Review: Der Klang Der Familie @ Kater Holzig

My friend Katja and I were some of the first people to arrive at Kater Holzig for the reading of "Berlin, Techno und die Wende", an 'oral' history book about Berlin's rave scene. Katja was kicking herself when she saw how empty the venue was on our arrival.

"I am such an ossi," she cried. "I was so worried there would be lots and lots of people here and I hate being crowded - but it's dead! I'm so sorry." Her fastidiousness had paid off for us though because, by quarter past nine, people were standing from one end of the room to the other. Meanwhile, we were sittin' pretty in some of the second-best seats in the house: just behind the row of sofas at front that had been reserved for the really honoured guests (I thought of our row as being the L.I.P. - Less Important Person - section).

After teaching Katja the time-honoured English tradition of blagging cheap drinks we settled back into our seats with a couple of under-priced wines to watch the video montage that introduced the book. It was a pastiche of videos shot on dance floors at some early Berlin raves in which glow-sticks, smoke and flailing limbs featured largely. Then the two bespectacled writers of "Berlin, Techno und die Wende" - Felix Denk and Sven von Thülen - began reading from the interviews they'd compiled for their book.

It soon became clear to Katja and I that we were sharing the L.I.P. section with one of the lippiest audience members of the audience. This unidentified veteran of Berlin rave was either wildly enthusiastic about the reading, high, or both. He broke the awed silence of the audience regularly with interjections, asides and bouts of mad laughter. It rather jazzed things up for me, who probably would have drifted off without the odd verbal jolt from our L.I.P.-py neighbour. That's because my German comprehension skills (which are usually good) failed to keep me up to speed with the fast-paced reading. I basically had to rely on the copious use of words like Ecstasy, tanzen (dancing), kuscheln (cuddle) and schwule (gay) to piece together a picture in of what was being said... but I don't know how accurate that was. One line I did catch in its entirety painted a more vivid picture in my mind: 'Nobody ever called the police when we did a party in East Berlin because there were no working phones'. This raised knowing smiles and laughter from the older crowd. Afterwards, Katja relayed a couple of the better anecdotes to me as well. Knowing that books like this are out there will probably inspire me to learn even more German so that I can read it.

The after party started off with some old school house that was a bit too slow for me to dance to it, although it definitely helped to set the scene for the party, which was supposed to recreate the atmosphere and music of the Planet club. Planet was based in the same building that Kater Holzig now occupies in the early 1990s and apparently, some of the same people even still work there. As usually seems to happen, I was just about to go home when Dr. Motte suddenly appeared and set the dance floor alight with a blazing set of techno, acid and who-knows-what-else that I just had to hang around to hear. He's one of those rare DJs who manages to take a bunch of great ready-made tunes and mould them into something deeply, defiantly individual. That personal touch must have reached everybody on the dance floor because they were calling out for more by the time he finished his set, which was too soon for them but too late for me. I still needed to get up early the next day after all so while I loved the set I'm glad it ended when it did.

Who says that old people don't know how to party? Not only did they (we) dance like maniacs, but they were noticeably more friendly than the youngsters in the room, smiling at Katja and I easily. But maybe they were just trying to work out if they knew us from 'back in the day' - a guessing game that I noticed Katja playing as well. For those who were part of the early rave scene, pinning down its exact nature must always involve a large element of guesswork. It's as if the part of the mind that inhabits those memories is still wandering around a derelict building, disoriented by the sound, the lights and the smoke, perpetually unsure what parts are real and which are just an illusion. Which is why it is important to record it, like the authors of "Berlin, Techno und die Wende" have done.


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