9.5.12

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Golden Gate
A few weekends ago, I got a tweet that said Berghain was no longer one of DJ Magazine's top ten Best Clubs in the World. Needless to say, my reaction was a far cry from OMFG, no way.

I mean, we are talking about Berghain: a club that deliberately courts an international audience, yet turns zillions of tourists (and locals) away each year just because it doesn't like their 'mood'. Makes it kinda hard for techno pilgrims to decide whether the venue deserves to be in the top ten or not. (Note: I personally enjoy Berghain and even find many of its staff very sweet.  But anyone who spends a lot of time there has to admit that the security's behaviour is frequently indefensible).

Local Berghain fans also seem laissez faire about the club's decline in the polls, and why should they be surprised?   Why believe what the readers of an English dance mag say about a place they see all the time?

Back when I could afford to buy DJ magazine, it seemed to be read by well-paid English lads who tended to spend all their spare cash on expensive techno-related gadgets - a specific and self-selected audience.  Unsurprisingly, their top ten clubs are also hi-tech venues, the type favoured by gagdet fans seeking a 'massive' blowouts.  Lads, basically.

Kater Holzig
The superlatives that these guys use to describe their favourite clubs show a bias towards anything super-loud, supersized and frankly, a tad macho. Every venue on the top ten list is epic, of giant proportions, fitted with lunar, space age technology, featuring high-powered lasers or explosive light-shows. These aren't just clubs, they're penis extensions.  See exhibit a (and b, c, d, e, etc.), in the magazine's best clubs list, where each selection is accompanied by pics of factory-farmed ravers jostling for space inside of a spartan, pitch-black cavern where many skinny white chests are presumably being flexed. Somewhere off in the distance, jetstreams from the pyrotechnics are burning the retinas of a superstar DJ charging a squillion bucks a set.

I don't actually hate that style of club - it can be fun -  but since relocating to Berlin I've realized that it represents a very narrow band of the party experience, that's all.  Berlin's best clubs are super in a different way. Berlin's clubbers are younger, poorer, more liberal and active in DIY arts scenes
Dudes can like colourful parties too.

They seem to prefer clubs where they can just hang out, talk, listen to music and dance naturally.  The word 'hippy' comes to mind, rather than hipster. 

So to help balance the scales in Berlin's favour, I've created my own Top 10 club list for Berlin. The following places have so many nooks, crooks, crannies & quirks that they're individuals in their own right. They're places where you can hide from the winter in cozy warmth or celebrate the summer in a glorious tangle of art, nature and sunshine.

Tacheles Back Yard
Unscene Berlin's Top 10:

#1 Tacheles.

This original underground Berlin party site is still kicking out weird, inspiring & edgy material on a weekly basis, twenty-one years after it was reborn from the hull of an ex-department store. Many of the same people who squatted it then are still there today, because they rarely back away from making a stand for the space, the city, and what they believe in. The building alone is a chaotic marvel but it is ultimately the Tacheles crew and their passion that draws you in. It may not really be a club but if you are looking for an authentic Berlin party experience, this is the first and last place to go.

Edit: since this piece was written, Tacheles has closed down permanently, as in for the last time, the really really really last time, like, ever.  We mean it.

#2 Salon Zur Wilden Renate.

Some go for the club. Some go for the Labyrinth. Some go for the
garden or the recording studio or the bar. Whatever the reason they all end up seeing more than they expected before they leave!

Edit: the Peristal Singum labyrinth is closed and will reopen at another place and another time.  Stay tuned for more deets here...

#3 Kater Holzig.

Initially hated by many Berliners (myself included) because of its exclusive airs, this all-in-one squat estate has warmed to us enough to gain respect in the city's party community. It's also a great example of why radical style matters as much as substance in the Berlin scene.

Edit: Kater Holzig also shut down and has transformed / mutated into Kater Blau, across the Spree.   

Wilden Renate
#4 Brunnen 70.

The first rule of Brunnen 70 is... we don't talk about Brunnen 70.  Just go there, get in the elevator and find out why!

#5 Sisyphos.  

'Sissy' is the most easterly expression of the same ethos which inspired Wilden Renate and Kater Holzig. If you love them you'll love this... and vice versa.

#6 Kit Kat Club.

Sexual connotations aside, this venue always 'touches' me with its naively shameless 1990's trance decor. You can see why it's a favourite spot for everything from psytrance to philosophically-themed queer nights like Gegen.
#7 Golden Gate.

A warm-blooded dance hut that's managed to sustain the tenuous, exuberant atmosphere of an eviction party for as long as it has existed.  You go there for the people, not the music.  But all the same, at some point you'll look down at your legs and realize that you're dancing.

#8 Stattbad Wedding.

Only a Berlin club crew could make such dazzling use of an old swimming pool. It also houses plenty of other alternating-alternative art projects in its network of upper rooms.

Edit: Stattbad's also been shut down (sigh). Why does this keep happening?!
 
The Boiler Room @ Stattbad
#9 Club Der Visionaere.

Still the best place for waterside parties, despite the sneaking sense that the place may actually be sinking under the weight of all the backpackers, party animals and dopeheads as each fresh batch stumbles down the stairs.  Being here feels like you're at a lakeside cottage where the residents long ago fled after handing the keys to some out of control revellers.  When will they return?  Who cares - just buy another mojito and keep dancing!

A unique view of about:blank by BLN.FM
#10 About Blank.

I reluctantly include this club because it is definitely rated by a lot of people that I respect.  But it can be weirdly hard to classify, even when you're there.  Let's just say that the upsides are as 'up' as its downsides are ... well, down.   The 'ups' include its left-wing ethos and regular parties packed with a clever, eccentric and creative subset the Berlin party scene.  Their regular parties 'Love Techno/Hate Germany', 'Homopatik' and 'Staub' are excellent examples.

The downers include a few permanent staff members who seem to believe that everybody they don't like is secretly a neo-Nazi, and behave accordingly.  But if you never run into them, you'll have an authentically ramshackle, cheap and cheerful Berlin experience with plenty of engrossing encounters that'll keep you asking questions 'about:blank' for ages.

Ah, and there are also a few darkrooms there, and a garden of freaky delights out back in addition to the community-center style dancefloors within, usually playing hard, experimental tunes on one floor, and housey-Balkan-disco stuff on the other.

What are your contenders for Best Clubs in Berlin (or your own city)? Drop your answer to us in a comment below!

4 comments:

  1. Great list, although Tacheles is defunct now it will always have a place in my heart. Couldn't agree more about Renate and Golden Gate, especially Golden Gate just has that awesome 90s feel. Maybe you need to be as old as me and have partied back then to appreciate it ;)
    And if you like these, I suggest you also try Ritter Butzke... pretty cool in its own right.

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  2. Ah yes, Ritter Butzke: have been there a few times and have to agree!

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  3. Very nice blog! We have shared your article on our new website http://citytripwith.us/en_US/Berlin-Salon-Zur-Wilden-Renate.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Citytrtip, It's nice of you to share this post. However, your readers should be aware that Tacheles and Club Der Visionaere are now closed.
      Miss E xx

      Delete

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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.