Ibiza clubbing: Horse Meat Disco – The power of endurance

Disco has proven its power of endurance time and time again since its emergence in the late 1960s – from its mammoth rise to fame and following underground revival to its most recent fashionable return to glory. The genre (and its melange of electronic offshoots) is surely responsible for more hands-in-the-air moments of euphoria than any substance and in 2018, London-based DJ collective Horse Meat Disco are at the forefront of the modern day disco scene. Italian-born quarter of the pack Severino Panzetta believes the longevity of disco is due to the simple fact it makes people happy.

“Disco appeals to all ages,” he says. And he’d know – Horse Meat Disco have been running their own successful disco night in London for 15 years now. “At Glitterbox in Ibiza, there is a predominantly older crowd, say between 30 and 50, who come for the vibe, to have a great time and to sing along – somewhere where it’s not all about techno – but we also notice with our brand, there is a big demand with the younger crowd who also want disco, funk, lyrics and happy vibes. We love it – we’ve played at Glitterbox ever since it first started many years ago at Booom! It’s such a good example of how you can throw a really fun party, with so many things going on – like dancers, drag queens and shows – and really attract a loyal, good crowd.”

As Glitterbox evolved over the years, from founder Simon Dunmore’s initial idea to bring some nostalgia and fun back to the Ibiza dance floors into the flamboyant, fabulous and thriving global event it is today, Horse Meat Disco have been more than just guest DJs. It was their input behind the scenes that led to the brand teaming up with LGBTQ performance agency Sink The Pink London to develop its hugely impressive roster of high-glam performing artists – who today, are almost as much a part of the brand’s appeal and identity as the music itself. The inclusive come one, come all vibe of Glitterbox at Hï Ibiza means the dance floor is indeed a mix of all tribes – male, female, gay, straight, don’t know, don’t care – anyone and everyone is welcome to have a good time.

Horse Meat Disco long ago outgrew their label as a strictly gay party, as their global popularity shot-putted them into the mainstream dance music scene, however Severino laments the demise of the once-thriving gay scene in Ibiza’s historical old town – particularly the most recent closure of the island’s most-beloved gay club, Anfora, a small venue tucked away in the maze of cobbled streets in Dalt Vila under a trellis of lush green vines. “That was such a loss to our community,” he says. “I know things change, but as a gay person who has been coming to Ibiza for 22 years, it feels like this is a low point. Someone needs to do something for the community – take over an old disco or open something else in the old town. It was a very, very special place.”

In the meantime, he’s happy to help lead the charge representing the queer scene at Glitterbox and dreams of a day when the island once again becomes a holiday hotspot for the gay community. “It’s great that Glitterbox is encouraging this kind of crowd,” he explains. “And it’s very cool that some of the artists definitely represent the gay scene – you have us, and people like Honey Dijon and Luke Solomon who are so credible in the gay community and embrace absolutely everybody. It gets the gay community talking, liking the sound of the music and thinking about coming to Ibiza to check it out. But gay tourism is at a low point and we need to sort it out so there are more places that are welcoming to queer gays, not just the muscle queens, so we don’t lose any more people to places like Sitges or Mykonos.”

Severino cites Ibiza’s famously gay-friendly Calle de La Virgen as a favourite place to spend time in Ibiza, along with beachside gay hotspot Chiringay on Es Cavallet. But it was originally Las Salinas and the iconic beach bar of Sa Trinxa that won his heart on his very first trip to Ibiza back in June, 1996. “Since the very first day I arrived on the island, I’ve felt this interesting, incredible energy in Ibiza,” he says of his long-term connection to the island. “People always told me about it and I am not majorly into that kind of thinking, but I can really feel it here. It’s such a beautiful island.”

“I fell in love with Salinas and that whole area instantly,” he continues. “We stayed at Pepita’s hostel, by the Mar y Sal and my friend had a restaurant nearby in San Francisco. I spent hours at Sa Trinxa, listening to Jonathan play – he was, and still is, such an amazing selector. You could stay all day and get into the Balearic tunes from chillout to house – it was so good! Then people told me I needed to go to Manumission at Privilege on a Monday night and I thought there was no way I’d ever see that many people fill that huge club – it was very interesting to see that!” He vividly remembers hearing Armand Van Helden’s iconic remix of Tori Amos’ Professional Widow on that trip, prompting him to return to his home in Verona like a human Shazam, describing her voice and the bassline to the owners in order to get his hands on the vinyl himself (it worked).

It was at Privilege where Severino was booked to play his first ever gig in Ibiza a few years later, followed by the now defunct Pacha Global room and some memorable dates at Sa Trinxa in 2001 that are among his favourite ever Ibiza gigs. “I was still playing vinyl back then,” he reminisces. “I brought four record bags to Ibiza with me – it was crazy, but I just had so much stuff I wanted to play on that beach.” Fast forward to today, and Severino jets into Ibiza regularly to play at Glitterbox, but despite being given the opportunity to stay in luxury villas, he’s never forgotten his humble beginnings at Mar y Sal and prefers to stay there when he can. “I always make a point to go to see Pepita and her daughter Nieves, who now runs the hostel,” he explains. “I love it over there because it’s a protected area and nothing has changed in 22 years.”

Change may be inevitable and yet as the famous saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Take disco for example. Its popularity may have waxed and waned, its place on the dance floor has been challenged and regained and its fans have evolved. But that combination of four-to-the-floor beats and soulful diva vocals has become iconic – and that’s a status that’s never going to change. “It’s just perfect,” concludes Severino.