Review: Farbfernseher

A few weeks back I got an email from a reader asking for recomendations of a "few nice bars with good techy house tunes with a bit minimalistic sounds".  I sent them to Farbfernseher and they wrote back later to tell me that they had gotten turned away by the bouncer because they had knocked on the club's door, a move that the bouncer took issue with.

Stories like that make me wonder why Berlin clubs bother hiring bouncers.  They clearly don't have enough real work to do - people here are generally too well-behaved for that - and the result is that they turn on the punters instead and for increasingly petty 'infractions'.  Fascism is alive and well in the ranks of Berlin's door staff, it seems... or maybe it's just testosterone?  The question is, how long can the scene put up with their nonsense before they start to demand tighter official regulation of the Berlin bouncer mob and Berlin clubs in general?  When that day eventually comes and word-of-mouth spots start getting shut down, perhaps people won't care because hey, at least they won't have to deal with that crap anymore. 
But (and this is a big but) in Berlin, bouncer behaviour is not reflective of the clubs, the punters or the party that is happening inside.  As a friend said to me last week, "The people who run Berghain are so lovely, they'll even give you cheesecake... but on the door it's a completely different story!"  Knock on the door of the club and the bouncer may make Swiss cheese out of you instead!
After getting this feedback I realized that I haven't actually been to FF yet, despite hearing great things about it for the last couple of years.  It is centrally located on Skalitzer Strasse, Kreuzberg, and it is better known than the clubs that I usually try to review.  Maybe that's why I never went; not enough of a challenge!  In the interest of keeping readers up to speed on the state of Berlin clubland (as opposed to, say, grinding axes about the state of commercial techno) I grabbed a mate and went down to check the place out.

It was a rainy Friday night when we arrived but we didn't have to wait in the line long.  The security did hum and haw a bit before letting us in, even though it was still early and we had guestlist entry.  The regular price on the door was 4 euros; as I'd already been warned about the small size of FF, I was pretty sure that that was too much to pay.  Seeing the place made me revise my opinion: even two Euros would have been a bit much.  The main dancefloor was the size of a kitchen in your average shared flat; above the dancefloor, at the back, was a balcony about the size of a balcony in, well, your average shared flat.  That was about it.  There were a few podium spaces on the dancefloor - vital in a place that size, in the event that you actually fancy doing more than nodding to the beat like a suave sardine in a can.  Sitting was out of the question and talking was too, because of the admirably hi tech soundsystem filling every inch of the air with reverbrations.

After wading through dozens of briney punters in the teeming tin of the dancefloor and up the stairs to the bar, we ordered drinks, which were cheap to make up for the door price, I guess.  The crowd was your usual mix of tourists, eager to dance, and hipsters that are getting drunk because they know they probably won't get the chance to.  I could not work out what either group was expected to do with a space that size... and believe me, I am used to expecting the unexpected!  The club's crowded set-up put me face-to-face with a succession of strangers; this would have encouraged small talk in any other bar but the sound was so full on, we couldn't hear each other.  The music, tech house, was decent; not a favourite of mine but my friend loves it and he couldn't find any space to dance.  He'd have had to queue up for the popular dance podiums in order to get down.  I did however come away from the club with a new appreciation of the Berlin club scene's obsession with how people look: because there is a lot of time to people-watch on a loud, crowded dancefloor like that. A bit too much time.
Farbfernseher has not really decided whether it's a chilled, pre-party hangout or the main event.  It seems like it is trying to fit both things into a space that can only really accommodate one or the other.  With a great soundsystem and cheap drinks, it could do either very well: fill the dancefloor with seats & turn the music down, or else accept less people and put a 'sorry not today' sign on the closed door.  Either way the bouncers would not have to stand there making silly excuses to send people away. 

By the way, the same reader recommended Bohnen Gold as a good alternative to FF: "Relaxed people, different rooms to explore and small corners to hang out, and a very nice french dj playing in the back sort of lazy minimal techy tunes.  Not too packed & normal prices".  If you strike out at FF then consider giving that a go!


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