1989 was a special year. USSR pulled out of Afghanistan, Nintendo’s game boy came into existence, the world-wide-web was born and the Berlin wall fell.
East Berliners filed into West Berlin, culminating in “the greatest street party in the history of the world.”
The party didn’t stop there. Modern day Berlin is unarguably the mecca where art and music intersect. Bringing you a prime slice of Berlin is the Goethe-Institut. Together with Heiko Hoffman and Alfons Hug, they are bringing to Singapore’s shores a multi-sensory exhibition, Club Berlin, which spans music, photography and music. We delved deeper and spoke to the elusive Berghain bouncer, Sven Marquardt alongside techno stalwarts from our scene such as Brendon P, Kaye and Maurice Simon.
The minimalist art space at DECK will be transformed into a hotbed of cultural impulses featuring installations by Sven, who has one eye on the door and the other on photography and photographs by Martin Eberle which meditates on empty spaces. In addition to that, music deftly curated by Heiko featuring DJs Rodhad (Dystopian), Head High, Massimiliano Pagliara, Answer Code Request, Tale Of Us, David August and Modeselektor, will be streamed in the background.
Heiko Hoffman, editor-in-chief of Groove magazine and jury member of Musicboard Berlin, kept pulse of his city’s cultural eruption for the past 20 years, which has seen a shift to something much more international.
Of course, Berlin was already known in the 1970s and 80s as a city where musicians such as David Bowie, Iggy Pop or Nick Cave lived for a couple of years, but since then it has become far more common for young people to come to the city and start getting involved in the local music scene. The first time I noticed this was around the year 2000, when Canadian artists such as Peaches and Gonzalez started their careers from the city.
Although clubs in UK and US seem to be waning in popularity amongst millenials, Berlin’s club culture is booming and shows no signs of slowing down.
Yes, sometimes clubs close and there’s a shift for clubs to move into other neighbourhoods, but there’s probably more clubs in Berlin right now than ever and many of them are full every weekend. For a random Saturday the online magazine Resident Advisor for example lists more than 60 parties. And that’s just for electronic dance music.
Heiko distills the success of Berlin’s clubbing scene to 3 main factors: the team, the music and the audience. No doubt location plays a part in drawing the crowd, but above all, it is “very important to have a great team – from inspired bookers, to knowledgeable people at the door and good people at the bar.”
You can tell pretty quickly if a club is a collective effort or if people only work there for the money. Music is key. Not only the selection and sequence of DJs, but also the sound of a club and the audience. An otherwise great club is nothing without its audience.
Berghain, Tresor Club and Watergate have since cemented themselves as Berlin cult classics. In addition to local music punters, dance troopers flock to the techno temples to play pilgrimage whenever they pass through the city, making these clubs notoriously hard to get in. What has cemented these venues as stalwarts in the scene, in particular the elusive Berghain where images are forbidden; is the diversity of their crowd.
There’s no dress code and no particular group of people that can’t get into Berghain. So if you can’t get in, don’t take it personally and just try again. Parties at Berghain start at midnight on a Saturday night and last until Monday. You could join the queue on a Saturday night and if you can’t get in, try again Sunday morning or afternoon where there will be a different bouncer at the door. You could also go on a Friday night when it’s often less busy or go to one of the many concerts at Berghain for which you can buy tickets in advance.
Berghain, remains “a very special place”, says Heiko, “but the expectation for people who go for the first time is often so high that that it might difficult to match.” Apart from crowd favourites, he recommends newer outfits such as About Blank, Ohm and Griessmühle, which are worth every grain of salt.