Gah. So tired.
So, tonight/morning was a lot of fun, but also quite the adventure. My daytime activities were pretty unexceptional; I did some laundry, did some writing, took a short walk to the local department store for some shaving cream and to buy some easy-to-read German comics books.
The only amusing part of my daytime activity was probably my trip to the Friseur (i.e., hairdresser). Still unable to manage the German telephone conversation that would result in an appointment, I just went to the hairdresser that was inside the Karstadt department store, which gave me flashbacks to being a kid and getting my hair cut in the Zellers at Westmount Mall. Shudder.
Anyway, I did my best to express my desires, hair-wise, and hairdresser did a pretty decent job of cutting my hair. Afterwards, however, she decided to style it, and gave me this awesome wavy-bangs blow-dry coif that looked like something from 80’s gay porn (NOTE: I managed to find an example of 80s-gay-porn-hair that isn't XXX-rated, but nonetheless this link IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK). I should’ve taken a picture of it, but instead I thanked the lady, paid her for her efforts, and then ran to the nearest bathroom and fixed that thing.
Warm-Up: Club der Visionäre
The two friends from Chicago that had hung out with me last night were planning to go out clubbing tonight, so we decided to meet at Club der Visionäre for some pre-party drinking. We actually met on the M65 bus and then headed over together (although we sort of missed our stop), and of course the place was packed. My friends dug their way into the far end of the patio area and found some seating while I went in search of beer. We spent a good hour or so drinking and chatting before we decided to get moving. They were going to try getting into Berghain, so I advised them to get there early, and I was supposed to meet Fantô and the rest of the crew at Bar 25.
Since Bar 25 is in the vicinity of Berghain, we all grabbed a cab together and headed in that direction. The taxi driver dropped me off at Ostbahnhof and then the other two continued on to Berghain proper. I hadn’t yet heard from Fantômette yet about when they were getting to Bar 25, so I hung around the train station and amused myself watching the other young clubbers spilling out of the train station and heading to one of the many bars and clubs in the area.
In about 20 minutes, I got two messages. One from Fantômette saying “We’re heading over to the Mobilee party directly by bike,” and another from my Chicago friends saying, “We got bounced. Should we get back in line?” Well, that changes plans a bit, eh?
Since I was only 5 minutes away, I walked over to Berghain and found my friends. They wanted to try getting in line again, but the line was too short for the bouncer (who has a good memory) to forget their faces. Instead, I convinced them to hop into a taxi with me and head to the Mobilee party going on at Rechenzentrum / Funkpark.
We grabbed a taxi from the line of them parked in front of Berghain and headed out. The taxi driver didn’t know where the club was, but thankfully I had the street address, so he punched that into his GPS system and we headed out. All was well until the taxi driver came to a stop and said, “Probleme. Die Straße ist gesperrt.” (“We’ve got a problem, the street is blocked.”) Apparently, there’s a fair bit of construction going on in this area, and of course the GPS system wasn’t aware of that. Since he didn’t know where this place was (I could’ve shown him on a map, dammit), his sense of direction was rather brittle and this pretty much brought his trip to a halt.
I asked him if we were near the Ostkreuz station, since I recalled that there was a shuttle bus running from Ostkreuz from midnight until 5h00. It was just up the street in fact, so he drove us up to the spot where the street was blocked off and showed us the entrance to the station. We got out, crossed over to the other side of the station, and then found a small clot of people waiting for the next shuttle bus.
When the first bus came along, we quickly realized that we weren’t all going to fit, since it was just a small mini-van. The group that was there before us piled in and left us on the sidewalk to wait for the next one, which was supposed to come in 10 minutes. Ugh. My friends hit the imbiss next door to get us some beers, and we waited.
When the next van came along, more people had already gathered behind us. The van stopped a little bit further along the street, and a group of kids that had been behind us tried to climb in first. I managed to push my way on along with one of my two friends, but the other one was left out of the van. I tried in my best German to complain that we had already missed a van and had been there before these other kids, but they were all native German speakers and nobody was going out of their way to be nice to the foreigners. So we angrily shoved our way out of the van and waited for the next one, this time determined to break some teeth to get on there first. On top of everything else, it was starting to rain.
When the next van came along, we formed a sort of human wall and shoved everybody else out of the way until we were on the van. The van ride itself was surprisingly long. I’d say that we spent at least 10 minutes driving east of Ostkreuz before we got to the party itself.
I was supposed to be going in on the guestlist with a friend from Berlin who knew Pan-Pot, so we waited around to find her there. As it turns out, she had room on her list entry for my other two Chicago friends, so we all got in for free. Yay!
Things took a turn for the better from then on, as we stumbled across the half-lit sandy field between the entryway and the actual club itself. The club appeared to be some sort of riverside storage building or something, which they had converted into a club. On the one hand, the interior was mostly still white and boxy and looked, as one of my friends pointed out, like a grammar school lunchroom. on the other hand, they had a pretty complex set of lights in both the ceiling and the floor, along with a ring of banquette seating and a bar near the back. They also had this interesting installation along the long walls of the room, involving old vintage telephones painted white, mounted on the wall under glass, and then accented with a pale red neon bar across the top. This was repeated, serialist-style, around the room. There was something rather grunge-Warhol about it.
2h00-3h00: Exercise One
After checking my jacket at the coat check, we headed into the main room and found the Frenchy Krew (i.e., Fantômette and company) and I told them all about our adventures getting to the party. Within a few minutes I had forgotten all about it and was enjoying Exercise One’s set. I’m having trouble describing their set, but overall I’d say that the sound was a relatively heavy-handed minimal set, with a greater reliance on sustained, panned sweeps than I would normally enjoy. Nonetheless, every once in a while they would do a job of building up some suspense and bringing back the beat, and I would be back into it.
3h00-5h00: Anja Schneider
I remember seeing Anja spin in Paris a year and a half ago at the Lessizmore night at Nouveau Casino, and finding her set super-microhouse-y. This time, her sound was much more in the center of minimal techno, occasionally mixing house-sounding tracks, but nothing with that sort of crackling, sparse, fragile sort of sound that I usually associate with the microhouse sound. Generally speaking, I enjoyed her set quite a bit, although I kept thinking that I would like it a lot more if she had used a lighter touch and had slowed down the rate at which she changed records.
5h00-6h00: Marcin Czubala
I think this was my favorite set of the night, even though the DJ that followed him was perhaps the better performer. His overall sound involved a set of rolling bass patterns that reminded me a lot of a certain doctoral dissertation on “autotelic grooves,” that is, “self-directed” grooves that create perpetual forward motion by making the end of the loop drive into the beginning of the next loop. There was definitely something of this in the set, a certain thick and tactile velocity that you rarely hear in “minimal” techno sets.
[This guy was supposed to be spinning until 10h00, but I’m adding question marks at the end of his slot because he was still spinning inside when I left around noon.]
Several of us were in agreement: his track selection was inconsistent, but he had mad skills (“une belle technique”, as Fantômette put it). Some of his tracks I liked more, some leaned a bit too heavily on vocals in a way that I found cheesy, but he had a way of bringing together his tracks to create a really fantastic experience. He seemed to know just when to pull out the bass beat, when to bring it back, when to tweak the levels to bring out a particular element, and so on; in other words, he knew how to work the crowd.
Oddly enough, the highlight of the night was when he dropped an old Detroit house track into the mix, bringing in a rather minimal-house remix of Octave One’s “Blackwater”, featuring Ann Saunderson as the vocalist [NOTE: I couldn't find the right remix online, so you'll just have to imagine this without the strings and such; skip to 1'37" to hear the characteristic synth line]. I think it had something to do with the fact that the bass kick had been tweaked to sound a lot like the usual minimal techno bass kick…either way, this wasn’t the first time that a well-placed classic house track has really livened up a minimal techno set. I certainly wasn’t the only person who enjoyed it, as this was the moment when the entire crowd went totally crazy. It’s surprising how up-to-date that track sounded, considering that it was released around 2000-2002 in various versions.
At some point during the set, a guy started dancing next to me, clearly having a great time; he made eye contact with me, and we exchanged that series of facial expressions and gestures that says “this is fucking amazing” “holy shit, yeah.” That exchange created an opening for more, and so he came over to me, put his hand on my shoulder, and started ritual of “checking in”: How are you? Isn’t this great? How are you feeling? Where are you from? How long are you staying here? Do you like Berlin? I’m a native Berliner, I love this place. Are you having fun? I like you, man, you’re cool.
And so on. I was surprised-not-surprised at how tactile he was, putting his arm around my shoulders and leaving his torso open for me to wrap my arm around his waist. Berlin isn’t quite as no-touch-please as Paris, but it’s still unusual for strangers to be this tactile in everyday life. Of course, this is precisely why I’m writing my dissertation on this; these moments where the happenstance of proximity on the dancefloor turns into intimate touches, intense feelings and reciprocal mirroring are what I’m here for (so to speak).
After a few minutes of dancing next to each other and occasionally exchanging glances again, he came back to me and said, “Now, I have to ask you a quick question, but it’s really embarrassing (peinlich). I’m really sorry to ask you this.” I did my best to express my determination to not think less of him, and then he asked, “Do you know anybody with pills to sell?” Alas, I didn’t, so I said as much and told him I was sorry to let him down. There followed a flurry of apologies from both of us, as he was sorry to have spoiled the “moment” we were having with talk of business and drugs, and I was sorry that I wasn’t able to smoothly connect him with the right people so that his night could continue.
Whether to made good the sensed rupture or to indicate his continuing goodwill, he said (in English now), “I’m friends with the bouncer. If you have any problems, you tell me and I fix it for you. I’ll look after you.” This was certainly not the kind of crowd that seemed to threaten any sort of violence, but I thanked him for the sentiment, gave him a hug, and went back to dancing. A little while later, he insisted on buying me a beer and drinking it with me. I wasn’t really in the mood for beer, but how could I refuse such warmth?
The Frenchy Krew eventually decided to head outside and see if the outdoor part of the party had started yet. According to the schedule, they had DJs set to spin until midnight Sunday night. I doubt that I would last that long, but nonetheless the idea of sitting on some beach chairs in the sun was really appealing at the moment. We set up camp as a group and got to the hard work of sunbathing.
At some point, someone in our group made friends with a befreckled German girl from Hamburg, who came over and chatted with us for a while. Two of the people in our group spoke pretty much fluent German, so they all talked happily with each other, while I made half-hearted attempts to follow the conversation. At some point this German woman sat down next to me and started talking to me; at some points I could follow her speech enough to know when to nod and smile, at other times, I had no fucking clue what she was going on about. It probably didn’t help that she was clearly pretty high and wasn’t making much of an effort to speak clearly.
Eventually, she pulled out about 15 € worth of coins from her purse and asked for a 20€ bill from me. I couldn’t quite make out why she was asking for it, but since I had gotten in for free that night, I thought that I could spare the 5€ if that would mean that she would stop talking at me. Satisfied, she skipped off to see her other friends. At that moment, I turned to the other two girls in our group that were fluent German speakers and said, “I have NO fucking clue what that was all about.” To which one of them said, “Her? She was going on and on about how nice it would be that, since the weather was nice, we could pool our money together and do something beautiful. I asked her what she meant by that and she wasn’t at all clear, but I think she’s just trying to get some cash to buy herself more drugs.”
“Oh,” I said, “Whoops.”
By about 11h00 or so, Fantômette and her roommate decided to make a headstart to Bar25, since they had come by bike and the trip was pretty far. After a few minutes, I decided that I would head out early, too, as I was really in the mood to take the tram and enjoy the ride. I don’t know why, but sometimes I really enjoy the slow, leisurely ride by public transit as the rest of the city is awake and moving about.
What I didn’t count on, as I got aboard the tram towards Ostkreuz, was the heat inside the tram as it slowly puttered along. The windows on the vehicle apparently didn’t open, and the humid warmth eventually had me dozing off.
I awoke suddenly when I heard a bunch of young voices yelling “Ostkreuz!!” Apparently, I was about to miss my stop, as were a bunch of other burned-out partygoers. I jumped off the tram and looked around, unsure of where the actual station was. The other partygoers looked just as lost, so I decided not to follow them. After wandering down a few streets and failing to find an entrance, I eventually made my way back to the corner where we had picked up the shuttle bus the night before.
I took my dozing off as a sign and decided to call it a night (or day), so I took the train back to my place, bought a sausage-croissant from Le Crobag (which is my favorite unintentionally-obscene name yet) and crawled into bed.