Despacio: The Dancefloor Revolution

James Murphy & Soulwax bringing custom-built 'Despacio' soundsystem to  Panorama

In an era where dance culture is often overshadowed by the glitz of superstar DJs and dazzling lights, Despacio stands out as a beacon of hope. It’s a reminder of the true essence of a dance floor. Conceived by James Murphy and the Dewaele brothers (known for 2manydjs and Soulwax), Despacio is not merely a party, it is a movement, a manifesto celebrating pure musical ecstasy. 

The Genesis of Despacio

The journey of Despacio began in 2013 at the Manchester International Festival. The idea was born from a profound observation by the Dewaele brothers and James Murphy, LCD Soundsystem’s frontman. With over two decades in the dance music arena, they lamented a significant change in dance culture: “people barely dance anymore.” This insight ignited their desire to transform the dance floor experience. 

A Name with Meaning 

‘Despacio’, translating to ‘slow’ in Spanish, pays homage to the pre-90s Ibiza club scene, where DJs would play 45″ records at a reduced speed of 33″. This practice greatly influenced Despacio’s philosophy: allowing music to unfold gently, enveloping the dance floor in a rich, auditory experience. 

The Sound System: A Technological Marvel 

The soul of Despacio lies in its exceptional sound system. A 50,000 watt custom-built speaker system by McIntosh, consisting of seven 3.5-meter speaker stacks, forms the core of this auditory experience. This setup is a contemporary version of the Grateful Dead’s legendary “Wall of Sound”. Each stack is meticulously designed with encased amps, bass drivers, amp racks, and additional drivers for the lower-mid range. Highs and treble are crisply delivered through four tweeters and a horn, enhanced with modern technology to eliminate the muddiness typical of older systems. 

Coachella's New Sound System- Despacio – Monster Media Inc

Aesthetic and Ethos 

The aesthetic of Despacio is as vital as its sound. McIntosh logos emit a soothing blue light, with green accents on the speaker stacks adding to the allure in the dimly lit dance spaces. The decor is centered around a massive disco ball, symbolizing the communal essence of the event. 

Reimagining the Dance Floor 

Despacio’s layout marks a significant shift from typical club setups. The DJ, usually the center of attention, is subtly placed outside the speaker circle. Equipped with four Technics turntables and a vast vinyl collection, the focus here is on immersing the audience in music, not the DJ’s persona. 

My Unique Dance Floor Experience 

I had the unique opportunity to experience Despacio firsthand at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and again at III Points Music Festival in 2023. Coachella introduced me to this air-conditioned haven, resonating with eclectic disco tunes and a distinctively vibrant energy. The synergy between the music, the production, and the diverse crowd created an unparalleled atmosphere. This remarkable experience was replicated at III Points, showcasing the consistency and power of those iconic speaker stacks in crafting an immersive auditory and visual experience. Despacio is truly a singular event that needs to be experienced in person to be fully appreciated. 

The Legacy of Despacio

As Despacio celebrates its 10th anniversary, its influence on the dance music world is undeniable. It has revolutionized what a dance party represents, emphasizing sound quality, ambiance, and the intrinsic joy of dancing, steering away from the spectacle and celebrity culture prevalent in modern clubbing. 

Inside Despacio, James Murphy and 2manyDJs' dance music utopia | The Verge

Despacio’s Wider Cultural Impact 

The ethos of Despacio has permeated beyond its immediate audience, influencing event organizers and DJs worldwide. Its emphasis on sound quality and the overall experience has raised the bar for club events, prompting a reevaluation of what makes a night out truly memorable. It challenges the industry’s norms, advocating for a return to the roots of dance culture where the music and collective experience are paramount. 

The Pursuit of Happiness on the Dance Floor 

Despacio is much more than a party; it is a quest for joy, a celebration of music’s power when treated with reverence and passion. It stands as a reminder that under the right conditions, with heartfelt intentions, a dance floor can transform into a haven of joy, connections, and unbridled expression. 

– Kai McNaught

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