The Best Dance Clubs in America
For the fourth installment in our series on great music venues, Rolling Stone polled 23 insiders and musicians – from top managers to superstar DJs like Seth Troxler and Carl Cox – and came up with a list of the nation's coolest dance clubs. Read on for our expert panel's picks, and visit our Venues that Rock page for an interactive map and much more.
By Steve Knopper
Steve Angello (Swedish House Mafia)
Rob Swire (Knife Party)
Daniel Pearce (Eats Everything)
Jonathan Davis (Korn/JDevil)
Jake Schneider (manager, Bassnectar)
Andrew Cook (manager, Deadmau5)
Daniel Glass (head of Glassnote Records)
Brian Ahern (agent, William Morris Endeavor)
Tom Windish (agent)
Pasquale Rotella (CEO and founder, Electric Daisy Carnival)
Matt Colon (manager, Steve Aoki and others)
Alastair Duncan (publicist)
Steve Goodgold (agent)
Gary Richards (HARD Events, DJ DESTRUCTO)
Clark Warner (executive creative director, Beatport)
U Street Music Hall, Washington, D.C.
There are no dress codes, VIP areas or bottle service at D.C.'s underground outpost, and the seats are mostly bar stools: "U Street Music Hall is for dancing, not sitting," reminds their official website. Come here for cool DJs like Juan MacLean and Boys Noize, plus super-high-energy parties spotlighting the buzzy local sound known as moombahton.
Fun Fact: The club runs its own charity foundation, giving grants to nonprofits and music-education programs.
Spy Bar, Chicago
A $1 million renovation a few years back made this intimate River North party paradise sweeter than ever. Top DJs spin here regularly, and during Lollapalooza weekend in August, big-name electronic bands such as M83 spill into nighttime club sets. "Great vibe," says Seth Troxler. "Basically the only place I play in Chicago."
Fun Fact: SpyBar made local headlines last year when a patron punched a sprinkler and drenched the clientele. The dude claimed it was an accident, but security cameras clearly busted him as a vandal.
Electric Pickle, Miami
Tired of South Beach's models-and-bottles scenes? Try the Pickle, where serious EDM heads get down. DJ Harvey praises the "epic mirrorball/lighting installation" on the upper level, and his fellow U.K. groove expert Subb-an loves the high-energy vibe. "When this place goes off," says Subb-an, "it really kicks."
Fun Fact: Ultra Music Festival ravers were bummed out when the Pickle closed for renovation this spring, but good news: It's back and better than ever!
Cielo, New York
DJs from New York icon François K, who throws Monday night's Deep Space party, to major U.K. and Ibiza stars make this longtime NYC spot an underground temple. The no-frills club also has a reputation for booking new talent just before they get too famous to play somewhere this small. Much of the credit goes to owner Nicolas Matar, who honed his skills during an eight-year residency at Pacha in Ibiza. "Nicolas is a DJ, too, so he knows how to keep us happy," says DJ Harvey. "Custom-built club with lovely custom sound."
Fun Fact: Matar's parents were regulars at Studio 54, the legendary Seventies disco club, and he learned how to DJ by listening to his father's vinyl collection.
Pacha, New York
Since the Ibiza institution with the double-cherry logo opened its first North American branch in 2005, it's grown into perhaps the city's biggest superstar-DJ magnet. Danny Tenaglia, Benny Benassi, Erick Morillo and more spin for unhinged late-night parties that stretch well into the next morning. The four-level club's main room features an LED-covered DJ booth and a Dynacord speaker system with 17 subwoofers for maximum thump, but regulars know the coziest spots are upstairs – Pachita is a penthouse luxury lounge, and the second-floor Atrium has balcony views. "I love to go a little dark and dirty sometimes," says Steve Angello, "so I love this place."
Fun Fact: Wearing a skintight dress emblazoned with coin-colored sequins, Kim Kardashian launched her new line of credit cards here in 2010.
Sound, Los Angeles
"It's built around the DJ," says Swedish House Mafia's Steve Angello, "and a lot of darker music really works there." The 8,000-square-foot club is almost absurdly high-tech, with a top-of-the-line Funktion One sound system, screens displaying 3D-mapped images, a massive DJ booth and burlesque dancers, occasionally wearing gas masks, on tall platforms shown in silhouette. And while L.A.'s dance scene is crowded, Sound is more than surviving – in part because, as Seth Troxler says, it's "the only actual venue in L.A. that features an underground vibe."
Fun Fact: Some of the wood built into the club comes from the paneling at one of Frank Sinatra's former homes.
XS, Las Vegas
Vegas' DJ business is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and top DJs can easily snag six figures for residencies at the biggest casinos. At XS, the roster includes top talent from Skrillex to Tiesto to Diplo and more. That, plus the super-glossy digs – flashy gold everywhere, opulent chandeliers, 100 VIP tables, 30 outdoor cabanas and strategically placed naked headless mannequins – led several of our panelists to hail XS as the best club in town. "It feels like the nightclub center of it all," says Knife Party's Rob Swire. "It's so extravagant, it's nuts. It tends to be a good crowd whatever time of year it is."
Capacity: Usually 5,000, but as much as 8,000 on a busy night
Fun Fact: When the club opened on New Year's Eve 2008, its public relations people said it was inspired by the "sexy curves of the human body."
Star Detroit spinner Seth Troxler has been to some pretty cool clubs in his day, but he ranks this brand-new spot in Williamsburg as his hands-down favorite: "Perfect sound, amazing lineups and great Sunday parties," he says. "If you want underground music, there is nowhere better in America." Lots of serious dance music heads agree, citing the club's mega sound system, rooftop party decks and the coolest DJ lineup (Danny Tenaglia, James Murphy, Cassy) in North America.
Fun Fact: Output and other DJ hotspots such as the Bossa Nova Civic Club are leading a renaissance of dance music in Brooklyn.
Like partying with celebs? Leonardo DiCaprio, Jay Z, Kanye West, George Clooney, Diddy and the entire Miami Heat all love this glittering groove palace. It's the centerpiece of Miami Beach's posh Fontainebleau hotel, with six skyboxes, three bars, tons of beautiful people and a massive dancefloor that rocks to the sounds of EDM champs from Steve Angello to Calvin Harris. Says Steve Aoki manager Matt Colon, "The grand scale embodies Miami."
Fun Fact: LIV is the Roman numeral for 54 – which stands for 1954, the year that the Fontainebleau Hotel first opened.
Everything about this place is huge, from the headlining DJs (Skrillex, Deadmau5, John Digweed) to the liquid-nitrogen-fueled fog machine (they go through 1,000 liters a night) to the monster 72,000-watt sound system – which you can hear booming from blocks away. "We get so much shit from our neighbors because it's so loud," says one of the club's execs. "The bass just bounces off the concrete." Opened five years ago by Brad Roulier, who co-founded EDM download giant Beatport, Beta has become a major mecca for serious dance music heads and casual partiers alike. "People who have never partied in Denver don't really understand how hard they go here," says rapper Talib Kweli.
Fun Fact: Beta is an easy drive from Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which our panel voted the coolest amphitheater in the country. For a truly memorable weekend, rock out at Red Rocks, then head here for the afterparty of a lifetime.
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