Well, this was my last weekend in Berlin and I definitely got my money’s worth, so to speak. My itinerary was pretty damn exhausting, though, so I can’t really give my usual play-by-play. I’ll give some descriptions of the DJs that struck me as particularly interesting or exciting, but otherwise this is really just an aide-mémoire for my marathon weekend. Of course, amusing anecdotes will abound.
My daytime activities were pretty simple and boring. I blogged the previous two nights, answered some emails, cleaned myself up and put on some clothes for the night out. I was supposed to be meeting a friend-of-a-friend at midnight for much-belated drinks in Kreuzberg, but first one of my French boyz suggested that we meet at Bar25 for drinks, with the strategy of getting the much-sought-after stamp on our arms before entry became impossible. A stamp for Bar25 is good all weekend for entry, and the place will often stop letting in non-listed people by about midday Sunday. So, after finishing with a bit more work and writing, I hopped on my bike and headed over. Yes, that’s right, I’m taking my bike out on a night of hard clubbing. Since I had to bounce around between several clubs tonight, it seemed like a much faster and more economical plan (trains run infrequently during the wee hours of the weekend). Nonetheless, you'll note that I'm keeping track of just how far I biked tonight, 'cause it really added up.
Drinks and DER STEMPEL at Bar25
I made my way to Bar25 without incident [3.5 KM SO FAR], chained my bike to a lamppost, and then headed into the Bar. Since it was still about 22h30 and I was all alone, I got in without any problem and got the all-important stamp. Immediately, I started worrying about sweating it off before I could make proper use of it on Sunday. I sweat a lot, after all.
My Frenchy buddy was already there, so I grabbed a drink and sat down with him near the fire-pit (NOTE: for those who are joining this blog late, look here for a description of the place; it’s essentially a wild-west theme park turned into a club). By the time I got back with my drink, my buddy was talking to a German guy next to him that was very clearly drunk. Thankfully but also somewhat unfortunately, he was a “friendly drunk,” trying his best to make conversation with a combination of slurred North-German dialect (from Hamburg) and very broken English. It was pretty funny at first and there is always a certain pleasure in being on the receiving end of well-intentioned friendliness, but it did get taxing after a while. He would ask for sips from our drinks and cigarettes and so on, while convincing us that his friends were coming any moment with a beer for him. When they did arrive, they (much less drunk) hadn’t brought him a beer, which prompted some sort of lewd reprimand that I could barely understand, and then he went and ordered a beer for himself and another one for each of us.
At some point, this guy put his arm around my Frenchy buddy and says in English, “My friend…my boyfriend…” in a way that was supposed to be joking. However, he was just drunk enough to make it difficult to gauge the un/seriousness of anything he was saying, so my friend quickly said, “Sorry dude, I’m not gay…wait, are you gay?” While his friends chuckled the guy smiled and then slurred, “Me? I’ve got a boy. A little boy, only 26 centimeters.” It took us a moment to realize that he was trying to tell us that he’s the father of a baby, and not the boyfriend of a very small person, a pedophile, or maybe alarmingly attached to a particular sex toy. I maintain that the last interpretation would’ve been funnier.
Anyway, we continuted to humor his rambling questions for a while, and then he and his friends decided to head out for some food and then on to some other party somewhere in Spandau. A few minutes later, it was about 23h30 and needed to head over to my next “appointment.”
Drinks and Chat around Kreuzberg
A friend of one of my former roommates was going to meet me at a new-ish techno bar called Luzia on Oranienstraße. This guy is originally from California, but has been living in Berlin and active in the techno scene since 1992. So, as you can imagine, I had a really strong “professional” interest in meeting him before I left Berlin. As it turns out, he’s also really nice guy and a very interesting conversationalist, so yay!
I made my way over from Bar25 to Luzia [+2 KM = 5.5 KM] and parked my bike. We ran into each other right in front of the bar, and then made our way in. There was a guy at the door, apparently taking a cue from Berlin’s clubs and doing the ‘face check’ thing, but my drinking companion got us in and soon we were sitting at a small table against the wall and chatting rapidly. Before we even touched on Berlin’s techno history, there was a substantial discussion of current American politics (and the impending election), an update on Canadian politics (and an possible election), and a review of same-sex marriage rights in our various countries of origin and residence. Considering that I had budgeted roughly an hour of talk-time, we were clearly going to run into over-time.
But, if it’s any indication of what a great conversation we were having, I didn’t for a moment worry about being late for the next party—even though it was very far away and I was going there by bike. We didn’t bring the talking to an end until I was getting urgent text messages from my Frenchy buddy at the party, saying that the music was great and I needed to get my ass there. By then, we have moved over to Möbel Olfe a rather unlikely and lively gay pub in the heart of Kreuzberg-SO36 (i.e., the Turkish / punk / junkies area around Kottbusser Tor).
Rompecabeza night at Club Rechenzentrum / Funkpark
Now this was a colossal bike-ride, and in retrospect I have no idea what I was thinking at the time. I hopped on my bike from Kottbusser Tor and made my way to the Rechenzentrum / Funkpark complex, which was all the way out in Lichtenberg / Köpenick. This took me 40 minutes of riding at a pretty brisk pace [+8 KM = 13.5 KM].
I had a number of good reasons for making the lengthy bike ride there. To begin with, Tony Rohr was playing with Tim Xavier as The Afternoon Coffee Boys, and I was really excited to hear their live set. Also, Camea was going to be spinning and I had also heard good things about Andomat 3000. Also, the girl connected to Chicago’s Naughty Bad Fun Collective, that I had met about a month ago, was working for the organizer tonight, so I was planning to meet her there and hang out for a bit. Also, Rechenzentrum is just a great location.
3h00-4h00: Afternoon Coffee Boys live
Unfortunately, I had mistakenly thought that the Afternoon Coffee Boys started at 4h00, when they actually started at 3h00, so by the time I got there, it was 3h40 or so and I missed at least half of the set. On the other hand, when I found my French buddy in the crowd, his first words to me were, “Great timing! You got here just as thing are getting awesome.” Afterwards, he would tell me that their whole live set was great, but that the latter half was what really impressed him. In fact, by later that morning, he was declaring it the best live set of the summer in Berlin.
I was pretty impressed with what little of the live set I saw, too. The overall sound was less aggressive and percussive as Tony Rohr’s usual solo sets (and I don’t know Tim Xavier’s sound well enough), but the set still had a very full sound. There was extensive use of echo effects and other sort of atmospheric effects, which I’m less fond of, but my Frenchy buddy just loved.
When I caught up with my Chicago friend, she passed me a drink ticket (thanks!) and introduced me to some of her friends and co-workers. As we were chatting about what we were doing in Berlin and so on, I told her about the theme of my dissertation project (intimacy and public space in dance clubs) and she said, “You can use this in your research: The main reason I dance on the Slut-Box is so that I don’t have to be near other people.”
The Slut-Box™ is a term developed by her and fellow members of the Naughty Bad Fun Collective to refer to the large bass-bin speakers or some other sort of large box in a club that can support the weight of a girl dancing on it. It should preferably be something that wasn’t intended to be danced on, and it is generally the domain of women (no boys on the Slut-Box, please). This girl in particular was well-known back in the Chicago techno-scene for workin’ it on the Slut-Box.
So, there’s something kinda awesome about the fact that she felt motivated to engage in something that seems exhibitionistic and overtly sexual for the purposes of avoiding contact and proximity (i.e., intimacy). What’s interesting about this is that the usual logic around this sort of self-display is that it constitutes an invitation to desire, approach, maybe touch; but in this case, this is a kind of self-display that isn’t a lure. To put it differently, dancing on the Slut-Box (for her, at least) isn’t about drawing attention but creating distance.
Camea’s set was very good and expertly performed, but also somewhat unremarkable. This isn’t meant as a pan of her set—I actually really enjoyed it—but it was well within the style I have come to expect from Berlin DJs. Her one distinguishing characteristic was that she passed a few tracks with Black-American male voices singing/rapping so-pornographic-it’s-kitschy lyrics. Of the ones I could identify, this included “Sandwiches” by The Detroit Grand Pubahs and “Breakfast” by LeLe. Very cute.
Sometime toward the end of Camea’s set and the beginning of the next one, my Chicago friend started climbing up on the speaker near the front and doing her Slut-Box™ thing. When she headed to the washroom for a moment, another girl climbed up on the speaker and started dancing. When my friend returned, I said in mock-indignation, “Bitch is on yer box!” To which she said,
“The first rule of Slut-Box: always give away the Slut-Box.
6h00-??: Andomat3000 live
This set started rather late, since he was having trouble getting his gear connected and working, so I think this set actually started a good half-hour later than I’ve listed it here. Anyway, what I heard of this set was great, combining thick texture with rather abstracted, floating elements. However, I soon looked at my watch and realized that it was already 7h00 and André Galuzzi (and others) were already spinning at Berghain / Panoramabar. So, after a quick run to the bathrooms, I said my goodbyes and hopped on my bike.
One Last Night at Berghain / Panorama Bar
Well, “one last night” is only sort of correct, since it was already broad daylight out at this point. I jumped on my bike and rode all the way back into Berlin and over to Berghain. [+7.5 KM = 21 KM]. After chaining my bike to a lamppost and putting away my sunglasses, I headed over to the club, where there was virtually no lineup. Nonetheless, the bouncers still managed to send away a few would-be partygoers as I approached the door. It was almost 8h00 at this point.
I had another couple of Frenchy frends (the ones visiting from London) who were here, so I set about finding them. When I found them, the girl of the couple was dancing away while the boy was at the bar, presumably getting a drink. I waved at him and made a gesture for him to come over. He made a gesture that he would be there soon. I went back to dancing.
A few seconds later, I notice someone hovering by my shoulder. I turn around to see a guy standing next to me and looking at me, one who had just a moment ago been sitting down at the bar near where my friend was. It took only a split-second for both of us to figure out what had gone on, and before I could say anything to de-dramatize the moment, he had turned on his heel, his face frozen in an impassive non-expression, and he walked back, around the bar, and into the next room.
I felt horrible for him. Not so much because he had misread a situation in a way that left his hope and desire exposed as nothing more, but because all he had to do was laugh and make quip about “crossed wires.” If he had stuck around to leave an opening for this moment of misunderstanding, I would’ve been happy to return a friendly smile and say a few words to minimize the impact of the event. Instead, he was wandering around alone, somewhere in the crowd, wrapped in shame.
I can’t really go into detail about the DJs I heard tonight, partially because I didn’t see as much of André Galluzzi as I would’ve liked (he was in the Berghain room and the sound was consistently too loud), and the DJs in Panorama Bar were sort of disappointing. Nonetheless, I had an opportunity to see the place one more time, run into some of the same “regulars” (including the glitter brigade, which I will one day have to write about), overhear snorting and fucking in the washrooms, and generally just have fun.
By noon, my day wasn’t quite over yet: I still needed to hit Bar25 for what was promising to be an excellent Sunday evening. However, since I was going to take a plane on Monday and I still hadn’t packed my bags, it seemed like a good idea to give myself a break. So, I headed home [+4.5 KM = 25.5 KM TOTAL TONIGHT], took out my contact lenses, got into bed, and set my alarm for a 5-hour siesta.