Review: Doing The After-Hours Limbo

East of Ostkreuz and south of Frankfurter Allee lies a white-washed shanty-town of factories, cobblestone streets and rubble-strewn sidewalks. It's a blank spot on the map, sandwiched between Friedrichshain, Lichtenberg and Rummelsberg. Lately I’ve been trying to think of a new name to fill in that blank: Ostenberg? Frankenkreuz? The area might not have quite the same exotic catchet as Kreuzkolln (another trendy Berlin borderland) but it does have its own niche to pull in the crowds: after-hours clubs.
Frankfurter Allee and Ostkreuz S-bahn stations mark the eastern boundaries of Friedrichshain. They are the last exits to clubland for partiers who simply cannot face going home yet... and if the solid afterhours scene in this area is anything to go by, there are more people who can't face it than there are who can. Salon Zur Wilden Renate (which I have already covered here) ://about blank, KILI Lounge, K-Pax and a few more ad hoc venues are located a few minutes' walk from the S-bahn and all of them list their closing times in the p.m. The area is scarcely populated too, so partiers can let their inner freaks run wild without facing too much scrutiny. The end-of-the-tracks atmosphere has definitely been a contributing factor in some of the unreal scenes I've witnessed here.

Saturday, 2:01 a.m. @ KILI Lounge:
KILI Lounge is in the far eastern part of Friedrichshain known as Lichtenberg (sic). Despite the grandiose name, it's no more pretentious or exclusive than a tastefully-decorated shed with good tunes should be.  But never fear: hanging out in the adjacent car park and dancing to the music coming out its doorway is strongly encouraged.  Its promoters were modest enough to waive the cover fee for its Carneval After Hours party last Friday night, which was why we made the pilgrimage there.

Unfortunately, KILI's Carneval was drowned out by a bigger, shinier party happening just across the courtyard from it. Would-be punters rushed into the bigger building without glancing at KILI and like drunken moths to a flame, we followed them. We paid a price for our fickleness - seven euros a head to be exact. It seemed like a lot of money for a venue which turned out to be about 15 x 15 metres big and had psytrance playing in it. It's possible that some sort of exotic DJ was playing there, hence the high price. If so then the importance of it was lost on non-psy-fans like ourselves.

We liked the deco, though.  Despite (or maybe because of) the venue's size, every detail seemed calculated to give the dancers a sense of space, like the fluro decals on the darkened ceiling which simulated the night sky. The people also seemed like they were at a distance, dancing within self-contained spheres with their eyes averted, as if too focussed on finding the nirvana within to notice anybody else. I've been to numerous psytrance parties in London and the people were more or less the same but then, London is a much more crowded city. It makes sense to me that people there would want to keep up their personal boundaries there. Berlin, on the other hand, is a spacious city where social interaction is hard to come by; when I'm here, the psytrance scene just leaves me cold. We left the dance floor pretty fast but were tempted to linger in the hallway, where we bounced on the retro cinema seats and stroked the flocked wallpaper until we felt better again.

In the end we returned to the KILI Lounge, where we should have been all night. It had less people in it but more warmth and a harder, more varied selection of tracks. The atmosphere was held together by a frenetic Elbee Bad who played the dual roles of DJ and dancer, mixing the records one minute and mingling with us on the dancefloor the next*.

Sunday, 3:59 p.m.
@ Alt Stralau:
The next day I walked down to Markgrafendamm to see what else 'Frankenkreuz' had on offer. It was a sunny afternoon and I wanted to catch some rays but it was also cold, and I wanted the bustling warmth of a club. The two things seemed to be mutually exclusive so I wasn't feeling very hopeful. There was also an odd atmosphere in the area, as you'd expect given the sketchy after-hours, derelict, neverwhere vibe of the place. A permanent twilight seemed to have settled over it, as if time had stopped somewhere between 'nightlife' and 'real' life.

Things started to look even more odd as I passed one open air club where a dread-locked crusty stood yodeling by his bike outside of Salon Zur Wilden Renate's front gate. Maybe he'd just been turned away by the gloomy-looking bouncers... or maybe he'd just had a really good night. It was hard to tell.  A few minutes later, a half-naked Brazilian in a green cape came outside and hailed a cab. Neither thing left me any the wiser about what was going on inside Salon Zur Wilden Renate, but the sluggish disco house filtering out the doorway didn't flip my switch so I headed off down the road.

Sunday, 4:43 p.m. ://About Blank
In Berlin nightlife it is sometimes the case that you don't choose the club, it chooses you. You wander from one place to another until the bouncers, the people, the price and the music fall into place like a combination lock, opening the door on your ideal spot. That's what happened to me when I got to ://about blank, which was still kicking and had free entry by the time I'd made it all the way up Markgraffendam. The warm dancefloor was bathed in late afternoon sunshine which poured in through red and yellow window panes. It bathed the smoky, Spartan room in a volcanic orange glow while the techtonic soundsystem kept an intent but tired crowd of dancers on their feet. In a hall which led to a chillout space, there were ceramic tiles patterned like LSD sheets hanging on the wall. Very cute.
://about blank is a typical Berlin dance hole except for one difference - it throws a lot of parties with a left-wing theme. The Antifa Fetisch Party last fall was one such event. Unfortunately I missed it because I had to work but I will keep an eye open for similar events in the future.

The ://about blank crowd was low-key but very friendly and I came away with the impression that they walk the walk as well as talking the talk.... although talking was definitely out of the question at that volume. Resom, the very last DJ on the line-up for Memory and I Cry If I Want To, was playing 80’s tinged techno with a steady pulse and plenty of synth in it. Hearing shades of Adamski in a sunny nightclub was the perfect panacea after my two-day afterhours adventure.

Thank-you, Frankenkreuz!

*Also thanks to Sandra for the nice pictures she took of KILI Lounge!

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...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.