Review: Two Nights in Berlin City

The dancefloor was as industrialized and austere as the tunes: it was a square, black dance pit lit with strobelights, surrounded by metal railings.  Krautrock, proto-industrial, acid house and guttural techno were the sounds of the night.  They were bold, chunky, crude... sounds from the primordial soup that brought the modern variants of techno and electro to a boil.  

The Horrorist's set contained ingredients from all of the above styles, stripping them back down to the basics: four-four beats and two-chord riffs, but vested with the intensity of a rock opera.  The opening DJ, Denard Henry played a more sumptuous, plasmic kind of EBM that could have just as well been labelled 'ambient', interspersed with harder obscure finds.  Later on, DJ Deathbat played music that was 'minimal' in a bold way, unlike so much of the techno that's been placed under that heading: Trashwave, French, Batcave, Deathrock, Postpunk, Synth were his preferred styles, thin on basslines, repetitive to the point of hypnosis, yet inexplicably dark and moving.

Blitzlicht brought a small but flamboyant & loyal fan base from around Berlin to the rustic venue, under a restaurant in Rosa-Luxemburg Platz.  Lanky, excitable boys reeled through the dance floor in introverted delirium, mouthing the lyrics to the tunes that had them.  Androgyne postpunk divas sat with their eyes wide shut, clad in precisely-curated scraps of cloth, nodding extravagant mohawks that looked like exhibits torn from a backstreet gallery. 

Image from 'Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace'
The club felt full despite it being mid-week at a niche show: about 150 people came and went, clustering around the sidelines in nefarious conference, eyeing the dancers doing aerobics through smoke machine fog at the center of the room. 

After chatting to Oliver (a.k.a. the Horrorist) and his partner Andi - a photographer and author of the book Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace - we headed to the ‘new’ Kaffee Burger that was just around the corner, on Torstrasse.  Unfortunately, Kaffee Burger's draped banquettes and pink and purple lighting reminded us a bit too much of a Shisha bar at closing time.  It had the same contrast of faux-Roman decor and red-eyed customers drinking like Huns on the lash that all too many Friedrichshain bars have.  Maybe it was just the wrong hour of day for us to be there, but for the pick n' mix assortment of binge drinkers dancing and signing along to classic rock tunes on the other side of the bar, it was definitely still party time.  All the time.  

Kaffee Burger is open 24/7 by the way... there's a tip for any night owl that finds his or herself stranded in Mitte at 5 a.m.!

Our night finished up in Friedrichshain at a bar called Hexe (Witch), where we'd almost slipped into a stupor when Andi got told off loudly (but playfully) by a stout Berlin barmaid, after inadvertently nicking a staff-only seat from her.  At the same time, someone’s mobile got nicked from a table next to ours - a mini crimewave in progress! - and then voices were raised, chairs were overturned, cops were called.  As we were hustled out of there, two cruisers and a riot van tore past us and started cordoning off the street around the bar.   I wondered who that stolen phone must have belonged - they must have been a film star to get such a full-on response from Berlin's Idlest.     

Grounded Theory @ Stattbad, September 26th

The scene on Gerichtstrasse was strangely similar, when we arrived at Stattbad Wedding the following weekend: the whole street had been closed off but, this time, it was blocked by big white trailers instead of police cruisers.  We quickly realised there was a film being shot on location somewhere nearby - a new production by Tom Tykwer, the director of Run Lola, Run, actually.  So there was already drama was in the air before we even got inside the club. 

In the downstairs hallway, on the way to the Boiler Room, we met an all-female Italian crew with some very exotic cigarettes to share.  After sitting and talking for ages as the venue filled up, we watched Acid Maria play in the main room.  The legendary Berlin DJ lived up to her name with a solid, stomping set of 303’s in the tightly packed Boiler Room.   But personally, I preferred the atmosphere in the pressurised depths of the Bunker Room, where DJ Henning Baer was playing, ghetto style, behind concrete beams.  The low-hanging, exposed ceilings were damp with sweat all night long.

The only downside was that, whenever you left the Bunker dancefloor, the squatty mayhem was quickly watered down by throngs of incredulous-looking twenty-something's proceeding past.    
Sightseeing clubbers seem to be a peculiarly Wedding phenomenon, though.  Maybe it's because the clubs in the area are cheap, authentic and don't have much a door policy(?).  Anyways, the looky-loos were all gone by 5:00 a.m.   By the time, Drumcode’s Alan Fitzpatrick had taken to the decks, all that was left in the club were scads of techno fans, dancing and abandoning whatever state of Germany/mind they'd come from to transcend the superficial details of where they were and how they looked.  The fast-paced, heady mixing left little time for anything else but dancing.  

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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.