Berlingo: "Openair"

The "Reclaim Kottbusser Tor" venue looks as good as SFB sounds
Berlin's club scene may be gritty and psychedelic but it is also strangely predictable, and often awash in disco-y house sounds.  Searching for events that have an underground, experimental feeling to match their underground, experimental decor can be a lot like exploring a three-dimensional "Where's Waldo" print (or maybe' you'd call it "Where's Weirdo" instead?).  

When I went to my first Sounds for Berlin openair party over a year ago, I thought I'd found the kind of party crew I'd been looking for since my arrival in Berlin.  They were open-minded, openair, friendly and native to the city.  They had a high quality sound system and high-energy DJs who played an unpredictable but balanced mix of sounds: tech house, hard techno, chillout.  There was even a bit of dark psytrance in there, somewhere.  So clearly they can walk the walk, do they talk the talk as well?  I spoke to Dragan from the city's most party-hardy crew to find out...

Me: You've had a lot of experience with open airs (illegal outdoor parties) and clubs in Berlin, Dragan.  What's your opinion of the scene here?

Dragan: My experience is that of your typical Berlin partykid, who's been moving through the city's clubs since the 90s.  So to me the changes of the last few years have been very clear, and I don't know if I find the scene as good now.  The electronic party scene in Berlin has always been marked by two sides. Back in the 90's, events were already becoming commercialized but there was also a strong flip side: the non-commercial or underground events.  Klaus Wowereit's statement that Berlin is "poor but sexy" still had some substance to it, then. The development in recent years makes me a little sad, though.  Due to the international hype (of Berlin as a party town) and the increasing number of party tourists, the scene has changed unilaterally.  The so-called underground or subcultural events keep on disappearing.  This isn't just tragic for Berliners but for the tourists, as well, who come here seeking exactly that sort of thing.  I sincerely hope that the electronic party scene remembers its origins, and strives to create a balance between trade and subcultural events.

The door policy
Me: What's the ideal party in Berlin, for you?
Dragan: I can sum up my ideal party by quoting a sign I once saw in a brothel: "You come here as a stranger and leave as a friend"!  So, it's a place that not only has the amazing music and eye catching decor, but also creates a special, family atmosphere.  I don't just want to be blown away by the external details.  To me, it's irrelevant what someone's wearing; how high his education level or bank balance is.  We are open to anyone who adheres to the common rules of peaceful electronic dance night.  For example, at our "Zuruck zu den Wurzeln" (Back to the Roots) party, there are no bouncers and no screening on the door. The amazing thing is that, despite having 12,000 guests in the last year, we've never had to clear up any problems between them.  So when I say that we 'celebrate in peace' I mean that that is what our guests believe in.

Me: What is the background for the Reclaim party that you're doing at Queen Kotti this weekend?

Dragan: Quite simply, we are looking particularly beautiful places in Berlin, which we then convert to a night into place to meet up and celebrate. The idea was born during a 36-hour rave that we did at an old dilapidated factory last year. You may recall a party in the old 'Stasi central' district of Schoeneweide, or a 'Reclaim the Spreeufer' that happened right next to Kater Holzig.  So, if you know of an exciting location, give us a shout...

One of SFB's beautiful and exciting locations

Me: Why did you found Sounds for Berlin?

Dragan: Sounds for Berlin was founded to create a sound just as professional as that found in any established club business. But we are more of a friendly network of musicians, promoters and other music enthusiasts.

At some point we found that Berlin's party scene was losing more and more of its original party spirit. The events are faceless and interchangeable.  The uniqueness of the nightlife experience is simply gone.  The musicians that play in the popular clubs are often the same; you can hear them playing in the city every weekend.  Many organizers and club owners have lost their interest in "wild 90's" style experimentation and have switched to a standardized lineup format.  We are trying to counteract this by creating events with a high musical standard, independent of rank and name.  If we find a good up-and-comer somewhere, we'll try and secure them for our next event.  It's also to our advantage that we are a small collective, and not a company with purely economic concerns. 

The collective has gone from strength to strength with openair parties gradually migrating into clubs and festivals in the city from the outskirts, where they started... but still with the same openair ethos and "price".  So obviously I'm not the only person in Berlin who's been looking for Waldo, then!  

If you've been searching too, look no further than the Queen Kotti club in Kreuzberg this Saturday, where SFB and Zuruck zu den Wurzeln will be Reclaiming Kotbusser Tor together at their FREE!FREE!FREE! party. 

You can also say hi to Sounds for Berlin at their Facebook page


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