Elrow began life as Row 14, a house and techno club that booked the world’s finest underground selectors. Despite the likes of Laurent Garnier and Sven Väth playing there in its opening months, the project was a failure. “In the first three years we lost a lot of money. I think because the market was oversaturated, coming to see DJs was not as special any more,” explains Juan Jr. It forced a total rethink. The idea to put on parties that began in the morning and ran through the day was put forward, and an early image of Elrow was born.
But the Arnaus couldn’t let go of the underground. At the start of 2013 they opened Ker, catering to a slightly older and more discerning crowd through high-end service and bookings such as Vakula, Mathew Jonson and Mr G. “I wanted to build a deep underground scene in Barcelona,” Juan Jr says. But the project was marred by property disagreements, as well as a general downturn in public clubbing interest.
Meanwhile, Elrow’s Sunday sessions were shut down by the authorities, forcing a return to night-time parties. After a year, the family propositioned the council with a request for 12 day-time licenses a year so they could throw one special all-day event each month. Their wish was granted. With the onus taken off throwing home town parties every single weekend, Elrow set its sights on the world and began to flourish into the behemoth it is today.
The rise of Elrow reflects the ethos behind the brand to recognise the shifting desires of punters and strive to provide them with as fun an experience as possible. “In the past 15 years, promoters, including us, became lazy. It was easy to pay a DJ and get a fee and know how much money you were making. Now it’s different,” says Juan Jr. “You need something else.”
As Elrow has evolved, the audience has remained the key focus. Handing out toys and inflatables has been a feature from the start, and it soon became apparent the crowds loved the props. “I remember one guy who had been handed a spool of wool, then all of sudden we were in the middle of the dance floor and everyone was wrapped in wool and freaking out, like, who the hell is doing this?! It was just a customer!” recalls Juan Jr with a grin. After noticing this dimension to the parties, actors were added to the mix to “help [the audience] get even crazier.” Next came Elrow’s mindblowing levels of decoration, completing the formula.