Last October, when Marco Carola and The Martinez Brothers played back-to-back at El Patio, they did so on little more than a large foldaway table. In terms of wrapping up the summer in spontaneous fashion the concept definitely worked, but for Music On’s daytime incarnation to flourish on a more permanent basis it made sense to upgrade the basics. Entering the venue at 4pm on a roasting August afternoon, it’s clear that this hidden Ibiza courtyard has had a makeover.
There’s a brand-new DJ booth, an arching wooden structure festooned with flowers and automated lasers. The dancefloor has been repaved to make it suitable for stomping. And most importantly, the old sound rig has been replaced with a rip-roaring Funktion-One system. Visually, though, El Patio still flaunts that quintessential South Beach Miami vibe, the balconies that surround the dancefloor lashed in bright white and pastel blue.
When we arrive, Ibiza-born selector Anna Tur is in the booth, warming up the party – one of a number of new talents making an impression at El Patio this summer. “It’s great that Music On are putting so much faith in us,” Anna says after her set. “Ibiza DJs tend to hold residencies at beach clubs, but they don’t usually have the opportunity to play with big promoters. This summer a lot of local DJs can’t even work at the beach clubs. Because of the new sound restrictions many smaller bars have decided not to employ any DJs at all, which means a lot of local DJs are now out of work.”
“It’s important to support the local DJs,” says promoter Davide Avallone. “The biggest DJ in the world can make an amazing social media post, but if people on the dancefloor aren’t connecting with each other, what’s the point? We use social media, of course, but we’re also working in the street the old school way, representing the brand. Besides that, the local DJs are connected to people on the island, which means people come here to support them and not just to see the headliner. Many promoters from outside the island have tried to make this format work, but when you come from Ibiza it’s more natural. There’s no need for any great strategy.”
The upshot of putting so much faith in up-and-coming local talent is the propagation of a genuine family vibe among the crowd – who seem to be 95 per cent Spanish and Italian. “You rarely see English people here,” says 27-year-old Shaun from Oxford. “And if you do they tend to fall into the party rather than making a conscious decision to come here. I’ve been coming here for the past eight weeks. I’m not bashing English people, but take a look around: can you see a single person filming the party on their phone? No. Everyone is here for the music and that’s why this party is so unique.”
On the dancefloor, in the booth, at the bar, we do get the feeling that everyone here at El Patio knows each other – and they’re keen to get to know anyone they don’t .
Although unofficially billed as the Music On afterparty, the vibe here at El Patio is anything but messy. Free wristbands for this event may have been handed out at Music On’s flagship event at Amnesia only a few hours earlier, but we can’t see a single zombie from the night before. The 700-strong crowd are fresh-faced and up for it. And in contrast to most gigs on the island, there’s at least two girls on the dancefloor to every guy.
At 6pm it’s time for another local, Eder Alvarez, to take control of the decks. Eder’s sound is rolling and full of groove, percussive bangers like ‘Mother F*cker’ by Dennis Cruz fusing neatly with his own productions – think wAFF’s reworking of ‘Trippy Phase’.
A little later we’re treated to a set from Jean Pierre, the emerging American DJ who made his Music On debut last night at Amnesia. His set is percussive and techy, but he’s not afraid to drop in a few vocals to maintain the groove.
Jean Pierre is not a newcomer to the scene, by any means, yet his Music On story follows a similar narrative to Eder’s and Anna’s. “I’ve been partying at Music On since it first started in 2012,” he says. “I was here last year when Marco Carola and The Martinez Brothers played back-to-back, and I never missed a Friday at Marquee when Music On was in New York. Marco and the guys knew I was a DJ, but we built a relationship as friends first. I was nervous as anything before my set at Amnesia last night, but Stacey Pullen was very cool. He gave us the energy, the confidence. You look up to guys like Stacey; he’s a Detroit legend. You buy their records, watch them play whenever they are in town, then when they see you in the booth they’re happy to support you.”
The final set of the evening belongs to Felix Da Housecat. Earlier in the day, on route to the party, all of our excitement was focused on the Chicago legend, the indisputable headliner this evening. Post midnight, however, we find ourselves discussing the lesser-known lights that Music On has championed today. It’s not that Felix disappointed. Like Marco Carola, Stacey Pullen, Leon and Paco Osuna, all of whom headlined here earlier in the summer, he is simply part of the team.
On an island awash with manufactured parties stacked with headliners, Music On have decided to do things differently. And in El Patio they have a training ground where fresh-faced new family members can hone their skills.