Central Bristol

On the day of Alfresco Disco, there was a celebratory air in the streets of central Bristol. The glare of a long-awaited summer sun highlighted the rainbow colours of the city; the vibrant shades painted onto the streets in anticipation for Pride. Alfresco Disco’s last three parties unfolded in the subterranean setting of an underground industrial chamber, but on this day, the city centre location felt as though the Bristol institution was returning to its roots, occupying outdoor spaces with zealous ravers who danced around some of the best sound systems the city has to offer.

Information on the location and line-up, in typical Alfresco Disco fashion, was withheld until the very last minute. Details were scarce, but we were promised the party’s biggest outdoor extravaganza to date and told to expect something very special from ‘Electric Avenue’. As for what to wear? We were instructed to don neon colours to match the mysterious venue’s given name. As we walked through central Bristol, thousands flocked to a road decorated with disco balls, brightly-coloured ribbons and bunting. Amidst the chromatic sea, we were able to distinguish three stages: The Main Stage, The Tunnel and The Cider Box – the latter served fresh brews from the local taphouse located onsite.

The atmosphere on the grounds distinctly felt like an Alfresco Disco party – an alchemy of suspense, mystery and hedonism. The majority of the crowd were regulars who’d frequented the events since the party’s inception in 2005, as though it was a kind of rave-attuned ritual. Many had made the pilgrimage from different cities, and were seeking a sense of reinvigoration from the dancefloor. Rapturous house-focused sets reflected the warmth of the party’s close-knit community as familiar faces returned for Alfresco Disco’s largest chapter to date. The energy felt particularly special on this day, with the spirit of Pride imbuing the party.

One of the first artists to take to the Tunnel stage was Noods Radio resident and Familiar Strangers head honcho Remotif, whose deft blends of old school trance, from the likes of Atlantis, and more recently produced euphoric house from Bristol label Commatraxx set the evening’s tone. He warmed up for another local hero, Daisy Moon, who assertively led us through a fine-tuned selection of leftfield house and old school classics.

Though it was hard to peel ourselves away, the allure of a set from Adonis resident and DiY Sound System co-founder Grace Sands was tempting. Her sultry deep house selections allowed us to settle into a groove before the sun started to disappear, and a new energy ripped across the crowd via the use of accelerated BPMs. Nathan Worm, the co-founder of Bristol’s Worm Disco Club, turned the party up a notch with his opening declaration: “I’m not a drum’n’bass DJ, but I fucking love old school drum’n’bass so I’m going to play a bit of that!” It’s met by whoops and cheers. His set resembled a kaleidoscopic journey that travelled through jungle, garage and house – even making stops at Roots Manuva classics for good measure. The crowd fed off his enthusiasm and the unpredictability of the set, as Worm gave the sense that he, too, had little idea what was coming next. This kind of approach feels distinctly a part of the Alfresco Disco party formula; DJs play with a crowd, and the synergy is emblematic of the event’s sense of community.

A closing set from Detroit-raised, London-based Semi Delicious boss Demi Riquísimo epitomises this, as what would have otherwise likely been a set dominated by progressive house and italo sounds instead became a whiplash tour around the rowdiest corners of drum’n’bass, speed garage and power edits of Hyph Mngo. It was clear that Riquísimo was attuned to the typical tastes of Bristol ravers, but with the city offering little more in the way of house-focused event series, his 4×4 selections were met with equal excitement.

It’s true that Alfresco Disco is unique in its offering of Bristol-based house and techno parties, but its traction extends far beyond the musical output. To have maintained the loyalty of so many – even when faced with the potential stumbling blocks of secret line-ups and the fraughtness of a post-pandemic landscape – is a testament both to the enduring allure of free party culture, and the team’s curatorial prowess.