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Photo: Dan Woodger

Places

Go clubbing in Berlin

When it comes to clubbing, few cities can match Berlin. Every weekend, thousands of people flock to the German capital purely to party hard to loud electronic music.

Ever since Berlin was named the capital of the newly formed Germany in 1871, the city has been a subversive cultural melting pot – except for 12 years of Nazi rule. Today’s club culture, the part that primarily concerns techno, however, has its origins in political developments 30 years ago.

Anyone wanting to listen to electronic music in Berlin in the late 1980s, before these developments, was forced to head to a handful of small basement clubs in West Berlin. They were run by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts and were nothing like the mass phenomenon the culture has become today.

It all changed in one fell swoop in fall 1989. When the Wall came down, the western parts of the city were suddenly packed with celebrating East Berliners. They brought with them an injection of euphoria and made techno the soundtrack for their newly won freedom.

Illustration: Dan WoodgerMany people argue today, that it was there, on the dance floor, that the first genuine reunion of east and west occurred. The fall of the Wall also liberated numerous empty buildings. Several clubs were able to open on temporary contracts, or none at all, in run down residential districts and factories in the east.

Being dependent on the gap between the old and new has always been the fate of techno clubs in Berlin. Tracing the story of such partying through the city is therefore to also trace the cutting edge of the city’s development.

Many of the clubs are still housed in old industrial premises with a clear sense of concrete and steel preserved in the styling. And many of the clubs have been able to buy the buildings they run their business in. However, every year, more of them are forced to close in the face of rent hikes or the land they sit on falling prey to capital rich investors.

Political instruments have therefore been implemented to slow this gentrification. The club culture is still one of the cornerstones of Berlin’s tourist industry today, and an integral part of the city’s PR profile.

Having said that, the techno clubs still consider themselves to be a sub culture for enthusiasts. This is one of the reasons why many places have a more or less strict policy on the door. Not just anyone can be let in. For this reason, it’s wise to do some advance research on what kind of party it will be on any specific evening and which DJs will be playing.

Illustration: Dan Woodger

Some locations, such as Berghain and KitKat, for example, have evolved as sanctuaries for the city’s gay and fetish clubbers. This not only influences who is admitted at the door, but also attitudes on the dance floor, where taking photographs is strictly forbidden.

Since 1949, there have been no rules in Berlin that say when a club or bar must close. Parties therefore often continue uninterrupted from Friday until long into Monday. The city’s liberal stance also characterizes the club culture’s relaxed attitude to drugs.

However, people within the scene claim that the techno and club culture in Berlin is approaching the end of its modern phase. A bit like rock in the 1980s. And at a time when museums on the history of clubbing are starting to open, this is a first sign that the parties of the future will be organized in a somewhat different way. Maybe also somewhere else.

 

Last edited: November 12, 2018

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