Welsh Back Health Club, Bristol
For those of you who’ve been reading Crack for some time, you’ll be aware that we like what Alfresco Disco do. With the friendly but epic spirit of their parties, Alfresco’s new year’s eve events in particular succeed in making the night feel like a massive deal without the barely endurable hustle and bustle that’s pretty much a given at most large parties on this occasion. If you’re in Bristol and you’re looking for a big one for NYE, then there’s no other option. And actually, if you’re in London and you’re looking for a big one, then it’s probably worth the coach fair.
In keeping with tradition, the line-up venue was top secret until the 11th hour (Alfresco’s inner circle are famously tight-lipped, making it impossible to extract any solid info from the local gossip leading up to the event) and tickets sold out instantly. In contrast to the old-fashioned grandiosity of the previous two NYEs – ‘The Ambassador’s Reception’ in Bristol’s gothic Guild Hall, ‘The House of Curiosity’ that took place at a millionaire antique dealer’s mansion in Almondsbury – this year’s party had a distinctly retro-futuristic theme, with impressive visuals projecting early computer-style graphics across the many rooms of the Welsh Back squash and health club.
And yes, the squash courts were open. With ‘stewards’ handing out racquets to anyone who fancied a game all night and playable, exercise bike-powered video games on show; the night had provided the kind of unique, interactive quirks that’ll probably remain a lasting memory for those who got involved. After exploring the Welsh Back, the first DJ set we got stuck into was being spun by Felix Dickinson. As a veteran selector who cut his teeth at the highly-mythologised, free-spirited Tonka Soundsystem parties, we’d like to think that Dickinson would grant Alfresco’s ethos a nod of approval. While the inclusion of live performances – most notably the London-via-Paris experimentalist Romare – added depth to the overall experience, it was the upstairs ‘Workout Room’ which felt like the centre of the party, with a packed out, up-for-it room being in the safe hands of respected Bristol DJs such as Christophe, Lukas and Tom Hodgson, who seemed to operate with a casual-but-confident schedule.
Tucked downstairs was the weights, or ‘Pumping Iron’, room complete with free weights and other hefty-looking exercise equipment, with wood panelling and mirrored walls adding another element of out-of-place-mischief that exists at the core of the Alfresco experience. Here, selectors such as Jay L and Remove Me preceded DJ October, who spun a heady mix of blown-out house, techno and industrial to a perspiring 4am crowd. In keeping with the theme of the night, it felt only fitting that one of the last tracks we heard at the venue was Joey Beltram’s 90s techno anthem Energy Flash. Still, this chaotic atmosphere was only a door away from a small squash court-side room looking over the water that housed unabashed feel-good classics as well as welcoming group singalongs for the entirety of the night. The free-spirited enthusiasm of the event was palpable around every corner. And while Alfresco Disco has established its reputation with things that money can’t really buy – unpredictability, atmosphere, the warm-natured attitude of the crowd it pulls – this approach maintains its firm grip on the hearts, hazed memories and hasty buying power of New Year’s Eve crowds.