Perceptions of Pacha... Brasilian tour.

Words by: smac
Posted: 21/5/08 13:32

The dance floor is heaving as the rose-hued lights pass back and forth, bouncing off the white leather sofas of the raised VIP, where more scantily clad bodies sway on wooden tiers rising up almost to the roof.

Ultra Nate's remix of the Pointer Sister's classic 'Automatic' sends the feather clad gogos on the podiums into a fluttering frenzy and the lights suddenly flash a bright P.A.C.H.A. on the back wall simultaneously revealing a semi-nude beauty dipped in a giant sized half filled Martini glass, liquid sloshing out and spilling onto the revellers below.

Pacha Ibiza? No. Pacha Sao Paulo. Though you'd be forgiven for getting the two confused.  If it weren't for the 16 hours of travelling I'd certainly have not realised that I'd left the island.

We'd just arrived with Sarah Main and the Pacha TV crew for the latest leg of their global journey, armed with a Pacha Brazil CD to promote, tasked with a documentary to produce for the new TV channel, and looking forward to christening the brand new Pacha Buzios; as far as corporate brands go, it couldn't get more orchestrated. But just how professional is that image that Pacha likes to project? How much of a business has this business become? Is it really all about the bottom line? What's the secret to success in sustaining a global club franchise when so many others have tried and failed? 

Pulling up at a huge warehouse lot in downtown Sao Paulo the only giveaway that this is the back entrance to Pacha is the two giant and glittery polystyrene cherries leaning against the wall. Uncannily like the side entrance to Pacha Ibiza, we make our way through a maze of white walls and into the dancers dressing rooms. It's like being on a studio lot of the original club; a gaggle of gogos, all tutus and fishnets perch on mirror-backed countertops chattering. More mazes and we suddenly arrive in the back bar of the VIP, which in turn spits us out into the DJ booth where a Steve Lawler look-a-like is warming up the swaying masses. A quick exploration of the club reveals that we're actually not inside an old Balearic finca as first glance might suggest, but a giant warehouse carefully camouflaged to look like one. The main room is an enclosed bubble around which several bar areas and other dance floors lead off, and outside is a wooden decked terrace. Possibly the only part of the whole disco bearing no resemblance to Pacha Ibiza, this is more like old style Space or DC10; squashed up corner booth and swaying palm trees barely covering the industrial landscape surrounding us. By the time Sarah Main ends up here at 9am dropping Dolly Parton in the glorious daylight, there's not even a spare branch to hang from. 

Back in the club though Gordon Edge has finished blowing his own trumpet and is handing over the decks to Main. If you had to choose a public face of your company then you'd want someone like Sarah. She's the perennially cheerful sort of girl that you could introduce your parents to, yet at the same time has just enough mischief lurking beneath the surface to lead you well astray without warning. She slips behind the Sao Paulo decks with ease, it's her 5, 6, or 7th time here, she's can't remember which, but she's been here loads. First touring simply to promote the Pacha name and introduce it to the Brazilian market, and now to play at the Pacha's as they open. So far there are 2.

"The Pacha brand is nice and friendly. (its) perfect for what we need, it has the glamour, it's not too heavy with the music. The trend in the clubs in the last 10 years has been for a square black box with a sound system... Theming and the dressing up… Brazilian people love this really."  Leo Sanchez 

Brazil's franchisee is Leo Sanchez; he's a well-known figure in the South American music scene. Originally hailing from Argentina, where Pacha's most famous South American home in Buenos Aires he ruefully admits, is very good but not one of his, he's been a resident in Sao Paulo since the new club opened and the parent company of the whole project, Industria do Entretenimento, has based its head office in the same enormous building.

From there the 35 strong team oversee all the design, bookings, promotion, press and planning of not just the Pacha brand in Brazil, but a whole range of other businesses, clubs, restaurants, event and tours. In fact the association with Pacha first started as part of a 30 date Go:Play Ballentines tour that Industria were coordinating 6 years ago, and has been carefully manipulated to introduce the Ibiza brand in just the right way;

"It was a good association. Ballentines is a premier brand and Pacha was the producer of the tour. We started the tour with a little Pacha logo and by the end; the tour was really a Pacha tour. We made the first party in Maresias, because the best people from Sao Paulo have houses there. Maresias is the only beach on the Litoral coast to have a helipad. And all the well-off people from Sao Paulo have helicopters, if you listen around Sunday afternoon, all you hear are helicopters leaving to go back to the city, it's like rush hour in the sky."

All the influential people from Sao Paulo have houses there and it's important if something starts here, then it can spread to all of Brazil. If we had started the Pacha brand in Brasilia, or Curutiba, and people hadn't heard of the brand, then it wouldn't spread, but if something has started in Maresias, with the Paulistas, then it will have success. The Paulistas are the most sophisticated of all the people in Brazil. The politicians are in Brasilia, the entrepreneurs are in Sao Paulo and the famous people are in Rio. Maresias covers all of these areas, it's a good place to unite everyone and start something new." 

Indeed the beach resort of Maresias is the site of Industria's own 15-year-old super club Sirena, where the tour rocks up on its 3rd stop. After a pretty gruelling bus journey from Rio the Pacha crew (and me) are feeling slightly worse for wear, and although the pretty little guesthouse where we're dropped off lifts spirits slightly, we're still not really sure what to expect as we pick our way through puddled dirt streets to the venue a couple of hours later. Sarah's been here before though, and points out the lounge venue Morocco as we pass it, where she has also played. The Brazil team own both places and use them to complement each other. Saving the 2000 capacity Sirena for special events and rinsing the restaurant bar vibe of Morocco when it's closed.

Although there's hardly anyone on the street as we arrive, the imposing entrance barriers of Sirena show signs of the hordes inside. The main room is heaving as resident Carlo Dall'Anese sets the Pacha pace perfectly. Those glittery Pacha cherries are fighting for space above the crowd's head with an enormous rotating mermaid, the clubs namesake presumably, and giant screens all around the venue project various Pacha images and logos. As soon as Sarah takes to the decks the giant letters from Pacha Sao Paolo light up and the girl in the glass begins her seductive swirling once again. Considering this isn't an actual Pacha, it's doing a damn good impersonation of one. We've brought dancers with us too, who have recovered better than us from the bus journey and add the final artistic touch to the effect.

I've certainly never seen a tour like it. Most club brand tour packages consist of a DJ and banner if you're lucky. I certainly can't imagine any other label I know lugging a giant Martini glass across the country just for effect. But it's all this effort that creates the feeling of Pacha obviously, which Sanchez clearly understands. When first looking for an international brand to bring to Brazil he spoke to many different potential partners including Space, Amnesia and Fabric but "Pacha is a brand that has the structure to be able to do franchising really well. And that is good, because the other clubs we spoke to, we didn't feel the same about" 

Sanchez has plenty of experience with theming and production, amongst his assorted businesses are a Cuban themed restaurant and Italian style pizza house, but so why not just do the club themselves? Why take what is essentially an outside and relatively unknown brand to launch the clubs in Brazil? 

"Brazilian people love international things. The brands here are very important, for example Diesel here sells more than anywhere else in the world, you have five stores here for every 2 in New York, international names work here. When I started working in Sao Paulo with my partners, we looked at Sirena first. It's  an old brand, nearly 15 years old which for a club is a good age, but the brand is really associated with beach, and it's too summer, or too weekend, or just too Maresias, so we thought that if we tried to take that brand to Sao Paula then maybe we would lose the real idea of it."

He add "Sao Paulo is a huge city. 18 million people, There is no other big club. The next biggest club in the city holds 800 people. If anyone from Sao Paulo wanted to see a super club, or a big DJ, then they had to come to Maresias, over 200 km away to see them on the decks. So we looked for somewhere in the city where we could do this. At first we thought of the upmarket or nice or beautiful areas of the city, but no space, so we looked to the industrial side, the warehouses, it's where house music originated in New York in these parts of the cities."

Securing the place was only half the battle, the Pacha name had been previously registered so that took some wrangling, the licenses had to be secured and then the actual club built. At least time and money was saved on design...

"The Urgell family, really let us do the clubs however we want, and we took the idea of that Balearic architecture, because we felt that that is the essence of Pacha. If you go to New York, the Pacha there is really a New York club, it's not an Ibiza club in New York, the one in London is a London club, and that's good. But for us, the soul of Pacha is that white colour, in the curves of the walls, in the mosaics in the toilets. We took a camera to Pacha Ibiza and took a lot of photos and just said, 'we want to recreate this' because the soul idea of the club is that.

You have the same thing here in Sao Paulo, the wooden floors, the balconies, the white of the VIP, I mean some people might not like that style, but you can't say its not Pacha. he same in Buzios, we do with the same style, a minimalist white clean idea, with the sea right next to it. We will do all the Pachas in Brazil in that style. It's easy, it's not too expensive, the materials are easy to use and find, and more importantly, and where a lot of clubs all over the world make a mistake, is that you can spend a lot on money on a lot of things, furniture decoration etc to physically make the club, but you also need to spend money on the club when it's open.We opened the club last year with Roger Sanchez in the main room and Armin Van Buuren on the terrace, 2 weeks later, we had the first F*** Me I'm Famous with David Guetta, we had Fatboy Slim on Carnival weekend, and these things are very expensive for us, the logistics and transports and the ticket entrance is not so expensive. But we spend a lot of money on these things instead." 

Pacha Buzios was the second night of the tour, the club has actually been open for a couple of weeks, but Sanchez wanted to ensure that all the usual tensions of the first few sessions were out of the way before showing the venue to the rest of the Pacha team. He needn't have worried, the venue location and view alone is enough to completely wipe out shortcomings elsewhere. Not that there were any...

"I think of it as being part of a big family, that's how it feels. All the Pacha's that have been opening up recently, have been retaining some of the features of the original Pacha; I think it's the type of people that go to Pacha that are similar around the world." Sarah Main.

Situated in what looks like a cobbled shopping arcade at the end of a long beachside boardwalk, Pacha's distinctive rounded wooden doors open onto a familiar looking red and white foyer area. Steps downstairs led to a medium sized room with a sunken dance floor that at first glance could be any Pacha in the world. Gradually though as our eyes became accustomed to the darkness, we realised that one side of the venue is an enormous long window, and that just inches from the other side waves lapped on the shore. Quite how you go about constructing a club with a dance floor below sea level and with nothing but a tiny beach on one side, I have no idea, but lanterns on fishing boats bobbing up and down was the best lighting show I've ever seen in a nightclub.

Ex-Ibiza resident and new Pacha Buzios resident DJ Da Cat opens up for Sarah, and the whole Pacha team from Sao Paulo turn up to celebrate which makes for a riotous party to say the least. The previous night had gone on late enough, before a full days travelling to get here, but this is one professional party team and the launch of Pacha Buzios is a worthy celebration.

Sarah sums up why she thinks the brand works as a franchise "I think of it as being part of a big family, that's how it feels. All the Pacha's that have been opening up recently, have been retaining some of the features of the original Pacha, you know, keeping it white, with a raised VIP area. It's a good energy. I think it's the type of people that go to Pacha that are similar around the world. They know the Pacha name and they know what to expect. I think it's the clientele that holds it all together." That and the team behind it I'd say. The aim in Brazil is to keep moving, keep opening more and seize the moment. As Sanchez believes "When you have the working machine like Pacha, with an international brand, whatever we put into that machine will work. Now is the time, the moment, with the brand, the clothes, the CDs. A lot of people said that Pacha would not work in Brazil, they said that the people who go to Pacha are the people that want to go to Ibiza; that it's not a city club, that it's a beach club. We did a lot of market research studies to understand the brand, and the level to pitch at."

Next on the cards is the south of Brazil. This tour is also taking in Curitiba, where the next Pacha will land, warming up the area with the music and the style before going into business with another local partner, as in Buzios. Sanchez has a formula that he intends to replicate across the country "A main focal point for (the south) is Warung, another very strong beach club, they're our big competitor for Brazil's Best Beach Club every year, but we will be working together to make the next Pacha in the south."

Not in Balneario Camborui, (where Warung is situated) there are already enough clubs there now, and Florianopolis also is not far away, so we're going to make the next club in Guritiba, because all the people that are going down to those beach places, are Guritiba people, the same as the people here (Maresias) are Paulistas.  So we need to start in the capital, and then later go to the beach. The idea is for next summer, to open somewhere in Florianopolis."

"Whenever we open a Pacha we have a local partner, someone involved with the nightlife and the politics. In the south, we want to work with the main competition, to start a war is no good for anybody, except for the agents and the DJs and the promoters. Our model is to use Pacha as the umbrella, it's new and it's old and the brand is above all of that stuff. You can have 2 clubs 200km apart, but if you are working together you can collaborate, one night 1 club has a big DJ, so the other doesn't. The same way that we use Morocco and Sirena, we are competition, because every night the managers compete, but then if we have a big party in Sirena, then we don't program anything for Morocco, and vice versa. That's the idea in the south too." 

It's a great idea, and maybe the best solution when bringing in an international brand like Pacha. Neutralise any competition by unifying together under the Pacha name. It's certainly working so far. That friendly spirit coupled with all the support of the Ibiza structure and reputation has led to a great success so far, but maybe ultimately the credit belongs back home in Ibiza, where what is essentially a family run business has developed some very important and strong personal connections with people that really understand and more importantly 'fit' their brand. Along the whole tour we're accompanied by Pacha people, it's almost a generic type. Hard-working, dedicated, polished people working for a single cause.

Sarah's take on working with Pacha is typical "It's such a respected brand, and I'm happy to be associated with that brand. It works well for me, and I work well for them, I hope there's a bit of give and take there you know. But I take pride in my work and I try to do the best job I can for Pacha, and ultimately, the music that I like to play, is very Pacha."

A big business run in a family way, with close relationships between dedicated people who believe in the brand. It's not such a complicated formula. Why isn't anyone else able to compete? I couldn't even begin to tell you...  |  |  | 


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