The Underground

Speaking with Crack Magazine back in 2015, Luke Turner and Tom Hodgson reminisced on the 10-year evolution of their now infamous party brand: “We want people to keep that feeling you get when you go to a secret location or free party… that excitement of stumbling across something totally new and different.” Six years on, not only did this year’s edition prove that Alfresco Disco’s free party ethos remains intact, but it was also used to raise thousands for local charities such as Creative Youth Network and Empire Fighting Chance.

Alfresco’s unorthodox use of surprise locations and off-the-grid mentality has earned it a reputable status both within Bristol and beyond. Since the event’s conception underneath a railway bridge in 2005, the Alfresco team have invigorated remote spaces such as quarries, fitness centres and car parks with vibrant, house-led soundtracks and spectacular set design, courtesy of Chris Faulds. Alfresco Disco regulars may remember the event’s 2013 Victorian-themed New Year’s Eve soirée in a 14-bedroom mansion, or the 2018 Christmas party in the since-demolished Royal Mail sorting office.

Aside from its surprise locations, Alfresco parties are famed for their visual extravagance. This year’s 15-year anniversary party continued to be unexpected for some, with the organisers swapping its vibrant, signature style for a stripped-back warehouse setting, reminiscent of Manchester’s Mayfield Depot and Bristol’s own Motion.

Instructed to bring negative lateral flow tests and positive energy, hundreds of glittered and fishnet-donning house-heads flocked to an underground industrial chamber in central Bristol, the exact location of which was not disclosed until noon that day. Boasting two stages, two bars, a multi-level chill-out room and multiple sound systems, the venue’s impressive size somewhat trumped the incongruity of Alfresco’s destinations – the sense of mischief that comes with the feeling of being somewhere you’re not supposed to. Nonetheless, despite the general use of warehouse settings for events, sets were punctuated by baffled exclamations of surprise, proving that the Alfresco Disco team are still able to maintain the element of mystery through their parties.

The event’s line-up, too, remained a secret until the very last minute. Playing alongside Alfresco residents were K.I.I.A, Deli-G and Dan Shake. Feel-good selections took priority over stylistic variety as unabashed classics from the likes of Flashback of a Genius, Rudys Playhouse and Micheal Gray resonated off the chamber walls, and were met with an ecstatic response from a crowd who’d been missing such dancefloor euphoria.

House scene veteran Gideön brought “major homo-centric haus vibes”, playing a strictly four-to-the-floor selection which hit the sweet spot between house and techno. Saison’s remix of Art of Tones’ 2018 release, Gimme Some More, was a particular hit amongst party-goers. After, Gideön thanked attendees on Instagram for a “kinda major night”, admitting that “I didn’t really know what I was walking into”.

The size and less-than-intimate feel of the venue didn’t detract from the sense of togetherness which is intrinsic to Alfresco Disco parties. Even in the absence of a line-up, the queues of people could seemingly amount to the capacity of several Bristol clubs combined. It was a visual testament to the endurance of the Alfresco legacy, 15 years down the line.