Well, those who check my blog daily (thanks!) will have noticed that I’m actually posting this about 4 days after the fact. That should probably be a good indication of how my weekend went, eh?
Since I had gone to bed at a decent hour last night, I actually woke up around 8h00, which was going to completely throw my weekend sleeping schedule out of whack, so I forced myself to go back to sleep until about noon. Trust me, this is necessary.
I spent the day getting some work done and catching up on my blogging, as I knew that the weekend would bring with it “delays” of various sorts. In the early evening, I cooked up an improvised dish that involved pan-fried cauliflower, slices of Landjäger sausage, caramelized onions, garlic and some Spanish Mahon cheese; it was surprisingly delicious, although I should’ve deglazed the pan with some wine or something first.
One of my roommates was home at the time and he joined me for dinner, opening up a bottle of Portuguese wine he had bought earlier to go with the meal. As we enjoyed our leisurely meal, the topic of conversation ranged widely, discussing wines in detail and comparing wine-growing regions of the world that we were more or less familiar with. Since my roommate liked full-bodied reds, I mentioned the Georgian wine-growing region (i.e., the Republic of Georgia, not the US state), which got us talking about Georgian politics and eventually Georgia’s breakaway regions (South Ossetia, Abkhazia and formerly Adjara), where Russia has been arming and supporting pro-Russian separatists for quite some time.
We finished eating and went back to our respective rooms to check our email, when I quickly got a BBC news article forwarded to me from my roommate. The title read, “Russian tanks enter South Ossetia.” Wow, that’s odd timing.
Now, I knew that Ossetian separatists over the past year at least had been lobbing fire into neighboring ethnically-Georgian towns, and the Georgians have been returning fire. Russia had granted a lot of the South Ossetians Russian passports, which gave Russia the basis to claim a “humanitarian” interest in the region, and to strike a belligerent stance toward Georgia in the interest of “protecting our citizens” (this is not a new tactic: see Russia’s use of ethnically-Russian populations in the Ukraine and most of the Baltic states). Reading this news post, I assumed that this was a moment of daring on the part of the Russians, and that they would probably pull back once they had made their point and prevented the Georgians from regaining control over the separatist area. A bit later that night, as I was getting ready to head out for a night of fieldwork, I checked BBC again and saw a new article that claimed that Russian forces were conducting air raids into undisputed areas of Georgia as well, such as the military base in Gori.
Uh oh. This didn’t bode well at all, and the US, Georgia’s current ally (to the constant annoyance of Russia), doesn’t seem in a position to help. If Georgia had been accepted into NATO earlier this year (another thing that pissed off Russia), it would’ve been bound to come to their aid, but alas they’re on their own. It seems now that this conflict started when Georgian forces tried to re-assert control of the area and Russia decided to come to the aid of the separatists (i.e., “Russian citizens”), so it’s a bit of a mystery why Saakashvili (the Georgian President) decided to make his military move when the situation was so precarious. I’m not well-informed enough on the area to give a good analysis of the situation there, but MetaFilter had some surprisingly good commentary on a thread started shortly after the attacks began.
PanoramaBar: Gui Boratto and some debauchery
After dinner, my roommate had said to me, “I’m surprised you don’t take a nap before going out.” I’m not a very good nap-taker; if I sleep for one or two hours, I tend to wake up groggy. I usually prefer to sleep in a bit the morning of a big night out and then just power through the evening. However, I thought the idea was worth a try, so I decided to try taking a “disco nap.”
I set my head down around 21h00 and (aside from some interruptions from text messages) got up at midnight and started showering and getting dressed. By about 1h10, I was standing in front of Panorama Bar. I was supposed to meet a friend there at 1h00 so that we could head in together, but the bugger slept through his alarm clock and only woke up when I called him from the front of the building. He apologized profusely and started making his way to the club, and I started waiting.
There wasn’t really a line yet at the door (it doesn’t get busy until 3h00 usually), which unfortunately meant that the bouncers had a clear line of sight to me, as I waited for my friend to arrive. I wasn’t sure what they would make of it, but I imagined that loitering in front of the club for an excessive period of time might attract the sort of attention that could torpedo my efforts to get into the club. The advice that I’ve leared for getting into Berlin techno clubs: be inconspicuous (while within the club’s stylistic norms) and let the drunken teenaged tourists around you be the lightning rods of the doorman’s exclusion.
I was feeling more and more nervous as my friend took longer and longer to arrive. As I was waiting, I saw small groups of partygoers arrive, approach the door, and be sent away. I had been amusing myself (and worrying myself) by watching these people pass me on the way in and trying to guess whether they would be bounced or let in. All of the ones that I thought wouldn’t get in didn’t, but I was surprised to find a lot of seemingly “unproblematic” candidates getting turned away as well. I’d say about 75% of the people that passed me in one direction also passed me in the other direction within a minute or two. At 1h30 in the morning, that sort of selectivity didn’t bode well.
So when my friend finally showed up NEARLY AN HOUR LATER, I was anxious, filled with dread, and ready to blame it on him and wring his neck if we didn’t get in. By then, there was a short lineup outside, so I silently prayed that the bouncers wouldn’t recognize me as the strange boy standing in front of the building for an hour and we got in line.
By the time we got to the front (as we both stopped speaking French and started to put on our best “I’m not a foreigner” faces) the bouncers seemed to be having a moment of benevolence, as they had let the last couple of groups in without comment. However, this wasn’t necessarily a good thing, as other friends of mine have observed that bouncers tend to avoid long streaks of “in” or “out,” which means that it is possible that you’ll get refused at the door just because the bouncer hasn’t said “no” for a while.
Ugh, more tension. I was clearly still traumatized by my bad luck getting into Watergate more than a week ago. The guy at the door at that moment was one of the younger-looking guys with brown hair and a wide face that I’ve seen around but rarely seen at the door, which made me yet more nervous. I peeked through the door to see the older, burly, tattooed and heavily-pierced bouncer that is a fixture at Berghain and breathed a sigh of partial-relief; he’s seen me enter nearly every time and apparently he has a photographic memory.
I suddenly realized that he was looking right back at me, with a smirk on his face. With my now-nearly-delusional anxieties about getting in, I couldn’t tell if his half-smile was supposed to convey “how cute, you’re all worried that you won’t get in, but I know you and you’ll be fine” or “haha, you think this smile is friendly but I’m really smiling in anticipation of BOUNCING YOUR ASS OUT AHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!!1!” He was playing some sort of staring game with me, because he wouldn’t look away, and so eventually I looked nervously in some other random direction before looking back, since I also didn’t want to appear to be making any implicit promises to him that I couldn’t keep. This is no fun, dammit.
The younger bouncer looked at the two of us, leaned into the other bouncer and said something. The older guy, still looking at me, smiled a bit wider and said a couple of words to the younger one. They both smiled and made joked about something out of earshot, and then the younger guy walked back to the front of the line, opened the chain barrier, and said “Viel Spaß” (“have fun”).
Trying not to look too relieved, we gave the Unsmiling Hipster Headnod, a quick “Danke” (quick enough that our accents wouldn’t register), and then scampered inside to be searched and pay the cover charge. As we climbed the three flights of stairs to get to Panorama Bar (the Berghain section isn’t open on Fridays), I began to ask myself why I had gotten so wound-up about getting in. Part of it, I think, is that my encounter with denial a couple of Wednesdays ago reminded me that the bouncer system here isn’t entirely predictable: the bouncers can’t read minds but rather only outsides (attire, accents, posture, ethnicity), and although those affiliated with a particular scene do our best to display the right kind of outsides, the bouncers can misread us or have a change of whim that has little to do with established conventions. Also, I think part of the panic has to do with how precarious the “night out” is in these situations; the next 6-12 hours of your night will be decided by whether this person likes the look of you.
00h00-4h00: Mathias Aguayo
After getting drinks and checking our coats, we headed straight to the front of the room and started dancing in earnest. Aguayo’s set was firmly within a minimal-house sound, with a stronger reliance on vocal tracks than you would normally hear in Panorama Bar. In fact, about an hour into his set, he whipped out a microphone and started singing / shouting along with his tracks. Sometimes, this worked pretty well, especially when he was singing a short repetitive melody in Brazilian Portuguese or Spanish. Sometimes, he sounded like a drunk business traveler at a karaoke bar.
In my 13+ years of going to EDM events, I can say that the DJ-as-crooner schtick rarely works and most often careens into not-even-ironically-fun bad. Most of Aguayo’s set was pretty godawful in this regard, although I appreciated the spirit in which it was attempted. The result was that I spent most of the set simultaneously dancing and cringing; I would think “This track is great!” and then he would start wailing and I would thing “Oh great, it’s another fucking Matthew Dear act.” (To his credit, I don’t think he took himself nearly as seriously as Matthew Dear did for his vocal tracks.) Another lesson for today: just because you’re good in one domain of music-making doesn’t automatically make you good in another one.
4h00-5h00: Gui Boratto live
Gui Boratto’s set was definitely the highlight of the evening, offering a more abstract minimal house set with occasionally moments of “Latin” inflections, such as acoustic drum samples and complex percussion patterns. His build-ups were sometimes a bit overlong, taking so much time building up to the “return of the beat” that the feeling of anticipation began to deflate before something substantial happened. Nonetheless, the sound was great and the crowd seemed to really enjoy it.
I was a bit surprised to find Boratto also really hot, especially considering that I had seen him about a year and a half ago in Paris and he didn’t strike me as remarkable in the looks department. Looking back at the pictures I had from then, I don’t see a big difference in his appearance, but I guess something must have been different. Considering my previous inexplicable attraction to other DJs in this club, I beginning to wonder if there’s something about Panorama Bar that has an aphrodisiac effect on me. Either way, his set was great and he looked pretty damn fine to me.
5h00-9h00: Navid Tahernia
(I think Tahernia works for Kompakt, the label that was hosting the night.) Tahernia’s set was of a much harder, thumping variety that sometimes spilled into a sort of hard trance sound that I’m not really into. Nonetheless, I have to admit that I wasn’t paying attention for most of his set. A few minutes into his set, I noticed a cute guy dancing near me that kept on looking in my direction, and eventually we both maneuvered our way into dancing next to each other. I’ll be a gentleman (and a cautious ethnographer) and withhold the details, but this fine Irish lad kept me well distracted for the rest of the evening.
In fact, we didn’t leave the place until about 10h30, by which point I was completely unaware of who was spinning what. Nonetheless, good times.