Yes, all of this and more in today's post!
Having gotten home at the relatively early hour of 8h00 in the morning, I slept until about 13h00, when it was time to start getting ready for the day ahead of me. Florian and I were going to a picnic to celebrate the birthday of a friend of his, and then I was supposed to meet Bob, Donna and Janine at another Frenchy friend’s place for crêpes, and then off to the clubs for a night/morning/day of partying.
Florian and I had been given the task of making potato salad, and of course we were determined to make it the best potato salad ever. We headed over to Lidl to get some supplies, and then went back to his place to get to work. I made some mayo from scratch, replacing the vinegar with the juice of a lime and adding quite a bit of Dijon mustard. In addition to a finely diced onion, and some yogurt, we also threw in Bärlauch (leaves of Bear’s Garlic or wild garlic), which is a leafy herb that looks like basil but smells and tastes like garlic. By the end of it all, we had some very tasty kartoffelsalat.
By about 17h00 we were heading over to the birthday picnic, which was being held in a park near Zionskirche in Mitte. The birthday girl turned out to be Canadian (from Ottawa), as did her boyfriend (also Ottawa). There were four other friends in attendance, including a couple of Anglophones and two Germans (and some kids, of course).
The spread for the party was great and pretty vast, including piles of sparkling wine, meatballs made by someone’s German grandma, a carrot cake that could bring you to tears (with an icing that tasted like cookie dough with pudding consistency), hummus, tabouleh, and several other savories. At one point, I managed to put my plate on the bench, stand up to help someone with something, and then sit right back down on my plate, tomato sauce and all. I had the pleasure of asking Florian to help me wipe my butt, which prompted jokes about turning into an incontinent old couple. The picnic ended up running a lot longer than I had expected, eventually passing over to candlelight drinking in the park and then drinks at a Frenchy bar nearby (I think it was called “Visite ma Tante” or something).
By about 22h30, I made my move, hoping that I could still make it to my friend’s place in time to join them for crêpes. I was actually too full of carrot cake to eat anything, but I still wanted to hang out with them before heading out.
I had to run by Florian’s place first to change clothes and drop off some stuff, so that made me even more late for the crêpe party. I got to our friend’s place in Neukölln just before midnight, too late to join in the crêpes (not that I was hungry anymore), but in time to get some drinks in me and chat with the Frenchy Krew. Bob & Donna were planning to go home and nap and then hit Panorama Bar later, while Janine was going to go to Watergate to check out Steve Bug. Our host was going to stay in tonight (after having been at an outdoor party all day), but he invited us to join him at another outdoor event Sunday afternoon.
My plan was to spend the night at Berghain, starting with the Snax Club event and then moving up to PanoramaBar to meet my friends when they got there. Snax Club only happens once a year and none of us had ever been to it (indeed, 50% of our group couldn’t go, since it’s “men only”), so we spent a lot of time extrapolating about what it might be like. Here’s everything that we could gather from descriptions and information on the club’s website:
- It happens once a year on Easter weekend
- The doors between the PanoramaBar and Berghain rooms are shut and the ones between Berghain and Lab.Oratory are opened, essentially shrinking the space reserved for “normal” / “straight” clubbing to PanoramaBar, while expanding the sexclub portion of the building to two rooms.
- It’s men-only, and is billed as a “pervy party,” which seems to imply that the sexual play will not be limited to a couple of darkrooms.
- Lab.Oratory is reputed to be the most hard-core (gay) fetish sexclub in Berlin, with every night being devoted to some form of kink, including fisting, piss, scat, s/m, and numerous other fixations.
So with that, we imagined a nightclub space with lots of groping and grabbing on the dancefloor, lots of shirtless and nearly-nude guys, the stench of sweat and poppers, and a fair bit of fucking on the sidelines. Of course, since this is Berlin, this was all a vast underestimation of what was really going to take place there.
We hopped into a cab at about 1h30 to get our nights started, with plans to drop off Janine at Watergate, then me at Berghain, and then Bob&Donna at their hotel nearby. When we stopped at Watergate, Janine saw that the bouncer was one that she knew and so she managed to negotiation a line-pass for all of us. I was still determined to check out Snax Club, but Bob & Donna jumped out of the cab to follow Janine into the club.
Round One: Snax Club @ Berghain/Lab.Oratory
So there was no small amount of confusion about which lineup to take to get into the club tonight. Normally, there’s just one easily-visible lineup that gets you into Berghain/PanoramaBar, and then there’s a side entrance that the clientele of Lab.Oratory use, which never has much of a visible lineup. Add to this the fact that Lab.Oratory usually only has its doors open for a couple of hours between 22h and 24h (to encourage everyone to show up at the same time and get it on), and you can see why most Berghain-loving clubbers are used to just showing up and standing in the first line they see.
So tonight was confusing, because there was a MASSIVE lineup heading towards one door, and then at the same time you have a much shorter line heading towards the door that leads up the staircase to PanoramaBar. When I first got into the Snax Club line, I turned to a girl standing behind me and said, “Am I in the right line, here? I’m pretty sure this is for Snax Club.” It was her first night going to Berghain, so she was totally lost and about to spend an hour waiting to get into the wrong party. Thankfully, a few meters ahead, there was a bouncer checking to make sure that people were in the right line. He said, in a thick German accent, “Hier ist a fetisch partei, dere ist normaler partei.”
I should have been paying closer attention to what the bouncer was saying.
While waiting in line, I befriended a short little Spaniard from Valencia and a couple of statuesque Sicilians (one of which was pretty damn hot) among whom we all chatted in a mongrel mix of Spanish and Italian. One of the Sicilians had lived in Argentina for a while, so conversation quickly turned to “why the rest of the Hispanophone world can’t stand Argentines,” which got pretty boring pretty quickly.
So when we got to the front of the line, a guy in front of us had a brief exchange with the bouncer, and then he dropped his pants to show that he was wearing a jockstrap underneath. I wasn’t paying close attention to the conversation, but that started to set off some red lights in my head. And then, the Sicilian couple in front of me ran into some trouble:
Bouncer: What are you going to wear inside?
Sicilian Dude: What do you mean?
B: This is a fetish party. You can’t go in looking like that. Do you have a jockstrap or something?
SD: No, but we can take off our shirts or something…
B: Where’s the fetish in that? No. Go home and change into something fetish and you won’t have to wait in line; I’ll let you right in. But you’re not getting in like that.
Well fuck. I’m certainly not dressed in anything approaching fetish gear. I let the little Spaniard next to me go ahead of me and keep the bouncer busy while I pondered my options. I had to think fast, as the Spaniard’s military-style cargo pants were apparently getting him in without much comment. I suppose I could just go to PanoramaBar and forget Snax Club, but I should at least try to negotiate with the bouncer here, in the hopes that he might let me jump the Pano line if he turns me away. Also, this is the bouncer with the lip piercing that has let me jump the line twice before, so there’s a chance that he might be lenient with me. Nonetheless, offering to take off my shirt wasn’t likely to work, especially since he just sent away two guys who had offered the same thing. Clearly, I’m going to have to double-down on the nudity.
Me: I’ll go naked.
LMGM: I don’t own any fetish gear, but I can strip naked. A lot of guys are going to do that, anyway.
B: Hm, well, totally naked? Seriously?
LMGM: Totally. I promise. I might keep my shoes on, mind you.
B: Um yeah, you’d best keep those shoes on. Alright, go in.
Phew. I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into, but I (correctly) assumed that the coat check wasn’t within the line of sight of the door, so the bouncer wasn’t likely to check on me to see that I was vollnakt. I asked the guy at the ticket booth whether I could use the same ticket to get into PanoramaBar later, and he said I would get half price. Not ideal, but fair, I suppose.
I checked my jacket and scarf, and also threw in my brightly-coloured t-shirt, leaving just my undershirt, which seemed more appropriate for the evening. Indeed, everyone else was in fetish gear, especially of the sort that was either made of a few straps of leather or had the ass cut out of it. Lots of piercings and tattoos and bare chests and jockstraps and facial hair and hey, is that guy actually fingering his partner in the coat-check line?
So that’s how the evening started. I actually found myself taking off my shirt within an hour or so and stuffing it into my shoulder bag. The vast majority of guys were at least shirtless (if not much more), so I felt a bit out of place with my titties covered. I’m not one for stripping, but I felt like I was completely clothed, compared to the folks around me.
So how to describe the scene at Snax Club? Well, to put it concisely, these folks don’t fuck around. They sure do fuck a lot (and lick, and suck, and fist, and many other things), but they sure don’t do it halfway.
To begin with, the Lab.Oratory floor, which usually serves as a sexclub on regular nights:
- There was grabbing and groping and necking on the small-ish dancefloor in the center of the complex, with the occasional bit of oral sex and fingering at the edges of the crowd.
- Take any one of the hallways leading out from the dance area to hit the darkrooms / orgy spaces, which are massive and labyrinthine.
- To the right of the dancefloor is a hallway with a sort of sling-gallery; there are a alcoves with slings in them, each one filled with a guy taking one or two fists up his ass and/or cock. The air is pretty ripe with the smell of sweat and lube (but to the fistees’ credit, not a whiff of feces).
- Further down the hallway is the famous bathtub. It stands there, alone in an alcove, a testament to the more raunchy practices of this sexclub. The bathtub serves as a place for piss and scat play, from what I understand. Tonight, there’s a guy in a full-body gimp suit lying in the tub, but nobody seems to be doing anything about it. I watch where I step and move on.
- The hallway comes to an end and branches off to the left and the right. The right leads to a dead-end corner where some guys are standing around jerking off and looking at each other. The left branch leads to the massive orgy space behind the dancefloor proper.
- In the large space behind the dancefloor, they’ve put in a “special theme playground,” which is made to look like a construction site. There’s a concession truck parked in the middle being used to sell drinks, and then there’s a sort of tent to the left that has been divided into various cubicles by PVC sheeting to create semi-private spaces. To the right is a labyrinth of netting and plastic sheeting, with a couple of construction-site office trucks parked in the corners and a large plastic kiddie-pool that is currently being used for piss play (at least, that’s what it smells like). Again, I watch out for puddles and push on.
- There are some toilets in one corner of the building (for those who prefer not to do it on someone’s slave).
- Near the entrance, there’s a nondescript stairway that leads up to a gallery space where a couple of “cages” have been set up, so that guys can engage in prison-sex fantasies or maybe show off while assuring that enthusiastic fans won’t grab at them.
Now, on to Berghain, which is not normally a sexclub, although the gay crowd there still tends to be pretty hot & sleazy on regular nights:
- The dancefloor was unchanged, and the only major difference was that there was much more nudity than usual on the dancefloor.
- They hung sheets in the seating area near the bar (where the swing is) and along the catwalk that goes across the back of the room, creating a series of darkly-lit corners and half-hidden spaces for sexual play. There certainly is some sex going on, but it’s not quite as hard-core as downstairs.
- Every once in a while, somebody gets head or a rim-job while ordering his drink
- The darkrooms are densely packed and full of fucking, especially the darkroom area on the main floor. I tried to walk through and get a good look, but I couldn’t even get through the press of bodies.
- Thanks to the fact that you could have sex pretty much anywhere, the bathrooms were uncharacteristically quiet and free of sex-related detritus.
I kept on moving around from one floor to another, and too often to really keep track of DJ sets, but Ben Klock put in a good (if somewhat overly violent) set in Berghain, followed by an excellent set by nd_baumecker. Boris was spinning for a while in Lab.O, which was pretty unexciting, but I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of his work.
I did manage to make the acquaintance of a nice Italian chap, who managed to keep me entertained (along with a dude from Australia) for a substantial portion of the evening. We traded phone numbers and email addresses, and I now have a standing invitation to visit London, England. Yay, intimacy! It was pretty hilarious, explaining the topic of my dissertation to this guy in this context.
Round Two: Panorama Bar
9h00-12h00: Daniel Stefanik
By about 9h00, it was time to head over to Panorama Bar. My friends were planning to get there around then, and I was getting a bit tired of all of the mansex. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for the hedonist fun, but I was having a hankering for being in a place where I could sit down or lean on something without first checking that I wasn’t about to coat myself in someone else’s genetic material. Call me a prude.
Anyway, as promised, I was able to get into Pano for half price, which came to 5€. And considering the excellent set Daniel Stefanik put on, it was the best 5€ I spent all weekend. His set was pretty much exactly what I like about the PanoramaBar sound, combining a very warm and bright minimal house sound with tooth-rattling bass kicks and (rhythmically, melodically) mobile basslines. At some point in the set, he put down a white label record that sounded awesome. It was in the “tropical minimal” vein that has been emerging in this last year, including almost purely acoustic Afro-Caribbean percussion for the drum patterns and a sample of group singing (again, sounding like a field recording from somewhere in Central Africa) deep and low in the mix, fading in and out like a sonic wash, rather than dominating the track like a typical vocal sample. It’s hard to describe the track in detail, but something about the ensemble of elements struck me as fucking fantastic.
Alas, white labels are thus called because they don’t have identifying labels on them. They are usually test presses of soon-to-be-released tracks that are passed to influential DJs to “test” on the dancefloor before the final mix is pressed and shipped. I tried to get a hold of the guy when his track ended to ask him what that white label was, but he quickly disappeared into the crowd.
Bob & Donna showed up shortly after I did, but alas just after I had heard that excellent white label—so I was left struggling to describe the track to them.
Ya know, this set was better than usual. Yes, this is a prime example of damning with faint praise, but my expectations have become pretty low with this guy, so this was a pleasant surprise. He still managed to have two near-trainwrecks within the first few minutes of the set, but at least his track selection and sequencing felt a bit more coherent. Usually, when I see Boris spin here, he throws a whole jumble of different styles together without much to connect them. Some DJs can pull of very eclectic sets like that, but it takes some serious skills, especially in ordering the tracks in a way that will create something more than a “parade of tracks I like.”
Regardless of my own reservations, the homos of Berlin seem to luuuurrrrve Boris, and turn out in droves for his set. I dunno, maybe Berlin gay guys—however hardcore fetish-y and hypermasculine—still enjoy a bit of “handbag house” from time to time. Either way, Boris’s appearance up here in PanoramaBar prompted a mass migration of guys from Snax Club (which I think was closing up at this point). Not all of these “migrants” changed their outfits before coming upstairs, so there was some amusement in the crowd as a couple hundred men showed up in leather, plastic, and rubber with their asses hanging out. Of course, the sort of hipsters that frequent PanoramaBar/Berghain are already inured to the sleazier aspects of gay nightlife (and value these sorts of things as an index of “open-mindedness”), so the amusement was mostly limited to giggling, some pointing, raised eyebrows, and the occasional curious question (“How do you even put that thing on?”).
Nonetheless, there were certain moments that tested the limits of the regular PanoramaBar partygoers. For example, I was in the smoking area with Bob when this skinny, near-naked guy appeared. I remembered seeing him around in Snax Club, because he was walking around naked and his gargantuan saline-injected balls were hard to miss. Yes, dear reader surprised at your own vanilla-ness, there exists a fetish around injecting saline into your balls and/or cock to make it look like you have a very particular and acute case of elephantitis. If you need to, take a break to wash out your eyes, cuddle a furry animal, and maybe listen to 70s music un-ironically. Feel better? OK, let’s continue.
So the fact of this guy’s massively-inflated balls was pretty visible at this point, because he was only wearing a well-worn jockstrap, the elasticity of which had given way, thus giving the impression that he was smuggling 1kg worth of plums under there. Two other guys that were just hanging out and smoking noticed this, and one of them pointed to his bulge with a smirk on his face and said, “What the fuck’s going on down there?” Obligingly, Mr. Balloon-Balls pulled down his jockstrap.
Both guys were clearly surprised, but that affective jolt went in different directions for each of them. One gave a shocked guffaw, as if he had just witnessed some particularly absurd, Monty-Pythonesque slapstick, while the other one threw his hands in the air and walked out of the room with his eyes wide, as if to say, “Woah. I give up. Let me off this ride.”
A minute or so later, Mr. Balloon-Balls was joined by a guy dressed in a black leather outfit that covered his entire body except for his ass and cock (and balls), which offered some rather impressive piercings. Mr. Balloon-Balls decided to greet him with a blow job, and so he bent over, with his asshole winking at the rest of us, and went to work. A third guy, who just happened to be passing by, took the initiative of spanking him roughly.
Sitting on stools near me and Bob were two girls, smoking, dressed in their Berlin-techno-hipster finest. Oversized 70s secretary glasses, ruff-necked blouses tucked deep into high-waisted skirts, and second-hand pumps. The looked at each other with this searching look, as if palpitating the other’s face to find some hint of what the other would do about this. Should they be shocked or blasé? In the end, they settled for a smirk and raised eyebrows, in a sort of understated “Well, isn’t that something.”
A bit later, Donna finds me on the dancefloor and says, “Hey, there’s a woman walking around in just a g-string and a t-shirt!” A few minutes later, as I’m walking out of the bathroom, I see the woman she was talking about. A quick look at her g-string and her adam’s apple made it clear that any gender classification would be more complicated than just “woman.”
Also, as I was coming out of the bathroom, a tall guy that I recognized from many previous Berlin nights stopped me, saying:
Random Dude: Hey, I bet you like house music.
LMGM: Yep! I sure do.
RD: In fact, I think you love house music.
LMGM: Lemme think about it…yes. Yes I do.
RD: You see, man, I’ve lived here in Berlin for many years and soon I have to move far away and so I am very high tonight and house music has always been so important for me and when I come to Berghain it is so nice to see people who love the music and don’t just do drugs but drugs are sometimes nice and everybody likes to have fun but it makes me happy to see people like you who are here for the music.
LMGM: Yes, totally.
I’ll admit that I didn’t totally follow what he was talking about, but it seemed that all he wanted from me was a sort of approving, reflective presence. I just needed to say yes, smile, put my hand on his back when he draped his arm around my shoulder, look him in the eyes, listen, and nod. In other words, all of the gestures of intimacy. I don’t think it was a fake intimacy, either; even if I wasn’t in the same affective place as he was, there was something about the simple fact of being in one another’s presence and the vagueness of anonymous contact that allows for warmth to pass where understanding and knowledge sometimes can’t.
I had only heard a few tracks from this guy (which were great), when my feet told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to go home. Fine. I had already seen nd_baumecker earlier in SnaxClub. I said goodbye to Bob & Donna and started making my way to the exit.
While picking up my jacked from the coat check, there were three guys dressed in fetish gear engaging in blow-jobs and rimming just across the room. Again, nobody was showing any shock or outrage, but there were a lot of smirks and raised eyebrows.