After a month and a half of living in Germany, I'm beginning to think in compound words.
Well, my daytime activities were pretty predictable at this point: wake up late, work on my “renter’s dossier,” email and call some potential landlords to try to set up visit appointments, and then snarf down a bit of food.
By about 20h00, I got a call from Fantômette that the Frenchy Krew was gathering at a pizzeria in nearby Kreuzberg for dinner to celebrate the birthday of her girlfriend, so off I went. The place was called Casolare Trattoria, which had pretty good pizza at very reasonable prices. The place also had a rather charming outdoor terrace with beerhall-style seating, although we were eventually chased inside after midnight (since the restaurant is in a residential neighborhood).
Bar 25 for DER STEMPEL
After some post-prandial coffees, we broke into two groups and headed over to Bar25 separately. The plan was to go there first and get our hands stamped, so that we could come back later on Sunday without worrying about being turned away at the door. That was a bit optimistic on my part, considering that I had to catch a flight Tuesday morning and still take care of some other business on Monday, but I followed the rest of the crowd anyway.
After grabbing a drink and wandering around the premises for a while, we realized that it was already 1h45. Our plans were to go to Berghain, and by 2h00 the place was probably going to have a horrible lineup already. Ack! We finished our drinks quickly and started walking over.
Berghain and line-related adventures
We got to Berghain / Panorama Bar shortly after 2am and there was a rediculous lineup, probably a good 1.5 to 2 hours-wait. One of the guys in our group, a kid that lived in Berlin when this club opened in 2004, insisted that he had “earned” some privileges and led us up about three-quarters of the way along the line and made us nonchalantly merge into the lineup where it was rather wide and a bit chaotic. Although I’m sure some people noticed, nobody seemed to want to call us on it.
We broke into groups in the lineup, since we were 5 in number and there was a good chance of having trouble at the door in such a large group. Fantômette and her GF broke off as a pair, the other boy went alone, and I took the hand of another girl who was good friends with Fantômette and her GF. Taking a cue from last week’s [LINK] lineup adventures, I waited until the line moved a bit forward and then shoved all the way over to the right, near the guest list entry and—more importantly—near where the bouncers patrol the lineup. None of the bouncers walking outside were ones that I had talked to, so I didn’t expect much, but just as I was recounting the story of last week to my partner, I feel a tap on my shoulder. It was a bouncer:
“Hej, bist du allein?” (Hey, are you alone?)
“Um, nee...” (Um, nope)
And I had to think for a split-second: if I say that I’m with all 5 of us here, this thing is dead in the water. May Fantômette and her GF forgive me!
“Ich bin mit dieser Mädchen hier.” (I’m with this girl here)
“OK, kommt mit.” (OK, come with me)
And with that—after throwing apologetic glances to Fantô and her GF—we followed the bouncer up to the door and he waved us directly into the box office. Yay! I rule! Another little piece of my getting-into-clubs-confidence was restored.
The odd thing was that last week, it was the Black American bouncer who recognized us, which made sense, since both I and the other two people I was with had shown up on off-nights (i.e., Wednesdays) and chatted him up and so on. This guy, on the other hand, was someone I recognized as a bouncer (actually, the same one working the door a little more than a week ago), but with whom I had never had any direct contact. I’m guessing there were to reasons for his recognizing me and pulling me out of line: 1) With the exception of one weekend, I’ve been to Berghain/Panorama Bar at least once every week; and 2) every time I leave the club, no matter how late and how burnt-out I am, I always said “ciao” or “tschüß” to the bouncers at the door. I guess that pays off, eh?
In the box office, the bouncer who was frisking all of the guys was the one who knew me better (Black, from NYC). As soon as I approached him, he said “Hi” and waved me through. As I passed him, he looked in my bag and said, “Woah! Wait a minute…” and took a closer look at my cellphone, and then once he had convinced himself that it wasn’t a camera, he let me go. Nonetheless, nothing like the intense and rather personal frisking you often get here.
Once we were inside, my lineup-partner suggested another reason for why the bouncer at the door had recognized me: she said that I had a “certain energy” about me that made me easy to remember. I thought that was a really lovely thing to say, and it totally made my night.
Feeling bad about leaving behind the rest of our crew, we grabbed drinks at the downstairs bar and then parked ourselves on one of the benches (deceitfully covered to appear cushioned) to wait for the rest of our group. Thankfully, they came through in another 15 minutes or so, and then we were off to Panorama Bar.
0h00-5h00: Luna City Express
The Luna City Express team consists of Phage (a.k.a. Marco Resmann) and another dude that I didn’t quite recognize (after some research: Norman Webber). Their set was pretty much straightforward house, with an ongoing alternation between vocal-heavy “soulful” house and more abstract minimal house. It was a solid set, although I’ll admit that by 4h00 I was ready for something else.
We spent that first couple of hours waiting for other members of the Frenchy Krew to arrive, making arrangements for “party favors” as necessary, and otherwise getting ready for the night ahead. After several weekends of doing multi-site nights, it was kind of nice to just land in one club early in the night and just stay there and get settled in.
5h00-7h30: Oliver $ @ Panorama ; 5h00-8h00: Luke Slater @ Berghain
I spent pretty much this entire timeslot alternating between the two floors, so I can say something about both sets, I think. Oliver $ laid out a very high-intensity house set, heavy on the vocals but also pounding and sometimes rather noisy. Considering that he was occupying something of a headliner slot, the high intensity of his sound was pretty appropriate, but thought his pacing was off; nearly every transition between tracks was over-dramatic and bombastic, as if THE BIGGEST CLIMAX OF THE WHOLE SET was happening every 5 minutes. It got a bit tiring after a while, so I found myself wandering over to Luke Slater’s set quite often.
Luke Slater is a rather huge name in techno, and some of my friends count his performances among their favorite ever. I’ve seen him a couple of times in Toronto a long time ago and really liked his sets, although at that time I was more into pounding / big-room techno than I am now. This time, his set was really good and very skillfully played (with none of the pacing issues of Oliver $), but his sound was still essentially pounding techno. Nothing especially minimalist about it and certainly not even a scent of house or any other genre…maybe a whiff of hard trance here or there, although I doubt Slater would describe his set that way.
So those three hours or so were spent dancing in one room until I got tired of the sound, then moving to the other room until I got tired of the sound, and so on. It wasn’t unpleasant in any way, though, and I enjoyed circulating around the club and doing a bit of people-watching. Often, when I’m really enjoying the music, I’ll tend to park myself in one corner and spend 5-6 hours dancing without really moving around much.
At some point during the set, I wandered into the smoking area and struck up conversation with a slim, dark-haired guy who was standing alone. He was Berliner, apparently, and was pretty friendly. After some small talk, he made a comment like, “Wow, there are lots of great guys here,” which I took as a pretty clear signal. I made the requisite yes-I-am-also-queer noises and then we proceeded to have a slightly more flirty conversation. Then, when I mentioned I was moving to Paris, he said that he was actually here with a French guy that he had met the other night. It wasn’t clear whether he was saying “I’m taken, but you’re cute,” or “He’s just a buddy, so let’s get it on,” or “Threeway, anyone?”, and before I could get a better idea of the situation, another friend of his came by and he had to run off and find someone. For the rest of the night, whenever I saw him, he would be surrounded by his team of friends (presumably with the “French guy” he was with) staring intently at me but not approaching me. shrug ah well.
7h30-9h00: Henrik Schwarz live
A lot of people in my crew were pretty excited about this set, so I was really interested to hear this guy’s sound. Considering that it was a live set, I was sort of expecting abstract minimal techno and—maybe—a bit of very minimal and deconstructed house. Instead, what we got was a really robust, full-sounding house set complete with several different sets of vocals, acoustic-sounding percussion patterns and melodic basslines. It was really surprising (in a good sense) to hear a very thick sort of house emerge from a cloud of musical elements like this, since the “live” medium usually tends to give rise to more sparse, bloodless sets (which I also like, mind you).
At some point during this set, I had yet another amusing encounter with a guy. There was this rather cute guy in an adidas shirt and a yellow hat who turned to me, said “hey!” as if he recognized me, and then leaned in and said, “Ca va?” (French: How are you?). I assumed that we had met at some other night out, since he guessed that I spoke French and I don’t look French at all, so I answered in French and we kept on dancing next to each other for a moment. Then, he leaned in and started saying something to me in German that sounded like a question, but I couldn’t quite make out. After asking him to repeat it a few times, I made out that it was something about the two of us being at the Gayhane night together, which is Berlin’s premier Turkish (and other Südländer) queer night. I’ve actually never been to Gayhane (I always seem to miss the night when it’s on, which is only once a month), so in the end I said “no,” which I think confused him. We gave up trying to communicate and just danced for a while longer.
A minute later, a boy passed by in what looked to be some sort of striped leotard and grey track pants, and this guy waved at the boy’s back and made a sort of bemused comment in German that translates roughly to “Huh, OK then…” After a pause, he leaned in and said, “There’s a lot of gay guys here, isn’t there?” Considering that he had just asked me if I had met him at Gayhane, that sort of confused me, as that wasn’t the kind of question a gay guy living in Berlin would need to ask. On the other hand, he had his arm wrapped around me as he asked me this question, and my hand was about 5 cm above his ass. On the third hand (yes, imagine you have a third hand), he might just be straight but somewhat “opened up” by alcohol / drugs / the atmosphere, which I’ve noticed happens quite a bit here. Hmm.
After that exchange, we ended up drifting apart. Later that evening, I spotted him dancing somewhat intimately with a guy that I think was his boyfriend (who was, alas, totally unattractive to me), and two topless muscle-fairies. So, in the end, I’m guessing he at least liked guys. This one, too, spent a lot of time dancing with his supposed-partner while glancing across the floor at me, but if that was an invitation to some 3-way adventures, I was totally uninterested. Too bad; he was cute as hell.
9h00-12h00: Jesse Rose
You might recall that about a month back Jesse Rose spun at Panorama Bar and I found him inexplicably hot. Well, that was clearly just a passing moment of ardor, as I saw him this time and there was nothin’. I think, in retrospect, that I just really liked his eyes, which are still really cute, but the rest of him was doing nothing for me. Also, he was dancing near me before his set, and I noticed that he had no ass to speak of. That may have also killed it. Anyway, enough about his body (although, considering how often people make comments about the appearance of female DJs, I think it’s only fair), on to the set.
Jesse Rose’s last set here was pretty house-y, but mostly within a minimal-techno sort of frame that gave the set a certain forward momentum and a sort of punchy sound that I really enjoyed. This time, it was balls-to-the-wall house: every second track had vocals, there was a real emphasis on acoustic (especially latin) percussion, and the texture was always very full. The sonic profile was the typical minimal / microhouse texture of low and resonant bass, empty mid-range, and complex and crystalline high-freq patterns. Clearly, the theme for tonight in Panorama Bar was house, house, house.
Anyway, this really isn’t a complaint, because the set was great, even if it wasn’t quite what I expected. By about noon, I was feeling pretty tired and I was realizing that I would be in Paris, looking at apartments, in less than 48 hours, so I said goodbye to my remaining friends (many of them had gone home before me), and made my way home.
On the way out, I made a point of saying “tschuß” to the bouncers. Clearly, it’s a good strategy.