Sofia By Night: 12 Parties Defining The Bulgarian Dance Music Underground
The rise of rave culture in Bulgaria is not a typical Western anti-establishment story. Unlike their counterparts west of the Iron Curtain, electronic music pioneers in Bulgaria didn’t cut their teeth throwing illegal parties in basements—they threw thousand-people raves in industrial spaces. These massive nights allowed electronic music to strengthen its presence on dance floors throughout the country in the late ‘90s. Enthusiasm grew for a burgeoning culture that was forbidden for 45 years of communist control, and many young Eastern Europeans traveled hundreds of kilometers to see artists like Sven Väth, Carl Cox and Josh Wink.
After nearly a decade of flamboyant nightlife, it was only natural that things cooled off. Amid a series of club closures—followed by the rise of EDM and then of mainstream house—the local scene was forced to go back underground. But Sofia’s electronic music scene today, albeit small, is still home to over a dozen cutting edge DJ crews and venues. True to its radical pioneering roots, many parties are hosted in one-off locations and disused facilities. We took a look at some of the most exciting happenings that are revitalizing the city’s techno scene and keeping its rebellious rave spirit alive.
ФАЗА. is a new techno night created by the local party starters SWIfT GAP Events. Although it’s only been in existence for three months, the party has gained incredible momentum, booking a wide pool of international talent like Tijana T, Antigone, Dario Zenker, Regal, Gabriella Vergilov, Filip Xavi and Vice X in tandem with local live acts like Roboknob, Evitceles, Sub & Kanz, 1000 NAMES and Ebbesen. ФАЗА. is also known for its unorthodox party locations: in the past, it’s taken place in a disused theatre and a former Olympic-sized swimming Pool.
[бетон] is a collective that stands for nothing but raw unadulterated techno. Launched about two years ago by Risto, Phlp. and Linear Output, the project aims to develop the Bulgarian scene by promoting local artists with dark sound aesthetics like Мytrip, Roboknob, Iniakick, StefaК and Apostolski.
Conjure is known for its eponymous warehouse events that have taken place in both Sofia and Amsterdam since 2016. The team behind Conjure also runs a different warehouse party, Kontrol Ground, which aims to recreate a festival feel in a warehouse setting. Recently, Conjure also launched a series of more intimate parties with a limited capacity of up to 300 people. If you happen to be in Sofia during the Christmas holidays, you can check out their Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties with Cleric, Remco Beekwilder, Ansome and Anetha.
KOMPONENTI is a techno label launched by DJ and producer Stephan Panev. What started as an outlet for the Bulgarian artist’s own productions quickly transformed into a collective and a party series. The party’s guiding premise is that each event represents a different concept and sound aesthetic, which also means that it never takes place at the same venue twice.
Contemporary Techno Structures (a.k.a. CTS) is the techno offshoot of Artmospheric Festival. The event series, which was established in 2012, has made a name for itself as a proponent of underground techno in the Bulgarian capital. Underground powerhouses like Peter Van Hoesen, Eric Cloutier, Brando Lupi, Kangding Ray, Synthek, Marcus Henriksson, Shackleton, Refracted and Ness have graced the CTS booth alongside local artists such as Milan, RoboKnob, Moutec and Cinnamint. Unlike the majority of techno nights in Sofia, CTS doesn’t like to keep its dance floors dark. They use 3D mapping and immersive visuals to keep things interesting.
KONNEKTOR KLUBNACHT is one of the newest players in Sofia’s nightlife. Having kicked off with a techno party headlined by Arsy, Benjamin, Coco, Avgustin, Garo and Ed Koev at Fabrika 126 in September, KONNEKTOR aims to bridge Sofia and Berlin through music and art. The promoter has taken some cues from Berghain—the club’s door is regulated by a former bouncer from the city’s legendary gay club, Spartacus.
It’s hard to imagine raving in Sofia without Metropolis. Launched in 1995, the infamous party series has educated generations of ravers. Headed by legendary resident DJs Steven, Jassen Petrov and Smurf, Metropolis has become synonymous with giant warehouse raves under the umbrella of contemporary techno. Its organizers have booked some of dance music’s most prominent names, like Jeff Mills, Chris Liebing, Luke Slater, Ben Sims, Carl Craig, Len Faki, Ellen Allien and many more.
Arguably one of the longest standing parties in Sofia, Porno BPM is a crew best known for helping launch the career of Bulgarian live virtuoso KiNK. It was founded by Bulgarian producers and DJs SuB, Ogonek, KiNK, KEi and Zenk in 2001, and it’s gradually transformed into a production collective. Their bi-monthly showcases usually feature unannounced lineups. These parties offer the rare chance to see KiNK play at an intimate setting in his hometown.
Launched by DJ Kaloo as an online drum & bass radio show and magazine in 2006, Bassline.bg has quickly grown into the biggest dance music portal, event series and collective of like-minded artists in Bulgaria. Although their showcases are few and far between, they always involve lots of dancing soundtracked by the likes of Kaloo, Temporary Permanence and Raredub.
Founded by DJs Emil Doesn’t Drive, Clipper and Phoenix, this disco night is one of Sofia’s best kept secrets. The music at Disco Comrades ranges from obscure Soviet and Bulgarian disco to vintage dance floor anthems. And although they’ve been laying low recently, Disco Comrades will be back soon with a new place to party.
One of Sofia’s most loved underground parties is Elegantly Wasted; its tight-knit community has been an indispensable part of the city’s nightlife since 2009. The party has welcomed selectors like Maayan Nidam, Jane Fitz, Evan Baggs, DJ Dustin and many more alongside its residents Garo, Laylla Dane, Bosha, Svet and Alexandar Kyosev. It’s also notorious for its marathon events—which often span more than 24 hours—that, until this year, were headquartered in the former transformer station known as Studio EW.
Sunday Bunch is a live stream podcast focused on house, minimal and techno. For its nearly three-year history, Sunday Bunch has accumulated over 30 live sessions by Bulgarian DJs like Anton Pau, Alexandar Kyosev and international headliners like S.A.M., LIZZ and Vincentiulian. In October, Sunday Bunch also launched the party series PANAIR with Alexandar Kyosev, Pruskalo Ensamble and Gentle Dub.