‘Smoke. Lights. Sound’ – Berghain Klubnacht 10 – Event Review [13.12.14]
A lot can happen in 10 years… Over the past decade countless artists, record labels, venues, have all been and gone; such is the transience of this world. However there are others, a minority, that have eluded the corrosive grip of time; such entities refuse to fall so easily. Could anyone foresee Berghain‘s rise as one of the most revered clubs in the world? Who knows. But what is certain is that the famous venue is still here for a reason. For several years now Berlin has been unanimously crowned the global capital of techno; and at its epicentre, Berghain/Panorama Bar. The infamous club has become an institution in its own right, pedestalled as the archetypal clubbing space that most people can only dream of. For those lucky enough to pass through its doors, what lies within is something so experiential, so visceral, that it’s difficult to put into words.
Berghain first opened its doors back in 2004, following a period in the late 90s that could be described as somewhat of a drought in light of the socio-musical revolution that had exploded in ’89. Innovation in techno had slowed and the city had already begun a process of regeneration following the chaotic free-for-all that had occurred when the Wall came down. Increasingly, people were settling for more conventional life-styles as the allures of a salary and a career had entered into Berlin’s newly assimilated ideologies; Berlin’s very own ‘Summer of Love’ (as Denk and von Thülen have suitably named it) was now a distant memory, and the torrential rush of energy that had spawned a whole movement was but an afterglow. However, the spark that had caused the city to erupt in the early 90s had not been totally lost; there were still many around that held onto the euphoric ideology, of music, of hedonism, of pure experience.
Really, this was a time of new beginnings. There were still many disused spaces across Berlin and a raw, passionate “do-it-yourself” attitude had long become part of the city’s DNA (von Thülen, NY Times); this was merely a new chapter. The following year, 2005, Ostgut Ton established itself as a fully fledged label, taking up its residence at Berghain. In the same year, long-running club and the original initiator of Berlin’s techno movement, Tresor, had been forced to close as the land had been sold to investors for development; a new site had been found shortly after but would not be ready to open until 2007.
Since then, Berghain and Ostgut have paralleled one another’s rise as era-defining taste-makers. The venue itself, a former power plant, sits on the regional border between Kreuzberg and Friederichshain (and is named thus: Berg-Hain). Though, this moniker of simple, surface-level convergence is implicative of the venue’s deeper liminality, as an entity that is very much built upon the blurring of lines, the transfiguration of time, meaning, reality. It is these very qualities that make Berghain substantial, meaningful and timeless.
On more tactile terms, the club’s notoriously elusive door policy and hedonistic weekend-long parties have become the stuff of legend and continues to attract legions of hopeful clubbers from around the world. This place is about more than simply popping a few pills and standing next to a stack of speakers for five hours. It can be. But why would you let it?
It’s far too easy to wax lyrical about the place many call “Church”, and it would seem fruitless to add to the ever expanding body of literature that cements the myth and legend of Berghain. Despite this I’ve come to realise that it is simultaneously (and paradoxically) a duty and an injustice to reduce the experience to words.
To celebrate 10 years in the game Berghain held a party last month (December), mobilising some of the finest names in the scene to come and play (you can get an exhaustive list of the lineup here). Having visited just a few months before for the Ostgut Ton 9th Birthday, I was keen to get back over there at the earliest opportunity. Klubnacht 10, then, would be a particularly special affair…
* * *
The faint thud of the kick drum seeps out into the dusty courtyard, enticing those waiting to go inside. The concrete monolith stands majestically, immovable, unyielding, while people stand by, huddled in the cold. The candescent glow from the misted window panels above hint toward the activity inside, as silhouettes slide and shift under the soft, purple glow. An energy radiates from the place; it’s subtle, but it’s something that you can really feel.
Stepping inside, the faded memories come flooding back, it suddenly becomes real again. The cloakroom is systematic, efficient, but friendly. In exchange for your items you get given a small metal medallion (with the number stamped into it) that you can wear around your neck or tie to your trousers – so much better than the flimsy raffle ticket you get in most other clubs, that you inadvertently lose or discard as rubbish later on in the night. I walked purposefully up the heavy iron staircase, anticipation rushing through my body as the mayhem of the main room (Berghain) filtered down to greet me.
Arriving onto the dance-floor it was clear that the party was well under way; it was interesting to think that some people had arrived over seven hours ago. The club was busy but there was still copious space to dance and move about the club. Mancunian double act AnD had just begun their set, unleashing mayhem onto the dance-floor. Their music was hard and abrasive, perhaps slightly too heavy to be coming into fresh at 8am on a Sunday, though following Blawan this undoubtedly made a nice progression into the morning proper. Having said this, it isn’t long until all concept of night and day completely disappears – once inside, all you have left as a constant is Time, which in itself twists and warps into an abyss.
It’s worth noting here that Berghain’s marathon-length parties are one thing that sets it apart from other clubs. The regular six hour stint in a typical UK club is not enough time to get lost, let alone with an outside smoking area bolted onto the side: a window into the ‘real’ world. When attending an ordinary night, you’re constantly in touch with your every day existence – inside the Berghain, you learn to assimilate the unfamiliar until you’ve crossed over to the other side. Berghain’s power lies in its ability to contain its own self-fabricated reality within, isolated from the disruptive, adulterated impressions of the outside world.
The first half of AnD’s set was particularly punishing. The performance was a fairly accurate representation of their studio output – gritty and unrelenting – and sounded great on the system. The live set consisted of a limited amount of hardware, which was nicely consolidated to give a very focussed sound. Having seen Karenn (Blawan and Pariah) with their vast analogue set-up a few weeks before, AnD’s arrangement seemed minuscule in comparison. This, however, did not diminish the level of punch that they could deliver. Venting the sound of their recent debut LP ‘Cosmic Microwave Background’ (which incidentally, is pretty amazing. Listen here), this was sonic deconstruction at its most unruly – violent, almost, in nature; not for the faint hearted. The pair’s trademark distortion kick and upbeat c.140bpm were salient features, with the second half of the set moving into more minimal acid grooves. Elaborating on more melodic material seemed to give a greater direction and nuance to their performance. It can be said that AnD’s work is both challenging and confrontational, constantly pushing the boundaries between functional dance music and experimental noise, and it was great to experience this kind of techno in a club setting. It was also nice to witness the dynamic between the two, bouncing off each other’s energy.
There was some praise from the crowd before Rotterdam-based Bas Mooy took to the booth. The familiar rhythmic hiss of ø [Phase]‘s ‘Insectoid’ provided a nice introduction (taken from Token’s 2014 ‘Aphelion’ Compilation), the menacing synth loop easing its way onto the dance-floor. It wasn’t long until things began winding back up again, though the Mord Records boss played deeper and more fluidly than AnD’s tearout set, settling back down to a steadier 133bpm.
I ventured into the recently opened Halle am Berghain – a huge, previously disused space that the venue had long been preparing to use for concerts, performances and art exhibitions. The club is big enough on a regular night, but when the Halle and the infamous Lab.oratory are open the place basically doubles in size. When the Halle is closed however, the doors recede back into the shadows; like a very well kept secret, you wouldn’t have known it was there.
Walking through the doorway and into the capacious Halle, you suddenly realise just how enormous this building is. A cavernous expanse unfolds as the music from Berghain begins to fade into the distance. Space-scapes drift quietly in the background while people lounge on the cushioned seating areas that line the walls. The man at the decks is Jenus Baumecker, elusive label manager of Ostgut Ton. Responsible for championing the music of Nick Höppner, Steffi, Len Faki, and of course Klock and Dettmann (among others), the man’s musical depth and aesthetic cannot be questioned. It was a pleasure to experience some more left-field listening from someone who has been such an influential player in shaping the Ostgut sound. A six hour slot in the Halle ensured Baumecker had ample time to really dive into his collection.
The tone is calm and pensive as Baumecker crafts beautifully deep, contemplative soundscapes that reverberate softly from the towering pillars, colourful geometric-inspired designs are projected onto them to enliven the stale concrete. Low rumblings of sub-frequencies play off the long arching drones and scattered hits of dubby percussion; people spark up as they sink deeper into quiet existential reflection. It was incredibly peaceful here and it was nice to know that you could retreat here if you needed a break from Berghain or Panorama Bar. The opening of the Halle actually proved to be a mandatory decision, as later on in the evening the club alone would not have been able to accommodate so many people.
Seeing through the afternoon in Berghain was DJ Skull, one of the few to originate from House’s formative years in late 80s Chicago. His position in the programme provided a nice intermediary link between Mooy and Dutch wonder-woman and Panorama Bar resident Steffi. Meanwhile Japan’s low-profile purveyor of House DSKE took the reins up in Panorama Bar who, alongside Joakim‘s eclectic and refined style, provided a classic P-bar daytime vibe for the afternoon. I don’t think any other set of window shutters have given people so much joy and euphoria, true magic.
Walking out of Berghain is always a strange, disorienting experience. Venturing into a sleepy Sunday afternoon in Berlin, it couldn’t be more different to what had just been experienced. You need a while just to take it all in, before pondering hesitantly the decision to acclimatise back into the comparatively insipid, lacklustre patterns of normal life. Walking further along the path, the music retreats into a comforting silence, though in my head the metronomic kick of the drum still echoes. People were still queueing up to get in, fresh faces ready to replenish Berghain’s inexhaustible energy reserves. The need for food, sleep, and money warranted a short interlude – one that felt necessary if I was to fully enjoy the rest of Klubnacht 10.
* * *
A few hours’ intermission was all that was needed. Approaching the club entrance once more, it appeared busier than ever, with streams of people eagerly queueing up to get in; welcome, phase two. Re-entering Berghain, the air was markedly heavier, as the accumulated hours of smoke and moving bodies had begun to saturate the air. The place was heaving, and it took noticeably longer to move around the congested walkways; however people were patient and friendly. This was another thing you notice when you’re in there: everyone is genuinely happy. People are here for one thing and one thing only: to party. What’s yours is mine: space on the dance-floor, a seat, a cigarette, beer, whatever. There is a wonderful sense of community that seems to be all but lost in conventional clubbing – community in the purest, most genuine sense of the word. There is a warmth that makes you feel accounted for, it’s a powerfully infectious energy, and it permeates every corner of the club.
Manning Berghain was one of Canada’s brightest talents, Zak Khutoretsky, alias DVS1. The night was in full flow, hats and snares spoke emphatically as cheers from the crowd filtered through the driving bass line. DVS1 had hit a groove, Berghain had finally erupted into chaos. Varied passages of percussion intensive numbers mixed with more ravey melodic material saw him craft the energy of the crowd, fully engaged, in total control. Dropping Inigo Kennedy‘s ‘Binary Opposition’ remix (originally from ø [Phase]’s seminal 12″) built up suspense, while Hess and Kraviz‘s dark and smoky ‘Remember’ collab brought things hypnotically inward. His set was impressive for its fluidity and dynamism, traversing seamlessly through various strands of techno. This kind of eclecticism in techno alone is difficult, but to really pull it off the crowd needs to be with you too. It demands a certain amount of risk, but also an acute understanding of the dance-floor and of the records you’re playing; and to be honest, Khutoretsky nailed it.
Up in Panorama Bar, inimitable Hessle Audio head Ben UFO had started to heat things up. He delights with an eclectic all-vinyl set, dipping into affable cuts of US house and techno, with the occasional detour through some tropical acid flavours. Easing into the first couple of hours he includes less obvious selections like Culoe de Song‘s indigenous remix of Soundiata’s Rebels’s ‘Tamboula’.
His set was well-considered, patient, and structured. Having steadily built up throughout the evening, dropping Floating Points‘s 2014 euphoric hit ‘Nuit Sonores’ proved a pivotal moment that signalled the push into heavier territory. Following shortly after, Africans With Mainframes‘s ‘Tonkolili’ and Paul Johnson‘s 1994 classic ‘Welcome To The Warehouse’ garnered a positive reception from the crowd.
For someone who I’d seen countless times under the Hessle banner (alongside other UK Bass affiliates Pangaea, Blawan and Pearson Sound), Panorama Bar showed a side of his DJing that I don’t often get the chance to enjoy. In addition to his astonishing proficiency in Jungle, Garage, DnB and Techno, his highly venerated back-to-back sessions with the likes of Craig Richards and Gerd Janson are a testament to his holistic artistry, and you could get a real sense of this from his performance. Fellow colleagues and P-bar residents Efdemin and Gerd Janson had also come to show their support from the edge of the booth. Having guided us through a seamless narrative, it’s easy to see that the young DJ is at the very top as one of the world’s most exceptional selectors.
There’s something really magical about a P-Bar crowd. The place is just full of good energy and a happiness that’s irresistibly contagious; it’s nigh on impossible to come out of that room and not feel uplifted. P-Bar itself is very warm and accommodating, and you can totally understand it when people say they spent 20 hours straight in that room. From the low hanging lighting, the café styled layout and the three panelled cocktail bar, to the huge art pieces hung on the walls and the lounge area along the back, it couldn’t be more different from the ever so slightly intimidating Berghain. The art that features in Panorama Bar is that of Turner Prize winner Wolfgang Tillmans, an esteemed German photographer whose affiliation with the venue features a collection of engaging and provocative works. Since his conversion to (and exploration of) digital photography in 2009, huge canvasses with ultra high-definition shots have manifested. One of the pieces depicts the inside of a woman’s mouth, which is part of a series that previously featured two other explicit pictures of (presumably) the same woman, one of her from behind and another with her legs spread, exposing her shaved vagina. Strangely, much like the naked men that roam the club, this extravagance and these highly sexualised and expressive sentiments feel natural and very much at home here.
It’s worth noting here Berghain’s function as an arts institution, rather than simply a club. As part of the ten year celebrations the venue also held an arts exhibition, entitled ’10’, during August. The exhibition focused on the club’s connection with the wider arts scene in Berlin, and included Sarah Schoenfeld‘s provocative installation ‘Hero’s Journey (Lamp)’ consisting of a tank filled over the course of ten weeks with 2000 litres of urine from the club toilets. Other projects have included an avant garde ballet production (entitled MASSE) and numerous art exhibitions.
Regardless of an individual’s allegiance to either Berghain or Panorama Bar, one must acknowledge that they work synergistically. They are two sides of the same coin, and the two are, in fact, interdependent. Sure, Berghain or P-Bar could operate as stand-alone clubs but only up to a certain point. With the two combined you have something much more holistic, much more expansive – it creates its very own ecosystem. Berghain is big enough and dynamic enough to explore and appreciate – it’s a concrete playground that offers a kind of escapism that’s hard to come by these days.
For the remainder of his set DVS1 went on to drop ‘Running’, an old Klockworks release from 2012, aptly mirroring our collective descent into chaos as we approached the final sets of the night. It was refreshing to listen to a set that was so varied and engaging, lifting the crowd with ease. Khutoretsky’s productions really come to life when played out on club systems – suddenly the elements all click together, filling the space with great atmosphere and clarity; getting to play out your own tracks in Berghain must be the icing on the cake.
I’d returned to the Halle a number of times throughout the night, and it was interesting to observe how the vibe had evolved as the event progressed. Maya had shifted the mood to something more direct, which in a way was good in that it offered an alternative to the other two rooms, though a part of me was happy with the dusty beats and ambient soundscapes from before. The Halle was no longer a place of quiet solace and the louder volume not only made talking more of a challenge, but also highlighted some difficulties with the sound system and the room’s acoustics. Despite this, things were still more relaxed here, with Maya moving from shameless cuts of RnB and synth pop to electro, and even trap. Smooth downtempo grooves and sultry guitar lines jar against industrial beats while loose, wispy vocals float over the top. The Halle was now completely full, people seemingly enjoying the eclecticism and the contrast to the main room.
Walking back into Berghain is always a real treat. You’re hit by the torrential wall of noise that pumps from the Function 1 stacks, while looking onto the dance-floor observing five hundred people moving ritually in unison to the bone rattling kick drum is really a sight to behold. Within seconds the energy and atmosphere of the room washes over you in a wave of adrenaline, the sensation is indescribable. It’s as if you’re walking back into a hurricane – powerful, unrelenting, awe-inspiring.
Despite the party feeling like it could, and would, go on forever, we’d long past the half way point; but perhaps, this is where things get most interesting. The party had been going on for almost 24 hours now and you could feel the logic unravelling as the club plunged further into entropy. It was now Marcel Fengler’s turn to carry things forward. The long-standing Berghain resident proceeded to unleash an onslaught of peak-time madness, including Keith Carnal‘s absolutely stunning ‘Perception’ 12″ and another single out on Mord Records from one of Germany’s rising stars UVB, entitled ‘Mixtion’ – undoubtedly one of the anthems of the evening. The first half of Fengler’s set consisted of that gliding sort of techno that flies effortlessly, perfect rolling material for that time of night. Though from midnight it got progressively harder, carrying forward the austerity that DVS1 had earlier established. An uplifting mix of Kajioka‘s ‘Gravity’ into ‘Underworld’ by Rez pushed things forward, while the remainder of his set featured other tension-building selections including X.Y‘s ‘Ctrls’ (also from Aphelion) and Robert Hood‘s highly effective ‘Rays Of Saturn’ remix.
Bouquets of white lilies decorated the DJ booth (both in Berghain and P-Bar), beautiful yet strangely macabre when juxtaposed with pounding techno. The lilies were fresh, some of them still dormant, their sweet floral scent diffusing into the room. The white lily has been synonymous with purity and new life, yet interestingly in some cultures they also symbolise eroticism. For the club, this antithesis is perfect. It was lovely to see something so beautiful and organic inside the club.
Large lighting rigs tend to detract from the music, often coming off as tacky or too imposing. There is a lot to be said about the dynamics of audio-visual settings (in clubs particularly), and, much like an accompanying soundtrack to a film, the relationship between both mediums is a subtle and delicate one. In Berghain, the light show is amazing, it is a perfect balance that engineers the space for total immersion. The lights are not a primary agent for experience, rather, they are supplementary to something that can collectively transport you.
Wandering upstairs, Panorama Bar had completely packed out for the remainder of Ben UFO’s set, in anticipation for Gerd Janson. After an ecstatic reception, Berlin-based Janson took over, warming up with chugging cuts of Todd Terje and other laid back grooves. It’s all about the bass-line here, couple with the classic kick and snare combo which carried things forward. It quickly becomes obvious as to why Janson is a favourite at this place, his ability to hold an energy on the dance-floor is grounded in a simultaneously raw but refined style; his track selections and ordering made him a magnetic figure to dance to. This set was a masterclass in pure grooves. Caribou’s ‘Your Love Will Set You Free’ embodied the anthemic conclusion to Janson’s three hour set, while ‘Stick Together’ (taken from Session Victim‘s excellent LP last year) perpetuated this sentiment. Janson had set the stage for another of Berlin’s finest, Nd_baumecker, to carry the proceedings – who began with classy selections to the likes of Sound Stream‘s killer B-side ‘Dance With Me’.
Having seen Baumecker open, I headed swiftly downstairs to catch the opening of the mighty Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann, the final set of the event. As I entered Berghain, I could already feel the anticipation in the air. The room was teeming with people who’d made their way from all corners of the club to see probably the most iconic duo currently in techno. Fengler soon ended his set as the crowd erupted into cheering and applause. Klock and Dettmann received a warm reception, with cries of adulation from the crowd; for many this seemed like the moment we had all been waiting for, the apex from which everything else had preceded. How long these two would go on for, no one could tell…
The room rapidly diminished into silence, something I’d never witnessed before at a techno gig. To be in that room at that exact moment was spine-chilling; every person there was on the same level, under one spell – it’s an experience I’ll never forget. Emerging out of the cold, chasmic silence was the instantly recognisable synth arpeggio of ‘Dawning Revisited’. The introduction seemed to extend forever; it felt as if time and reality had been suspended. We were drifting into the infinite: This was transcendence in motion. The minor arpeggio edged further into the wilderness as snatched percussion fizzed into the ether, the atmosphere was electric. As the kick eased in, the audience cheered once again. There was no turning back from here, the journey had begun.
Things started rolling forward as the beat matured to completion. The off-beat clap brings up a proper warehouse vibe, tight and controlled, with a light reverb. The cowbell figure enters, like an insistent tap on the door… “Open up, Fate is here”. ‘Dawning Revisited’ is actually a rework of a previous track; indeed, the original version of the 2013 edit, ‘Dawning’ was a turning point for techno. As the very first release on Ostgut Ton it marked the beginnings of not only a new era for Berlin clubbing but also seemed to preempt the seismic shift that would occur in underground dance music in the ensuing years. The label’s premise and philosophy was already clearly defined from the outset, and it appeared as if Klock and Dettmann’s historical 12″ self-assuredly proclaimed the beginning of something truly special.
Ten years on and that track is still just as evocative. Of course, there is no doubt that Ostgut would not be where it is today were it not for their emblematic torchbearers, Klock and Dettmann, who have carved their own place in history as two formidable comrades, notorious for their marathon 10+ hour sets and their ‘all-or-nothing’ approach to DJing. Beginning with something so sentimental and significant made this a fitting introduction that really contained within it 10 years of reflection; a retrospective look back, before turning forwards into the unknown.
Before long, the pair had launched into their assault – a remix of Terence Fixmer‘s ‘Hypnose’ as well as Tata Box Inhibitors‘s classic 90s roller ‘Plasmids’ built things up nicely, and allowed permeations of acid to make their way into the set. Things really got going with Robert Hood‘s recent remix of ‘Walfisch’, taken from Roman Poncet’s faultless ‘Walfisch’ EP on ARTS, which got released this month. Later there were other gems such as Alter Ego‘s acid-EBM remix of Human League‘s ‘All I Ever Wanted’, a candid selection from the duo.
The clinical efficacy of Klock b2b Dettmann is a phenomenon that has taken venues around the world by storm; I wouldn’t be surprised if they were actually super-androids sent from the future to execute a techno revolution and liberate the world. If their 11 hour ‘take-no-prisoners’ set at Fabric’s 15th Birthday was to set a benchmark, then a 14 hour set at Berghain is a statement in itself. These guys are about testing the limits and pushing boundaries. It is this insatiable desire for something higher that has etched them deep into history and memory. This felt like the end of the world; perhaps not as ruthlessly apocalyptic, but more, an exodus into death and rebirth. This kind of feeling strips away all of the irrelevant and decorative dross that we seem to accumulate into our lives, offering us an environment where we can be fully present in the moment – at least for a weekend…
* * *
After visiting Berghain you begin to think about this whole ‘techno’ ‘thing’. Not only how ostensibly ridiculous it is, but also just how powerful and fundamental it is. To experience something so invigorating and so visceral is actually quite surreal when you reduce it to simply a large concrete building filled with people, and some loud sonic vibrations – how can anyone possibly do that for two days non-stop, let alone twenty hours? There’s clearly something much deeper here.
Berghain’s myth is captured in the experience it offers within. The increasing number of stories that have proliferated across the world in its wake not only fantasise about what happens inside the decadent clubbing space but perhaps more pointedly suggest that every Berghain experience is unique – no two times are ever the same and every journey there will yield its own individual revelations. There are no repeats; each party happens only once. This reiteration is an important one, as it hints toward one of Berghain’s enduring features: it exists as a place of possibility, its enigmatic shapeshifting is an expression of an infinite multiplicity, reflected in the constantly changing crowd and the perpetual construction of paradigms. This is what cultivates this potent hedonism that lifts the party from something trivial and inconsequential, to something vital and substantial.
Yet to appreciate the delirious euphoria of a Monday morning Berghain session requires a certain level of dedication. What is so intrinsic to Berghain is that people commit; when you go to Berghain you go to stay. The ‘journey’ aspect of a DJ set as well as a club night is one that has increasingly become a superficial term, but it is imperatively applicable here. Ben Klock recently admitted: “no matter how many times I play there I still get excited. Every time I play there I still get this ‘wow!’ experience”. Intrinsic to this is the passion that people have for the music: people really, really, love house and techno there. You can see it. You can feel it. It makes the place come alive.
Yet, this cathedral of techno is more than a place of worship. Its integrity lies in its symbolic and cultural relevance. Berlin’s heritage as a city of hedonism and freedom, grasping for an identity in the post-modernist swathe of new, ‘unified’ Europe, is something that has been inherently imbued into Berghain. The club is more than just a place to party – it opens up a space that you simply cannot access elsewhere. Not only is it culturally symbolic of emancipation and (an albeit contradictory) social equality, but also, Berghain’s existence is a statement of defiance. Indeed, Berghain had a predecessor, its first incarnation the infamous Ostgut Club – whose demise in 2003 was a result of the neo-capitalist Media Spree, that saw the club torn down in place of the new O2 World arena. However, aside from the esoteric and often abstract depictions of this clubbing space, the venue is just impressively functional – something many clubs fail at right from the beginning.
The aforementioned Media Spree is a large-scale property development project that has seen a number of clubs and independent businesses decimated in place of new developments – namely luxury apartments and office spaces. A long running struggle between local communities and the government have, once again, divided the city, as it fights for a common middle-ground where opposing ideologies can exist. Thus, Berghain’s ability to deliver something still so pure and seemingly unrestrained is a testament to the people behind it. Urban processes such as gentrification have seen once before glorious, vibrant cities crumble in a self-consuming race for negligent, fatuous economic gain. With such international pressure under the spotlight of incessant tourism, we continue to see Berlin’s subculture reified and commoditised with each passing day. The fact that Berghain is 10 years strong is a phenomenal achievement and perhaps provides an optimistic stand-point for the future of the city’s nightlife.
But maybe this, perhaps unavailing, over-intellectualisation slightly misses the point when trying to comprehend Berghain as a ‘thing’. Namely, that what makes this place so appealing is that it offers something very pure, something somehow essential. Whether this phenomenal experience is created by the initiation of passing the door policy, or whether it’s because every party there feels ephemeral and uniquely singular, is difficult to say. Anyone can cram a load of people into a dark room and make a ‘party’, but Berghain is just something else.
* * *
The time of reflection that follows after a session at Berghain is actually one of the most beautiful qualities about the whole experience. A period of re-adjustment into society is accompanied by a shamelessly rose-tinted reminiscence. I think, more than anything, you feel thankful for the experience.
The days that follow almost feel empty, subsumed by the weekend’s aftermath. Reflecting back, you begin to question through the mental fog, whether it really happened… Did it? … Of course it did, the faded stamp is still imprinted on your arm. But apart from this, there’s no tangible evidence to suggest otherwise…
* * *
Standing at the top of the staircase, I survey the sight before me. Four speaker stacks mark the corners of the dance floor like sentinels, continuing their unrelenting assault on the dance-floor. Looking down I see hundreds of people in total submission, completely entranced. Any concept of time – past or future – is nonexistent; all there is, is the now.
As I wander deeper into the dance-floor, the room dissolves into haze;
I am alone, surrounded by people; I am engulfed in vibrations.
The music moves through my body, while the world around me begins to crumble, dissipating into the darkness…
and all that’s left
is smoke. lights. sound.