Review: The Fountain of Youth @ Salon Zur Wilden Renate

The first time that I went to Peristal Singum, the psychedelic labyrinth in Ostkreuz, I was just bringing a friend to check it out for the first time. He went in before me as human guinea pig to gauge its effect.

Nearly an hour later he returned with a huge smile on his face.
"I'm tripping!" he laughed. Moments later a petite blonde who had gone into the labyrinth around the same time as him came stumbling out of the labyrinth... in tears! Needless to say, I chickened out of the labyrinth experience on that occasion. But I did make a mental note to return later with my camera; photography is strongly encouraged by the staff in both venues.  (Not!)

Fast-forward to a few weekends later, when I was cycling down Hauptstrasse in the early afternoon. When I got within 100 metres of Wilden Renate I could already feel the thrum of music and voices coming through its dilapidated, health-inspector friendly walls. I was in luck: The Fountain of Youth was in the house.

FOY is an annual club night that is held in high esteem in the Berlin house music scene - and with very good reason, as I found out. The club usually moves around from venue to venue and this was the first time it had been held at Salon Zur Wilden Renate. I had some reservations about going inside but these were overcome when I discovered that it was only two euros to go inside. Apparently, Salon Zur Wilden Renate (along with its sister club, the Matrix... not) has adopted a policy of drawing the masses with bargain basement entrance fees. Infamously, it also offers special concessions for foreign tour groups on the lash which results in what could be politely termed a "footballer-friendly" ambience. Normally this would be off-putting enough but luckily, the good reputation of Fountain of Youth had brought enough cool people to crowd out the loutish regulars.

I ventured past the day-glow reception desk and up the heavy wooden staircase to the first floor. The building was as I remembered it: littered with remnants of a genteel era (both artificial and real), high ceilings, crumbled plaster moulds and elegant wallpaper peeling off in strips.

Fountain of Youth had decorated the dull, featureless venue with such zest that they temporarily transformed it into a creative haven. Grotesque, glorious busts, collages, sculptures and more played peek-a-boo with the viewer, popping out from around every corner. Thus, they transformed the Ostkreuz version of Bleak House into a home for slightly mad, artistic runaways. On the first floor, a stately dance floor lay through an open doorway opposite the stairs. It was brimming with people. A dark, narrow hall stretched to the left and there was more music coming from the far end of it.

Open doorways dotted the length of the hall and a never-ending stream of bright-eyed, red-cheeked bohemians weaved in and out of them, surging recklessly around me. They had an air of unfocussed conviction, like so many people searching for their lost glasses.

I let their movements push me onto the first dance floor, where the bass seemed to be coming from the middle of the room. It coursed through every body, animating the dancers despite their faded state and leaving them sprinkled with sweat. I could barely hear the football supporters chanting at the side of the room anymore, at that point.  The room smouldered under the pink disc of light overhead until the Fountain of Youth started to feel more like the Hot Springs of Eternal Youth.

Having drunk my fill, so to speak, I slipped out of the airless crowd to find some real water. Through a second door, a series of adjoining rooms formed a kind of giant hallway which led to the other end of the building. The rooms were compact and stripped to the bone, but adorned with branches, projection lights, sculptures, posters and handmade signs. In the first one, a blonde girl slept on a wrought-iron bed by an artificially-darkened window, assuming the pretence of night. In the next, a lanky man lounged in an armchair next to a coalstove, an oddly domestic expression on his face.

I don’t want to sound undiscerning but I thought that all the music at Renate was great – which was surprising for that time of the day (which, in the UK, is usually reserved for less experienced acts). The DJ's spun a sumptuous aural backdrop for me to work to while I was taking pictures. I didn’t have the courage to ask them for their names in my mangled Deutsch, what with the deafening wall of music slapping me on the back. I have heard that DJ names are less relevant than labels here in Berlin though, so let's just say that I spoke to some people from Studio 80. If they are anything to go by then the label was the source of much of the night's musical integrity. DJ Camiel Daamen spoke sincerely about his music and he and his friends were emphatic that music is the only life for them. I suspect that they had brought a lot of that passion to Renate’s atmosphere.

It was Luis Ondo (pictured left) who finally got me to put my camera down and dance. He favours that Spanish hybrid of samba and techno that I really love... but don’t know the name of. Well, at least now I know the name of one DJ who plays it, which is a start.

Even at an all-day party without any time limits, there is still a good time to leave. The rhythm of the night (or day, as the case may be) is always dictated by the energy of the people. When it took a big dip around 5:30 p.m. I got back on my bike and rode home. It turned out to be a good move because the outside temperature had dropped by about 10 degrees - or maybe it just seemed that way after bathing in the hot springs of youth.

P.S. The guy on the right is one of those DJs whose name I didn't get. If you know who he is, please drop me a line.

P.P.S. if you've been to Wilden Renate then you'll know this review is kind of a piss-take.  But it's also really, really serious and important, like the owners of the club.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All writing & images © A. E. Elliott (unless otherwise specified)

Search This Blog

My photo
Berlin, Germany
...is NOT a fashion blogger! I write about underground music, activism, social media rights. Other publications that I have written for: OpenDemocracy, Urban Challenger, Siegesaeule, Alternative Berlin and Sensanostra.