samedi, mars 07, 2009

The Two-Day, Four-Party Marathon


Well, considering that I had gotten home at 10h00 this morning, you’ll forgive me if I got up at 16h00. That’s just six hours of sleep, so it’s not really “sleeping in,” per se. Anyway, the rest of the “daytime” portion of my day was unexceptional. I fixed myself some eggs and tea, took care of some correspondence, and then started to catch up on my blog posts. Three hours later, it was already time for me to make my way out for the beginning of the night…a night that would last until tomorrow night, I might add.


My friend Janine (French gal living in Berlin) had invited me, Fantô + her crew, Bob & Donna + their Franco-Berliner friend and a few other people over to her place for an “apéro” (i.e., drinks and snacks) at around 21h00. But first, Fantômette had invited me to the apartment, where she was staying with her girlfriend and another friend of ours, for a few drinks there. So I headed over to this massive industrial Hof (warehouse) on Ritterstraße in Kreuzberg (near the Moritzplatz U-Bahn station, U-8) to find them. Apparently, some smart person had bought the whole top floor of the building on one side and turned it into a suite of studio apartments to be rented like hotel suites. It was kind of brilliant, really. It’s exactly what a tourist would want of Berlin: an über-modern apartment in a red-brick warehouse in a shabby-but-up-and-coming neighborhood.

Anyway, we hung out there for a while, had some drinks, retold stories of parties past and filled each other in on the details of the night before (we had parted ways at Golden Gate). By about 21h00, we started walking our way over to Janine’s place. It took us a bit of time to find the right street, but eventually we got there and met up with the rest of the crew. Bob & Donna were there along with their Franco-Berliner friend (let’s call him Foster), a German girl who was a close friends of Janine, two British guys that Janine knew, a woman from North Carolina that lives in Berlin now, and the girls whose birthday it was the last time I was in town and I hung out with Janine.

Janine’s “apéro” spread was actually close to a full dinner made of finger-foods, including piles of crackers, dips, olives cheeses and so on. After a while, she emerged with pieces of cheese and salmon-spinach quiches, and later she materialized with cake and ice cream. And all the time, of course, she was plying us with wine and/or liquor. I managed to restrain myself from overeating, since I’ve learned from experience that eating just before a big night out tends to weigh me down and sap my energy.

I had a great time hanging out and talking to the folks at the party, although I’ll admit that I ended up speaking almost exclusively with the two british guys and the American girl, since they were the only people I hadn’t met before. I can’t remember all of the conversation, but I do recall that I gave the most lucid summary of my dissertation project so far; now if only I could remember what I said…

12h30: The False Start

At around 12h30, we began moving. Janine’s German girlfriend was going to Arena club to see a friend, Foster was heading to bed to meet us later at Berghain, everyone else was going to check out the “Champagnerama” party going on at the old Kindl brewery, and I was going to meet a friend from the Chicago scene at Kinski’s (and then meeting up with the rest of the crew at the Kindl brewery).

I headed over to Kinski’s, which was only two blocks away from Janine’s place, but I didn’t see my friend. I gave her a call to see if she was still coming, but I didn’t get an answer. Kinski’s is a sort of art space / café / club / whatever, and it’s pretty small and the crowd seems to all know each other. So it was a bit awkward for me to walk into this small, socially-connected space, walk around and conspicuously look for someone who’s not there, and then leave. Anyway, I wrote off that part of the night and headed off to meet the rest of the crew.

Just as I’m getting to the U-Bahn station, I get a call from Donna saying that the lineup is 200m long and looks to be about 3 hours of wait. It’s fucking cold, so they decide to head to Maria am Ostbahnhof instead. Janine, meanwhile, decides to head home and sleep instead, with the promise of joining us later at Berghain. And so I hop on the U-Bahn and head towards our new destination.

1h30: Spreepiraten @ Maria am Ostbahnhof

After a rather long and cold walk from the Jannowitzbrücke U-Bahn station to the club, wait in line for about 20 minutes and then pay the excessive cover (12€) to get in. 12€ for Berghain? Sure. For Maria am Ostbahnhof? Well, it better be on par with Berghain…

OK, so the club wasn’t as magical as the Berghain/PanoramaBar complex, but it was still a pretty cool club. Before the emergence of OstGut (which would eventually become Berghain) and Watergate, Maria am Ostbahnhof was apparently the central spot in Berlin for techno connoisseurs. The music programming had gone in an odd direction by the time I got to Berlin this past summer, with mostly electro-rock events and b-list local DJs, so I was never really tempted to visit the place. So it was high time I check this place out.

The space itself is pretty nice, especially in the back room, which has a pattern of diagonal cubes stuck to the wall behind the DJ in a way that casts really lovely shadows but also absorbs some of the sound and prevents slap-echoes. All around the club, they made good use of light projections to give the interior a unified theme; the theme for tonight: black-and-white silhouettes of unmarked playing cards.

The sound system itself was pretty good, especially in the main room. From the side near the main bar, the sound was loud but not uncomfortable. From the center of the dancefloor, the sound was impressively strong but not overwhelming. In the second room, on the other hand, the treble tended to be a bit too shrill. Thank goodness for earplugs!

The crowd was pretty mixed, mostly a combination of the late-twenties/thirties crowd that you see at Berghain & Watergate along with a late-teen / early-twenties crowd that seemed more like “casual partygoers” than avid fans of a particular DJ or scene. Of course, I’m generalizing here; when I was 17 and raving in Ontario, I already had pretty specific tastes; but nonetheless I had the feeling that the younger folks in the crowd were there to party first and see a specific DJ second, while the older folks acted more like they were attending a concert of a particular artist. Interestingly enough, at Berghain the crowd is almost entirely late-twenties and older, and yet you can still play this same game of “why did you come here tonight?” with the crowd: some are there for a particular DJ, some are there because it’s Berghain and they couldn’t imagine going anywhere else, and some are there because they want to party and this is the place to do it with a great deal of intensity.

Anyway, I wasn’t there for very long, but I caught the opening set by Larsson, which was pretty solid, and the first half of Alexander Kowalski’s live set, which was pretty strong and made great use of melodic fragments to suture his live set together.

So by 3h30 Bob and Donna have headed off to sleep and get ready for Berghain later that morning, while Fantômette and her crew disappear at around the same time. Another friend of mine (a close friend of a roommate from last summer) was going out with her crew to that party at the Kindl brewery later in the morning and I was determined to finally see her (after several near-misses since last summer), so I stayed at Maria for a couple more hours.

”Nice Guy!”:On the dancefloor, I run into a guy on the dancefloor who seems to be having a great time. At a particular high-point of the music, we both start pumping our fists in the air and then make eye contact. From there he offers me his beer and we exchange some brief remarks on the music. I tell him I’m from Canada and he says he’s from Rostock, in the north of Germany. He’s clearly high as a kite on a 200km lead, as his face is making pronounced contortions that I would associate with some very strong, “mashy” ecstasy.

I go away and come back a few minutes later and he appears next to me again. He offers me more of his beer, and then we dance some more and share more of those wordless glances that both check to see if the other person is in the same affective place as you are, and also prompt the other person to somehow respond. The current title of my dissertation starts with “Can You Feel It, Too?”, and this is sort of the look and the encounter that I’m thinking of when I quote that phrase; these are glances that ask questions but also answer them: “Did you just hear that?” “Yes I did!” “Isn’t this amazing?” “It sure is!” “Are you feeling this right now?” “Totally!”

Anyway, the crowd is packed and we’re being squeezed, but suddenly he sees a pocket of space in the crowd and gestures for me to follow him and dance next to him. When I reach him, he smiles and puts an arm around my shoulders as I put an arm around his waist, and we dance like that for a while.

For the next few minutes, he’ll find another spot on the dancefloor that he deems somehow better, then pull me over to it, and then continue to exchange gestures of affection, including offering beer and cigarettes, asking how I’m feeling, making ‘small talk’ about where we’re both from, hugging me, draping his arm across my shoulders and clutching me to his chest (he’s much taller than me), and even occasionally trying to engage me in hip-bumping and ass-slapping (we weren’t very co-ordinated in that regard).

By the time we had migrated to the front of the crowd, he had introduced me to most of his other 5 friends, none of them by name but rather always, “This is my best friend!” Then he would tell them I was from Canada and then we’d have a short conversation about Canada over the din of the music. Invariably, they would immediately offer me their drinks or their cigarettes.

At several points during this encounter, as my new buddy and I would look over at each other at the same time during a particularly exciting moment in the music, he would yell in my ear, “You’re a nice guy! I like you very much!” Now, this was in his somewhat-rusty English, so I’m guessing that he meant this in a more platonic way, but regardless: he was expressing feelings of warmth and attachment to a guy that he just met half an hour ago.

Just as I was thinking of leaving to catch up with my friend at the brewery party, he leans into me and says, “If some guy…gives you…any problems, you tell me.” Charmed but also a bit disturbed by the implications of this gesture of protectiveness, I said, “Thanks, but I’m not the sort of person to have problems with guys in clubs.” He immediately answers, “Of course! You’re a nice guy. I don’t think you would ever hurt anybody. I like you.” And then a hug. It’s not necessarily true that I don’t have problems with other people on the dancefloor (see 2 Fridays ago in Paris LINK), but I took this to be a sort of compliment and thanked him. The topic of discussion was uncomfortably serious and violent for me, but he seemed to be wanting to articulate intimacy to me in an idiom of protectiveness that I just wasn’t used to. Most of my friends are jokingly referential when they say, “I got yo’ back.” They’re not about to beat up a stranger for crossing me.

Anyway, it was past 4h30 and it seemed like the right time to head over to the Kindl Brauerei party. I might’ve been tempted to let the party slide and go directly to Berghain (or sleep), but I was really determined to see this friend of mine. I told my new buddy that I would be “right back.” It was a lie, but it was simpler and smoother than explaining my itinerary for tonight, and then resisting as he tried to convince me to stay with him. It’s pretty common to have these moments of passing, glancing contact, so I figured that he wouldn’t be too distressed if I just disappeared.

So I headed out and made my way towards Ostbahnhof, only to remember that the S-Bahn doesn’t run between Ostbahnhof and Jannowitzbrücke at this hour. I walked to Jannowitzbrücke and realized that the southbound platform for the U8 is out over service for renovations, so I walked down to Heinrich-Heine Straße. There was a lot of walking involved.

5h30: Champagnerama @ Kindl Brauerei

On the way down on the U-8, a group of very drunk and rowdy guys (and one gal) get on at Kottbusser Tor, clutching large bottles of beer in their hands. They shout-sing some song loudly every few minutes, and otherwise engage in some loud and slurred conversation that I could barely make out. Standing near me is another young German, quietly watching the goings-on. Every few minutes, we’ll exchange glances and eyebrow-waggles and then go back to watching them nearly make fools of themselves and annoy everyone in the train car. At a moment when the other guys aren’t paying attention, he says (in English), “Sorry.” I shrug my shoulders and say, “Normal,” implying that this was par for the course on a Saturday night (this word has a slightly different meaning in German). He shakes his head, saying, “No, it’s never normal.”

I get off at Boddinstraße and try to surreptitiously follow some folks who look like party people, since I don’t know exactly where the brewery is. They lead me to their apartment instead. Yay! So much for that strategy. I ask some random guy walking down the street and thankfully he gives me directions.

As I’m approaching the Alte Kindl Brauerei, a guy coming in the other direction stops and tells me that it’s not worth trying to get in, the building’s already at capacity. Well, great. I wasn’t about to give up without laying eyes on the situation, but I thanked him for the warning.

When I got in front of the building, there was a small lineup of 30-40 people, but it was barely moving. There was something like a “one in, one out” policy in effect, but it was even slower, since they had to worry about people coming back into the party. The system at most clubs in Berlin is that once you’ve paid the entry, you have the right to return and skip the line as long as the club is open.

So I send a text message to my friend to see if she’s still coming and get in line. I had hoped that she might say, “Screw it! Let’s just all go to Berghain.” But instead, she just told me she’d be getting there an hour or two later. Dammit.

While in line, I made friends with two Irish boys standing next to me. One of them thought that I was American, and when I corrected him, he apologized profusely and said, “Well, now you can call us British and we can’t get mad.” Fair enough, although I don’t think there’s quite the same animosity between Canada and the US.

After a while, two kids coming out of the club offered to give their admission bracelets to the Irish guys, so that they could skip the line. They gave it a try, but the bouncer actually pulled on their bracelets to see if they had been removed before. When they easily came apart, they were sent back to the line.

I got some amusement while waiting in line by watching the Irish boys get increasingly incensed with the rampant queue-jumping going on. On both the British and Irish isles, there’s a great degree of respect for the etiquette of lining up, and violating it is often treated as a grave ethical breach. You can seriously get your ass kicked in the UK over jumping the lineup.

This just got more amusing when a really large group of Greek partygoers showed up and just walked up to where we were standing. They lamely struck up conversation with a few people standing in front of us, and then acted as if they belonged there. Apparently, one of the Irish boys used to date a Greek guy and the relationship ended very badly, and so he was suddenly projecting all of his resentment onto the hapless ringleader of these partygoers.

Of course, rather than yell and hurl insults, the Irish lads decide to be passive-aggressive. One of them introduces himself to the ringleader and asks, “So where are you guys from?” Then the other pipes in, “Do you come from a country where you don’t usually wait in lines? Because the line starts back there, not here. I understand that might be hard to grasp.” It had no effect, but it amused me.

Lots of pushing and crowding. The two Irish boys get in before me as the lineup/crowd converges. I’m getting squeezed in by a group of annoying Spaniards behind me.

The bouncers change shifts just as I’m at the front of the line. The new bouncer asks me if I’m alone and then asks me where I’ve been before this. I tell him Maria am Ostbahnhof, and he looks me up and down, and then lets me in. WTF? The previous bouncer hadn’t been refusing anybody at the door and then suddenly I get to the front of the line and he’s replaced by Mr. Door Policy. Anyway, I don’t know if saying “Maria am Ostbahnhof” rather than Berghain or Wateragte helped me or hindered me, but I got in.

Well, the location was definitely cool. I mean, it’s a dilapidated beer factory turned into a massive party complex. Almost the entire event takes place downstairs in a series of underground rooms. In most cases, the original fixtures of the rooms are left intact, including massive brass vats poking up through the floor, piping going every which way, tiled drains and so on. Nonetheless, they did include some nice touches of décor, including cylindrical lights hanging behind the DJ booth in one of the main rooms, and a sort of multi-colored tic-tac-toe board hanging behind the DJ in the other big room. The sound was pretty good in the lower two rooms, while the upper room seems to be more devoted to chill-out music or something like that. I’m pretty sure Jens Bond was spinning in the larger room, but I could be wrong.

Upstairs, the coat-check is full and so I have the dubious pleasure of spending the next few hours with my jacket on and my scarf still wrapped around me. Great. At least the drinks are relatively cheap.

While dancing, some guy asks me if I have any rolling papers. I say no, sorry. He asks for tobacco. I say no, sorry. Then he looks at me for a moment, and says “Ja, ja” sarcastically, as if I was clearly lying and then stalks off angrily. Lay off the speed, buddy.

I sit down on the ledge of what I must presume used to be some sort of drainage pit. I’m pretty sure that it’s nastily dirty, but I’m tired and I tell myself that jeans were made for these sorts of conditions. A moment later, a guy taps my shoulder and says, “What are you doing, sitting in all this crap?! Here, I have a bunch of those plastic bags you use to collect dog shit. Sit on one of them the way I am.” And he handed me one and pointed to how he had laid one out for himself. I smiled, thanked him, and sat back down.

He was a friendly chap, so we chatted for a bit. When he heard that I was from Canada, he suddenly got very enthusiastic. Apparently, he had once wanted to become a hockey player in the NHL, and his favourite team was Les Canadiens. I couldn’t follow everything he said, but he was certainly happy to have met a Canadian, it seemed.

At that moment, I get a text message from my friend. She’s here! And she wants to know where to meet. I tell her in the hallway between the two main rooms, say goodbye to the would-be hockey player and make my way over. A few minutes later, I’m reunited with my friend and she drags me over to where most of the rest of her friends are.

Her ex-boyfriend was there and clearly out of his gourd, because he greeted me as if we were long lost buddies, rather than just guys who happened to know the same two women. He was never this affectionate last summer, perhaps because of the tension between him, his ex-girlfriend and my former roommate, but voilà: he hugged me tightly, cupped my jaw in his hands, made lingering eye contact, and then promptly presented me with a bottle of poppers. Yech, but thanks, I suppose. One tentative sniff of that crap reminded me of why I hate that stuff.

Before I could talk to her any more, my friend disappeared and I couldn’t find her for an hour. Instead, I hung around with her ex-bf as we migrated from one room to another, dancing and drinking. Eventually, I texted her and asked her where she was and she said she was behind the “DJ pult” (DJ booth). Really? I ran into one of her other friends and we both wandered through both rooms, trying to find her. There was no ‘behind’ the DJ booth in the second room, and the first room had only a small backstage area that was clearly closed off. Once I saw her ex-bf wander out from behind the stage, though, I put two and two together. This chick is well-connected.

I eventually found her, distributing lines of speed to all of her friends. Yay! Sorta. I finally managed to chat with her, but not without the bouncer trying to bounce me out of the area. He wasn’t at all concerned that people were doing lines, but he didn’t want random strangers backstage. Once he saw that I was with her, he backed off but then started harassing her about leaving. Feh.

Once we were finally shooed out onto the dancefloor near the bar, I hung around with my friend for a while as she talked about some very difficult and complicated romantic conflicts she had had last summer. This exchange happened as we stood next to the bar near the front of the main room, surrounded by her friends who were all dancing and chatting happily. I was really glad to be able to talk to her and give her some support, but it all seemed really incongruous to the context. On the other hand, if there’s ever a place where you can talk about personal stuff and not be overheard / noticed, it’s at a loud, crowded club.

My friend and her party disappeared into another corner to do more lines of speed, and I eventually caught up with them. When I did, I told her that I would be gone for a short while to find my friends and convince them to come back to the brewery party with me. Again, I was lying to make a departure that would otherwise involve lots of cajoling and pressure.

This time, on my way out, I treat myself to a cab. I’ve had enough walking for a while, thank you.

9h30: Berghain

I got to Berghain at about 9h30 and there was (thankfully) no lineup to be seen. The bouncer let me in without so much as a blink, and I was upstairs and dancing in no time. Bob and Donna were already there, along with Foster and the German galpal of Janine. Janine herself wasn’t due to come by until 13h00 or so (she didn’t actually show up until 16h00 or 17h00, but she’s perennially late). Fantômette and her crew never showed up, though, despite my frequent text messages. At some point around noon, I realize that I’m the only person that hasn’t slept tonight. Everyone else I knew had gone home and taken a substantial nap before coming to Berghain. Meanwhile, I had been at that brewery party.

So as I got there, a DJ called I:Cube was still spinning. His set was OK, mostly minimal techno with very little house influences, but it tended to be a bit same-y. That is, the tracks all tended to run together and yet the set also lacked continuity. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t complain; if I had heard that set any place other than Panorama Bar, I would’ve been thrilled.

Prosumer and Steffi were listed to do a long back-to-back set from 13h00 to 20h00, but that was complicated a bit by the fact that Steffi appeared to be drunk and/or very high. She still managed to beatmatch occasionally and she was certainly able to manipulate the mixer to play with the levels, but in the end Prosumer did the lion’s share of the mixing. Their set started off a bit too mellow and heavy on the vocal-house, but by about 14h00 or so things started to get pretty good and for at least a couple of hours I was having a fantastic time. I appreciated that there was a bit of alternation between more housey minimal tracks and straight-ahead techno-minimal tracks. But also, I think I was impressed by skill of both Prosumer and Steffi to manipulate the EQ levels to create climaxes and breakdowns and to otherwise give shape to the set.

Meanwhile, down in the Berghain room since about 9h00, Monika Kruse was giving a marathon, 8-hour set. I would head down every once in a while to check it out, but I rarely stuck around for longer than 20 or 30 minutes. Her mixing was flawless, her demeanor was always very self-controlled and professional, and her selection was definitely appropriate for the Berghain room, but I find the typical sound of that room a bit too heavy-handed and pounding, and so I was having the same problem’s with Kruse’s set. Very well done, but just not as fun for me as the sound in Panorama Bar.

Nonetheless, Kruse gets major props from me for dropping that remix of Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman,” which came out relatively recently. It was remixed first by Booka Shade and M.A.N.D.Y., and then re-remixed by various other DJs on the release (on Get Physical Music). The remix I heard that night was the Reboot 20 Cubans remix, methinks. Anyway, it was great.

So by 20h00, nd_baumecker started his set up in Panorama Bar. Bob and Donna had just left, and Janine and her friend were about to leave as well. Nonetheless, I kept going for a little while longer to hear the first hour of his set (which was excellent but just a bit harder than I normally like) and then threw in the towel at 21h00. Considering that I had started my night with drinks at Fantômette’s place at 20h00 the previous day, I was feeling pretty proud of my marathon partying. I didn’t quite make it to the closing of Berghain (which can run as late as midnight Sunday), but I did pretty well for myself.

The ride back home on transit felt very long and just a bit painful (24 hours of dancing will do that to you), but it just made things feel all the better when I finally got home. I took a shower before even approaching the bed, and I also made myself a few eggs and a bit of tea. Essen ist wichtig! And so, at about 22h00 Sunday night, I went to bed at a “normal” hour, having not slept at all the night before.

vendredi, mars 06, 2009

Shopping, Won-Tons, Golden Gate, PanoramaBar

After a pretty crazy week, the most delicious luxury of today was sleeping in. Mmm, slumber-gasmic!

So Florian was actually planning to leave Berlin for Holland early Saturday morning, so he had a few errands to run today. As he dashed off to take care of that, I showered, changed, “read the Internet” (a phrase I’m borrowing from Florian) and caught up a bit on correspondence and blogging. At around 13h30 or 14h00, Florian called to say that he was done with his errands, and we arranged to meet at a café called Ciao di Berlino, at the corner of Wichertstraße and Greifhagener Straße. The food was pretty decent, involving standard “healthy” German soups and pesto-heavy Italian sandwiches. I had the “organic red beet soup,” which was tasty, but it also terrified me with its clothes-staining qualities.

The décor, however, was adorable. The main seating area had a silhouette of a green landscape running around the room at eye level, with little details like lakes with ships, bridges, and so on. On the far wall, around the doorway that led to the next seating area, was a massive print of a snowy mountain peak descending into grassy hills. All of the seats had pillows with silhouettes of forest animals silk-screened onto the corner. Anyway, it was cute.


*girlish squeal*

After lunch, we hit the nearby Asian market to buy the ingredients for Vietnamese summer rolls to take to a won-ton potluck party tonight. My knowledge of Asian cuisine can be pretty spotty, but one thing I’ve come to make with some skill are those delicious non-fried rice-paper rolls. Mmm.

From there I left Florian to return home and pack his bags, while I headed out for a bit of shopping. Well actually, we both stopped in a trashy dollar-store near the U-Bahn stop first, where we found these awesome felt coasters with silhouettes of teapots and apples and wine bottles. So cute! And only 0.65€.

My plan was to just do some window-shopping, but that didn’t last. The fashion in designer shops here is a lot more modern and brightly-coloured than what I find in Paris, and the prices are generally lower (although not cheap). Anyway, I apparently left my self-control at home. I think I also managed to rationalize the minor spending spree with the fact that I’ve barely done any shopping in Paris in these past 6 months or so.

I bought a pair of jeans at Hummel that were dark denim with bright violet contrast stitching. They were the display pair, so I managed to get a 10% discount. Yay!

In the store 2 doors down, I picked up this adorable sweater that had three stripes in a V-shape across the chest. The sweater itself was powder blue, and the stripes were violet, blue and turquoise. Very hott.

Finally, I stopped in this store called O.K. that sells odd and brightly-coloured items often made from recycled materials and from developing countries (i.e., coin purses woven from candy wrappers). I got a couple of gifts for people back home (no details! They might be reading) and then decided that I better head home before I do any more damage to my financial situation.

Dinner: Won-Ton Hoedown in Charlottenburg

After getting home and showing off my stuff to Florian (who was kind enough to my approving noises) I assembled the summer rolls and we got ready to head out for the won-ton party.

We headed over to the apartment of these friends of Florian, a couple that live in a MASSIVE apartment in Charlottenburg for 400€ / month. Seriously. They had this beautiful apartment with high ceilings, an office, a parlor and a bedroom, along with a massive bathroom and a similarly large kitchen. I swear, this thing was easily 1000 sq.ft (92m2) As is usual, all of my time in Berlin is spent in rabid jealously of people’s apartments. Sigh.

Anyway, the meal was great. We fried up the wontons right there at the table, gorged ourselves on all the other dishes that people had brought, and drank a lot of wine. There was some discussion of ceviche recipes, Paris, and what goes on in darkrooms at Berghain. I plead innocence to introducing the last topic, which was actually brought up by a straight guy (or, at least, heterosexually-partnered) who had a surprisingly intimate knowledge of the sleazier side of Berghain. Hooray for Berlin.

Things a got a bit blurrier as the meal went on (there was a fair bit of wine), but I do recall that at some point someone had the great idea of making wontons filled with Nutella and bananas. Then someone tried the same thing with nectarines and blue cheese. They were pretty damn good, I must say. Well worth a try at my place one of these days…

By 1h00 or so, almost everyone else had left and I was getting messages from my Frenchy crew (Fantômette and the rest) saying that they were done dinner and heading off to a club in their area. So I made my goodbyes and wandered my way back to the S-Bahn stop to head into Kreuzberg.

André Crom @ Golden Gate (club)

On the train over to the first club, I get a call from Fantô saying that they couldn’t find the club, so instead they were going to go to Golden Gate, which just happened to be near where my train was at the moment.

So I got off and headed over to the club, which is under the S-Bahn tracks near Jannowitzbrücke. It’s actually literally built in under the tracks, which is kind of neat; I imagine that it had been a storage area or something before. The club itself was sort of small, dark, almost entirely of brick and a bit grimy. Just like I like it. It was almost like someone’s apartment, with the first room (dancefloor) sort of the size of a salon, the second room (bar) the size of a bedroom, and then some bathrooms upstairs.

There was an outdoor area for smoking and chilling out, which involved a bunch of beat-up couches and armchairs with blankets, covered by a series of tents. It was nice out there, but a bit too cold. There were a number of DJs playing that night, but the one spinning while we were there was André Crom. Good, solid techno, although also not very exciting. Fantô pointed out that the tracks that he releases are very minimal and finely wrought, while what he was doing tonight was a heavy-handed pounding techno set.

The crowd was almost exclusively local Germans, which was cool as well. It was nice to discover a new location, after many weekends of visiting the same 2 or 3 clubs recently. Even this summer, I tended to go to a certain circuit of clubs, including especially Berghain/Panorama, Watergate, Club der Visionäre and Bar25.

By approx 4h00, Fantô and crew had had enough and they split. Although they were heading home to crash, I still had plans to meet my London-based Frenchy friends, Bob and Donna over at Panorama Bar. I hung around for a little while longer, and then got my jacket and headed off. Panorama Bar isn’t too far from Golden Gate, so I headed over on foot and stopped at a gas station on the way for a bag of chips to soak up some of the alcohol.

Get Perlonized night @ Panorama Bar

I got to Panorama Bar at around 5h or 5h30, so I apparently missed the Half Hawaii (the collaborative project of Sammy Dee and Bruno Pronsato) live set. I’m fine with that, since I heard a bit of them at mutek last year and wasn’t impressed.

There wasn’t much of a line at the door and I got in pretty quickly. The American bouncer, Mike, was checking bags and he gave me a full soul handshake, including that whole shoulder-to-shoulder half-hug thing. Yay! Nobody does soul shakes in Europe, so it sort of reminded me of home in a nostalgic way. Later that night, a French girl I had just met would gush at the fact that I did the bise ritual (air kisses on both cheeks) with her before leaving. “Je me sens chez moi!” (I feel at home!) she said, complaining that Germans never do the kissy-kissy thing (not true, in my experience, but they certainly do it less).

I found Bob & Donna and we spent some time catching up and chatting. Vincent Lemieux was spinning (apparently a Canuck) whose set involved some nice minimal house, but with some vocal-house tracks that I liked less. Later in the morning, around 8 or so, Sammy Dee got on the decks for a while and kicked out an excellent series of punchy, dry and yet bass-heavy tracks.

Sometime at around 8h00 or so, I had this massive wave of nausea and I had to sit in a corner and fan myself out of a cold sweat. I’m not one to feel nauseous for nothing, so I took it seriously and got off the dance floor. Bob was nice enough to come check on me, but there wasn’t much to do other than wait for it to pass. Once it passed, I was feeling much better, but tired and with a bit of a headache.

They had finished with the renovations of the bathrooms at Pano (mentioned briefly in my last visit), which were pretty neat. They had one big set of bathrooms with plenty of stalls and new, clean-looking tiles and metal toilets and so on (of course, it didn’t stay clean very long, but the design was pretty hygiene-oriented). They lowered the ceilings on the toilets (which had been two stories, like the rest of the club) and then put in a mezzanine above it with couches for sitting around. It was a really nice idea, although Bob was right to point out that it was a mistake to break through the wall into the dance floor and put a little balcony there. While it gave a great view over the crowd, it allowed the sound to spill into the next room, which made it harder to talk there. Also, on Saturday night, I would discover that the mezzanine allows drunk/high people to spray the crowd below with their drinks.

At some point near the smoking area, I make friends with another very friendly German dude (this is something of a pattern: I walk through the Berghain smoking area, some talkative German guy makes friends with me). He starts by asking me if I have any cigarettes, and then we spend the next few minutes chatting about where we’re from, how hard it is to learn a new language, and so on. At some point, two other guys that he doesn’t seem to know pass by and ask for a lighter. In return, one of the guys passes out some Menthos candies, which made me think of those absurd “Menthos, full of life!” commercials, and that made me chuckle. I bet they weren’t thinking of Berghain at 8am when they made those commercials. Anyway, they got talking and I wanted to go dance, so I said goodbye and disappeared.

Later that evening, Bob introduced me a German friend of his, who told me that he works in music. He’s a sound engineer, but he also makes music. When I asked what kind, he told me that, although he’s straight, he’s developed a gay rapper persona that raps about gay sex in clubs in German-inflected English. I would’ve thought he was joking, if he hadn’t started freestyling for me right there. That shit cracked me the fuck up. In response, all I could say was, “Geil” (sexy). I’ll have to ask Bob for his website, because his work needs to be exposed to the world.

At around 8h30 or so, I finally decided to throw in the towel and head home. On the way out, Mike gave me another soul shake, so I felt like a bouncer-knowing, club-getting-into badass. w00t!

I stopped at the kebab place near the Ostbahnhof station and forced myself to eat a kebab, thinking that a bit of food might settle my stomach, although I was already feeling better.

The train ride home was a bit complicated, mostly due to the fact that I thought I would catch the M1 tram from Hackescher Markt, which would bring me a few blocks closer to home than the U2. However, the northbound stop for the M1 at Hackescher Markt is in a rather non-obvious place, which required walking around the neighborhood for a bit and following the tram tracks. Anyway, I got home, peeled off my clothes, and got into bed.

Oh, by the way: I was breaking in my new jeans tonight and I totally forgot that dark-wash jeans have a lot of indigo dye in them when you first buy them. Every couple of hours, I had to wash the blue dye off my hands. Hah.

jeudi, mars 05, 2009

Jump into Berlin

Ok, it’s time for another time-warp. Since the antics of last Saturday’s Salon d’Agriculture, my week was pretty uninteresting, but really busy. A few IT issues exploded at work, and it sort of took over my life for a few days. The highlight was probably last Monday, when a friend of mine had a little apéro / soirée at her place to celebrate her b-day for those who can’t be in town for her official b-day celebrations (i.e., me and a few other Frenchy folks heading to Berlin). I offered to make food, and so I came with a big bag full of Peruvian goodies. Arroz chaufa, ceviche, ocopa, and so on.

Anyway, we come to Thursday! I had an afternoon flight today to Berlin to begin my weekend of debauchery/research, so I had to leave directly from work with my luggage and sprint to Orly airport. I got to my plane on time and all, but EasyJet had several other flights leaving at about the same time and the check-in area was a mess.

The flight was fine and I got into town at around 21h00 or so. As soon as I turned on my phone, I was checking in with my folks in Berlin, including Florian, my gracious host, N., a former roommate from last summer, Fantômette (who needs no introduction at this point), and K., a friend of another former roommate from last summer.

While on the train into town, I heard from Florian that he and some friends had just left an art gallery opening and were heading off to Cocolo, a ramen noodle joint that Florian had taken me to back in November. I had some trouble finding the imbiss in the maze of streets behind Hackescher Markt and my luggage slowed me down, so by the time I got to Totoro, they had already finished eating and Florian’s friends were getting ready to leave.

But Florian, bless his kindly Dutch soul, stuck around to keep me company as I had a bowl of tonkatsu ramen, which involved ramen noodles with half a smoked-boiled egg, smoked pork shoulder, tofu, and sweet BBQ pork belly. God, was that fucking awesome. I also had their roasted rice tea, which was lovely.

From there, we walked over towards Rosa Luxembourg Platz to grab a few drinks at a bar called Bar 3 (yes, seriously). It was densely packed with the denizens of the Berlin art scene, along with a lot of cigarette smoke. There was a strong majority of Anglophones in the room, at least by my ear. We ran into a friend of Florian’s that runs an art gallery, and we got to watch him do his “work,” flitting from conversation to conversation, discerning the artists from the buyers, making introductions, etc. Florian and I also amused ourselves by identifying the various cliques in the room, including the Rather Young Art-Fags That Dress In Ironic Versions Of The Fashions Of Their 20th-Century Queer Forbears. I swear, if you saw them, you’d know what I was talking about.

By about 0h30, we finally decided to head home. It was rainy and kinda gross, but the walk to the station was relatively short. Florian kept apologizing for Berlin’s cobblestone sidewalks, as I struggled to roll my luggage over to his place. It wasn’t that bad, mind you. I managed those streets with three pieces of luggage last summer. Anyway, we got back to his place, had some tea, and got some sleep.