… They have expectations for Circo Loco. There is a certain tension in the air and energy that you have to deal with as a DJ or anyone else in the room really," Cassy explains. "The sets are only 90 minutes long. So how do you manage to grab people and tell them a story? How do you transform their life or spirit in a special way? It's hard work."
She manages expertly. No doubt because Circo Loco has become a family to her. There's a noticeable comfort zone.
"It is very unique to have this form of free-wheeling connection to fellow artists. It leaves capacity for the individual's creativity or performance," she says. "The music styles are different, as are the attitudes and outlooks. That is great. Space to breath!"
When Cassy finishes at 11:30 PM, the dilemma of the night comes to bear: to stay for Maceo Plex here or Sasha in the main room? The audience has been fretting over this decision all evening. But with them only a wall apart, I reckon there's time for each.
"I play pretty much however I'm feeling at the time. Sometimes I'm in a super good mood and might go a bit less dark. And sometimes I want to experiment and play weirder or deeper. While I prefer to be Maceo here, Circo Loco allows for plenty of exploration," he tells me.
Exploration is a key element in the experience. It's on full display as I sidestep to the main room to catch what I can of Sasha. Tonight he experiments with far more of a face scratching selection than you'd expect to hear from him elsewhere. That's because at Circo Loco, any artist can let loose knowing the open-minded congregation will devour whatever is offered them.
An hour passes and it's time to return again to the Terrace at 2:30 AM for Davide Squillace. In the 'next generation' of Circo Loco stars after the Luciano and Loco Dice days, Davide ranks as one of the brand's favourite sons. He considers it one of the best platforms to show what your idea of music is at any given time and how you prefer to share it with the crowd.
"I'm going to quote Mark Rothko on this one: 'The reaction of human beings is the only prize able to satisfy the artist,'" says Davide. "This is the essence of Circo Loco. It isn't about the money. It's about pleasure, enjoyment for what you do and guidelines for where you want to go. I've learned a lot, I've given a lot and I've matured artistically being part of an ideology that's pure and hasn't been corrupted."
Making one final trip to the main room, I see that Dixon has already finished. Can't catch 'em all. But I'm surprised to find Damian Lazarus at it again. Turns out he celebrates his birthday at the club every year during the second week of September. This time, Circo Loco asked him to not only open the Garden but close the party as well.
"I decided that I would treat my sets as a part one and part two. Playing more trippy and good-feeling music outside in the day and taking things weirder and darker later on inside," says Damian. "I even ended in the Garden with a particular sound and started later with the same one as if to make the link."
He's not the only one who has made a link. It's become perfectly clear to me through the course of the evening what makes Circo Loco at DC-10 so significant. I've realized there is no other musical grouping like this that allows for its artists and followers to connect, enjoy and respect each other's individuality and differences to this degree. The wavelength is endless, passing from one generation of underground dance music to the next.
As Damian puts an end to the proceedings around 4 AM, I grant him the last word. It is his birthday, after all.
"The vibe that fans bring to Circo Loco is beyond strong. They are there to have it like it could be the last party on earth. That's my kind of people… and my kind of party."
You can follow Christopher on Twitter and Instagram at: @theCMprogram