vendredi, avril 10, 2009

BerlinForEaster: Andy Weatherall & Man-Sandwiches

After our somewhat late night of drinking (with me dragging my luggage behind me), we slept in today and Florian made me a lovely eggy and bagel-y breakfast. After that, I got a message from Janine saying that she wanted to meet me in a patio/biergarten somewhere for drinks and brunch. I told her we had already eaten breakfast, but that we would certainly meet her for some coffee / juice / drinks.

So we decided to meet in a café on Kastanienallee, and then Florian and I headed out make the trip on foot. The weather was really fantastic and sunny, so we were both thrilled to be getting some sun and walking around outdoors. We eventually got to a café right near Rosenthaler Platz called Yumcha Heroes, which specialized in Asian food and had a nice natural wood deck out front. So we picked a sunny spot and ordered ourselves some fancy fresh juices (mine was a bit over-thick).

Time passed, and passed, and passed. Janine is rather famously late to everything, so we weren’t completely surprised. Nonetheless, she was taking a really long time, so eventually Florian and I parted ways, as he needed to go visit a friend of his in Kreuzberg.

I eventually got a message from Janine, saying that she was on her way up Kastanienallee. I was practically at the bottom of the hill, so I was sure she would come around the corner any minute. After 15 minutes, I get a message from her saying, “Where exactly are you?!” I call her and we figure out that she had skipped the part of the street at the bottom of the hill (where I was waiting) because the street there changes its name to something else. So she had taken the tram halfway up the hill to where Kastanienalle properly starts, and then continued walking up until the street ended at the U-Bahn stop. Anyway, at this point Janine was hungry and tired and a bit frustrated, so I told her to just grab a table at a café near her and I would be over in a few minutes.

When I joined her at the café, I was about to wish her a good Passover, when I noticed that the food she had ordered included leavened bread, dairy products, and pork sausage. So I teased her about being a bad Jew and defended herself by saying that at least she had removed all of the leavened bread from her house last night.

Anyway, we engaged in standard girl-talk for a while (love life, clothes, travel plans, partying), and then we spent a lot of time talking about her job. She’s not happy at her job right now, so she was weighing her options and trying to figure out what to do next.

At around 18h00, I rushed back to Florian’s place to meet up with him and head out to catch a movie. The showing was at 20h00 at Potsdamer Platz, so we really didn’t have time to make any dinner. Instead, it was a mad dash over to the theatre to buy tickets, than a “dinner” in the form of mediocre pastries from a nearby bakery.

The film was called Tropical Malady, by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The movie is in two parts; the first part involves a rather quiet and affectionate love story between two men, while the second part recasts the men as a soldier at a rural outpost hunting a shape-shifting tiger shaman. The link between the two sections of the story is that, at the end of the first section, one of the lovers disappears into the jungle. It’s certainly an odd movie, but with a lot of elements that I like, including long scenes documenting daily life without containing plot development, quiet intimacy, and carefully-selected sound that seems to magnify emotion and affect.

Anyway, we wandered out of there in a bit of a daze and started looking for a place to grab a drink. Janine was planning to join us for drinks, but she never answered her phone or called/messaged back. We tried Bar Drei in Mitte, but it was closed (bar observe Good Friday?!) so instead we hit Das Blaues Band on Alter Schönhauser Straße for a couple of drinks before heading back home. Just as I arrived at Florian’s place, I got a message from Janine, saying that she had fallen asleep and would text me again when she woke up. I was confused by what that meant, so I decided to just head out to Watergate, where we had been planning to go, anyway. My friends Bob & Donna (who have been my Berlin companions pretty much every time I’ve been here since the fall) were also planning to be there, so I was eager to get to the club to hang out with them.

Round One: Yes! Night at Watergate

When I got to the club, the lineup already stretched nearly to the door of the next club down the street, so I braced myself for a long wait. As it would turn out, the lineup would take about half an hour to clear.

I was standing behind a group of four Belgian guys, who soon started chatting with three or four Brits ahead of them. They were wondering about how fast the line was moving and what chance they had of getting turned away at the door. Based on the fact that they were two large groups of guys and they were guzzling from beer bottles while in line, I was willing to bet that they would have trouble getting in, but I kept my mouth shut and pretended to be a local. The bouncers keep an eye on the lineup, and I didn’t want them to think that I was attached to the tourist sausage-fest before me.

As expected, the bouncer didn’t let either group in, and he seemed to think that I was part of the group. I stood well away from them as they left, and when the bouncer looked over at me to see why I wasn’t leaving, I said that I was all alone. That seemed to clear things up for him, and then he waved me through with no comment. Phew! Ironically, I would see the Belgian guys again at PanoramaBar a few hours later.

0h00-3h00: Mitja Prinz?

I’m not entirely sure that this was Mitja Prinz or spinning, but whoever he was, he seemed to be doing pretty well for himself. His set was pretty squarely in the “minimal” vein, tending more towards techno than house, with that emphasis on heavy bass kicks that marks Berlin techno. The set itself was good but maybe not fantastic, as the pacing seemed to feel a bit flat. It didn’t feel like it was really going anywhere, but instead going in circles. Nonetheless, I had no trouble getting my dance on.

Bob and Donna seemed to agree, too, when I found them dancing at the front of the main room, near the DJ booth. They were hanging out with a DJ friend from England, with whom I chatted for a little while before he turned in early to pack his bags for a plane he had to catch the next day. Nice guy.

While we were dancing and waiting for the headliner to start, I witnessed some sort of high-school drama unfold around the DJ booth. It seemed to involve two women: one was more femme, with shoulder-length blonde hair styled meticulously and a short plaid sundress; the other was more butch, with her hair in a tight bun, a black tank top, black warm-up pants, and wire-rimmed glasses. The femme gal was yelling at the butch one and getting in her face and generally being aggressive, while the butch girl was staring at her with a mixture of disdain and confusion and holding her hands up in a gesture that said, “Woah, chill out, what’s your deal?”

The femme girl quickly turned to a guy that seemed to know them both and started to yell at him. He yelled back, gesturing to the butch girl and also to the DJ, and then turned away from her as if he wanted to hear nothing more from her. The femme didn’t like what she heard, and stared at her drink miserably, before turning to the butch, yelling something venomously, and then walking off into the crowd.

The butch leaned in and spoke briefly with the guy, turning her palms up in a sign of confusion and exasperation, then punching her palm in a gesture of frustration and anger. For the rest of the night, the femme girl would dance nearby and glower at the butch, and the butch would do her best to ignore her and occasionally roll her eyes.

From what I could gather, the fight seemed to have something to do with being allowed into the DJ booth, or maybe getting too close to / flirting with the DJ. Both of the women seemed to be part of the crew attached to the DJ, so that was certainly possible. Also, when the femme (who was also acting pretty drunk, I might add) walked into the DJ booth and started dancing behind the DJ, the guy that had been involved in the argument earlier dashed into the booth and yelled at her again, sending her back onto the dancefloor. Anyway, it was odd to watch this cold-war fight continue through the rest of the night, while everyone else was dancing and having fun.

3h00-5h00: Andy Weatherall

A few minutes into this set, we discovered that we had a romantic trio developing behind us. Two guys—of the black-leather-jacket-wearing Eurotrash sort that usually doesn’t make it into Watergate—had found a rather drunk girl that wasn’t saying “no” to being felt up by both of them. They both were grinding on her at the same time, forming the sort of “man sandwich” that says, “Later on, we’re going to bang you from both ends.”

I’ve always found this sort of thing interesting among straight guys. On the one hand, the scenario of a woman being fucked in two or three orifices seems to have a strong erotic charge for a lot of straight men, and yet actually making it happen means getting naked and getting physically close to another guy. At the physical level, at least, a hetero gang-bang involves more man-man sexual contact than most hetero guys would be normally comfortable with. Anyway, I spent the next few minutes amusing myself by imagining what would happen if the girl dancing between them suddenly disappeared and the two guys found themselves making out with each other.

Andy Weatherall’s set was pretty fine, although Bob & Donna were very disappointed. They’ve seen him play numerous times at Fabric in London and loved him, but here they found that his set was too abstractly minimal and lacking in the sort of pounding force he usually plays with. We hung in there for a bit longer, but Bob & Donna couldn’t stand the disappointment and suggested we head over to another club.

Round Two: Hotel Club

We jumped into a cab and tried to make our way to a club called Hotel-Club, which was apparently hosting Jan Krüger tonight. I didn’t know the address and Donna only had a vague memory of it being near Berghain, so we hoped the taxi driver might know the place. He didn’t and we had no way of figuring out where to go, so we gave up and went to Panorama Bar.

Round Three: Panorama Bar

3h00-6h00: RNDM

Since we got here at around 5h30 or so, we only caught a short part of RNDM’s set. It was pretty good, very much in keeping with the PanoramaBar sound, but nothing to write home about. Nonetheless, we were all more enthusiastic for the sound here than what we had at Watergate.

6h00-9h00: Daniel Bell

Like the DJ before him, Bell’s set was good but not earth-shattering. He came out with a few tracks that were excellent and really got the crowd going, but between those excellent tracks were long stretches of adequate tracks. His mixing skills are certainly impeccable, but it didn’t feel like he was doing much more than just linking together the tracks with skill. Efficient, efficacious, but not rapturous.

Surprisingly, I have no amusing or interesting stories from PanoramaBar tonight. All three of us danced a lot, had a good time, drank liberally, and commented on the tracks we liked and disliked, but there were no escapades to report.

Bob & Donna really wanted to see Pantha du Prince, who was coming on at 9h00, so they headed home at around 7h00 to take a nap and come back later. I headed out about a half hour later, thinking that I should have at least a bit of sleep before going picnicking with Florian tomorrow.

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