28.4.13

Party Report: The Ravers' Reunion

 Friday April 27

23:30: After a determinedly lazy day of lounging on the balcony in the sunshine, I head out to meet a friend at an invite-only party organized by her old-school circle of techno friends... 

00:00 ...but first, I swing by Magdalena in Ostbahnhof.  I wanna be one of the first people at tonight's Zero 2 Nine party because they're handing out 100 free CD's.  If it's Berliners they're fishing for, they've used the perfect bait: freebies!

00:55 Shiny, new CD in hand, I leave for Kreuzberg where my friend's party is.  It's pouring rain but I'm unfazed; rain is typical weather for London in spring... summer... fall... winter...  It's one thing I can handle it with hardly any drama.  Unfortunately, one can't say the same about your average Berliner.  After being nearly run over thrice by drivers who seem to be hunting down a sacrifice to the weather gods - maybe in the hope that my squashed body will move the heavens to turn the rain off - I make it to the train station.  A major downside to the Teutonic love of perfection and order has to be the equally Teutonic inability to go with the flow of when life throws something unexpected at them, like rain.  In April. Who woulda thought?

1:15 Hold that thought: I've arrived at my friend's party now, and the small dancefloor is full of beaming, energetically wriggling, chatting and very Teutonic Berliners.  They aren't letting anything get in the way of having a great time, but then again, they're all 'old' ravers who have marched to their own beat for many, many years.

The party's a regular 'reunion' night for a sprawling group of friends who met in the 1990s techno scene.  I recognize quite a lot of faces from the party we did last week, actually, which was heavy on acid house and underground techno.  So, ahem, they clearly have great taste in music!  Also, this group has been around since techno was a real underground phenomenon, undiluted by concerns about fashion and success.  As the techno scene has diverged and dissipated into myriad  modern Berlin clubs, playing every commercial and underground variation of the sound these people championed, they have begun doing regular events of their own where they can party together like they used to: casually dressed, holding down real jobs and relationships and putting everything else into their music. 

1:45 While slamming back shots of vodka, my 'non-drinker' friend reminsces about the old days in Berlin:
 "You used to just show up at parties on your own, and everyone would be there.  You knew all of them," she says, snagging a Jaegermeister off of a passing tray.  I offer her a ciggie and she snags that as well, with a cheeky smile (she's a non-smoker, too).  "Now when I go out, I don't see a single soul that I know.  It's all these random people that are just passing through." Our chat is interrupted as she's carried away by a cresting wave of shouting, dancing mates.  I don't speak the same native language as them, hang out in the same places or the wear the same clothes, but I feel the same way they do about being a part of a regular party scene... or even just part of a regular party venue.  Neither thing seems to exist in Berlin.  What else is there to anchor anyone to a specific style of music? 

2:30 My friend's neighbour takes to the decks and plays old techno hits from the Berlin underground like 'Basic Channel'.  This Berlin duo are described by The Wire as:

"...techno-archaeologists, anonymous electricians inhabiting the wired-up cities of Berlin and Detroit. [Their] music submerges itself into the bowels of the city. Below the surface lies its nervous system of subway lines, dusty, dirt encrusted cables, popes, tunnels, energy and communication. The rhythms feel like severed live wires instinctively feeling their way back to the energy source. And when they finally connect, the rhythmic pulses burst, irradiating the city above and suffusing it with a shimmering electronic glow."  They've taken the words right out of my mouth.

Found on the dancefloor: another lost sole.
2:30 The music slows down so I return to Magdalena to hopefully lose myself in a techno tangent. Magdalena (ex-Maria club) reminds me a bit of the Theater Factory in Dalston, with its unfurnished warehouse space.

3:00 I run into the person I was looking for as soon as I walk into the crowded venue, which is lucky.  We hit the dancefloor, where the rumbly, stripped down sound of Berlin underground techno echoes off of the concrete surfaces not covered with dancing people - the walls, ceiling, my skin.  The bass makes the hairs on my arms and neck quiver.  Even the ringing in my ears becomes muted as the sound levels rise and rise, so we take a time-out in the club's collection of semi-collapsed couches and chat in an all-Irish, Canadian and English group, all of them working full-time in the techno scene in Berlin. 

6:00 The lost-in-space lighting and people keep us entertained for  longer than expected, so when we finally return to the dance floor it's already emptying out.  Shame, because the music by Bas Mooy is custom-fitted to the audacious, industrial persona of this venue.  Without a pool of other people's energies to draw from we start to run out of steam.

6:30 Just before leaving, I spot a lone shoe sole sitting in the middle of the dancefloor, a forgotten souvenir of somebody's intense dance journey through Berlin.  The dance floor always has been a refuge for lost soles though, hasn't it?

(sorry, couldn't resist)

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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.