Prague. A city smothered in beauty, history, architecture and even the home of Mozart for quite some time; musical blood has been running through the city’s veins for centuries.
Add an almighty electronic music scene complimented by venues like Cross, Storm and Roxy, and humungous flagship D&B events such as Let It Roll, the Czech capital’s musical background is steeped in greatness.
It’s also the birthplace of Darkshire, an incredible project that hones in on aspects and aesthetics that your normal rave wouldn’t; such as unique, somewhat sinister feeling venues and art installations. As Darkshire’s head honcho Tomas Nezval explains: “Don’t expect LED screens and massive light shows, Darkshire creatures live in shadows.”
To experience these shadow creatures first hand, 1 More Thing headed to Prague for Darkshire’s latest events. October 13 – 14 saw them host two unique and incredible parties in two stunning, if a little eerie, locations: Gabriel Loci Monastery and Sacre Coeur Church. Both settings conjuring up Darkshire’s signature gothic aesthetic, it turned out to be a weekend like no other as we delved into the Darkshire way of life. Kicking off on the Friday with a line-up consisting of local Czech selectors such as X.Morph, Shmidoo, SLWDWN and Notequal along with international artists like Merikan and Rohaan.
Approaching the monastery on the Friday evening, the exterior of the building was lit in red with a queue of ravers all dressed for the special occasion. Priests, nuns, demons and many other relevant outfits were on display as the foreboding crowd of devious looking Darkshire devotees eagerly waited for their time to enter the ominous venue. The classic pre-rave jitters, excitable chit-chat, the mixture of the darkened attire and anticipatory joy on the faces of the ravers really set the tone as Gabriel Loci Monastery opened its doors and the event began to unfold.
The venue consisted of performance areas which included a Chandelier Hall, Mortuary, Office, Columned Hall, Apartment and Garden Of Eden chillout area on three different floors with abnormal and unconventional installations in every nook and cranny of the building. A perfect concoction of deeper, more rolling UK-centric vibes and techno in the breakout rooms complemented the heavy, hard hitting neuro that the Czech scene is renowned for in the main rooms.
Enhancing this rich range of music and galvanising Darkshire’s gothic flavour, vibe and atmosphere were the performances and installations included dark ballet in the Garden Of Eden and an acrobat showcase in the middle of the Grand Staircase. A number of mysterious breakout rooms added to the creepy atmosphere, these included ominous paintings, black and white projections of cartoons and old record players. Out of the ordinary curios and oddities lurked around pretty much every corner in the building. The lower end and subtle visuals in all of the rooms perfectly set the tone in all rooms of the gothic venue which brought an extra quality to the table.
“Old objects are the best ones, as you breathe life into them for just a few hours.” Tomas explains. “A lot of young people stopped going to theatres, so we got the idea to bring the theatre into our events and we love it!”
“Darkshire was inspired by underground raves held by students of the Audiovisual & Fine Arts Academy in Prague between 2010-2015 on the one side,” continues Tomas as he describes the main ingredients of Darkshire’s rich melting pot. “Berlin raves on the second side and classic theatrical performances on the third side.”
Darkshire’s roots go back to 2016. Their first temporary utopia took place in a warehouse with a line-up including Audio, Emperor and Icicle spinning out to a humble crowd of 800. In the eight years that have passed, other locations have included a factory, a slaughterhouse, forests and caves where guests range from Pixie to IMANU.
Wherever the location, whoever the guest, one thing has been consistent at every Darkshire event since its debut warehouse event – they’re fully immersive experiences that will never be repeated. “Each Darkshire is original, we never held a club show and we don’t intend to,” says Tomas. “We always seek interesting locations to build temporary utopias. If we find a really good one, we are happy to be back.”
To get more depth on this, we asked two of the Czech scene’s brightest talents who’ve been regulars at Darkshire.
“Darkshire always does events at unique venues and behind every event is a story that creates a truly special atmosphere,” says Kaira. As a DJ and a card-carrying Darkshire citizen/raver since day one.
“I was at Darkshire In The Woods in 2021, it was a full moon, the vibe was so perfect that I found myself in a deep state of gratitude for having the opportunity to listen to the music which through each artist expresses the language of their soul surrounded by woods, unspoilt nature and the best people. This year at Darkshire In The Woods, when I finished playing on the main stage, I was full of happiness. Playing at Darkshire was a dream come true.”
“The atmosphere they create is indescribable and that just makes the experience even more special!” beams fellow Prague selector Cockroach, capturing the same Darkshire energy 1 More Thing experienced that weekend.
“You know what you can expect musically because we as residents are representing the sound of Darkshire as well as the guests we invite. When you have all this together that makes unforgettable night. There are so many amazing memories, the opening shows, playing the sets, crowd reactions, meeting new people and seeing “the family” there. So I can’t pick one, every event is like one awesome memory.”
A scene that will forever be etched into our own personal memory is that of the picturesque Sacre Coeur Church venue on the Saturday. A raised DJ booth in front of a monumental church spire where artists like A-Cray, Meph,Beast Jane, Pythius, PRDK and Zigi SC blasted bangers out to a sea of euphoric, head banging ravers.
The production and logistics behind the Saturday event were mind blowing, looking up at a DJ from the dancefloor with the stunning spire backdrop with perfect ambient lighting and visuals gave me a real sense that the selectors were like preachers of the Darkshire procedure.
Being a much more intimate affair on the Saturday perfectly rounded off an amazing weekend, it gave an extra feeling of exclusivity to be involved with the Church event and further adds to the Darkshire ethos of originality and spontaneity. Despite being a sell out, there was plenty of room to get your elbows out and knees up.
One thing is certain, the Czechs know how to party. Anybody that’s ever been fortunate to experience the scene over here knows this, anybody lucky enough to have caught Mozart debut his operatic opus Don Giovanni knew this. All Darkshire creatures know this. And further proof of that is the fact it’s currently through to the second stage of this year’s Drum&BassArena Awards as one of the top 10 nominated events in the Best Festival category. A hugely impressive acheivement considering the event’s intimate size and the fact they’ve not actively reached out to their community to vote for them.
We’re not surprised… You get the feeling that Tomas and his crew are much more interested and focussed on thinking about every little detail that matter to both the artists and the ravers at the events. And that, fundamentally, is the foundation of their success so far and what makes Darkshire raves so special.
If you haven’t already, getting yourself to a Darkshire event is a must for any ravers bucket list.