New East Digital Archive

Sofia’s youth are cultivating an inclusive DIY party scene — you just need to know where to go

To find the best parties in the Bulgarian capital, just ask the city’s unofficial nightlife photographer.

31 January 2020

After of stagnation in the late 2000s, Bulgaria’s underground electronic music scene is back on its feet. The younger generation is rejecting mainstream clubs in favour of DIY nights that have a palpable community spirit. In a country where there is major dissatisfaction among younger generations about political and judicial corruption, nightlife has become a form of expression and taking back control.

At the forefront of this upswing are clubs and venues like Studio EW, a venue south of the city centre situated in what used to be a showroom for stage decor. Entering its 11th year, Studio Ew owes its success to its programme curator and resident artist Garo, with a dedication for selecting the scene’s finest talents. Their most recent and popular club night, Studio X, is produced by Emil Doesn’t Drive from the Disco Comrades collective, who are best known for spinning communist-era tunes as part of their sets.

Koncept, on the other hand, is a brand new venue with a state-of-the-art sound system and their very own craft beer taproom, with lots of local styles and foreign imports on the menu. Besides techno parties, they also organise stand up comedy shows, music workshops and lectures.

Tell Me Bar, now a veteran on the club circuit, is one of the city’s most consistent venues, with a weekly programme of events lasting from Thursday to Sunday. Some of the most exciting events of the last decade have been organised by Nie, DOMA Art Foundation, Тerra, Sunday Bunch and Faza to name a few. Beton is another notable collective of techno DJs (Risto, Phlp, and Linear Output) who regularly put on incredible parties.

Miroslav Marinov (aka @allthatvibe_) made his name as the scene’s unofficial photographer. His journey began when Marinov wanted to test his new point-and-shoot analogue camera and ended up at a party. “I like situations and circumstances in which people just let go and experience freedom in a very pure way. So I continued to savour something of these moments, so they wouldn’t just disappear,” he shares. At first, he was fascinated by the act of freezing bodies mid-movement. Later, he set out to take close-up portraits of partygoers, growing the project into an ongoing series.

Marinov has since become inseparable from the underground music scene — you’ll see him at gigs by Nie, DOMA and Faza — and his unadulterated style of photography hasn’t gone unnoticed. His candid style was quickly picked by local streetwear brands like Fingah and Diza, as well as high-end label Paid Actor. He’s since produced a campaign for the Bulgarian branch of Jägermeister featuring the city’s skaters after-hours on the streets of Sofia.

In a country in which young people feel extensively unrepresented, Marinov’s work is an urgent take on a largely unexplored scene. His work is best described in his own words: as “a celebration of the free and creative spirit, a spirit which is the basis for the positive change we want to see in our society.”