Thursday, May 23, 2013

Techno Joy: Going to clubs in Berlin

One big reason that I live in Berlin is because of the range of enjoyable activities available to me here. And yes, one of those activities is clubbing. Berlin takes the cake when it comes to finding a place to dance the night away. I never thought I'd be a person to want to stay out all night at a club shaking my money maker, and in fact my first year here I didn't hit the clubs at all because I was pretty convinced that I deplored techno and everything it represents. I'm also old enough to actually want to go to bed at a reasonable hour most evenings, and staying at a club until 7am sounded downright awful at first.

I mean, I have a full-time job and am nearly 30. COME ON!

But Berlin managed to change my attitude and I'm very glad it did. Nowadays, I can't imagine not having a nightlife available to me any more, which will be the sad reality I'll have to face the day I decide to move back to Seattle. My beloved hometown will never be able to fully satisfy the dance bug Berlin has uncovered within me, but at least Seattle knows how to put on a good happy hour. Berlin hasn't figured that one out yet.

Berlin also still hasn't mastered the serving of cold beer. Or the brewing of IPA.

Techno music is a little like beer or wine: no one likes it at first, but after a little while you learn to love it. It's an acquired taste. Not that I know the names of any of the best DJs or what makes good techno work, but I know what it sounds like, and more importantly what it feels like. It's hard to describe. It gets inside you and you feel it in your fingers, in your bones. It overwhelms you and you have to move just to give it an outlet. It flows through you and you become addicted to it, in a way. That's the best way I can describe it.

Now that I've made my first foray into the tourist industry with this company, I find myself in the somewhat difficult position of having to make recommendations to tourists on where they should go for dancing in Berlin. Of course I could always take the easy route and direct them to the Matrix. But it's such a god-awful place that I cannot in good conscience send anybody there, lest karma be the wench we know her to be and condemn me forever to the terrible fate of never getting into a good club ever again.

This is a bit what I felt like inside after my one experience at the Matrix.

And of course dotted around Mitte are lots of bars with mini dance floors . These types of locales are easy and cheap to get into, but the quality of music can vary wildly and I don't believe it to be the true Berlin experience. Then again, some people aren't looking for authentic - they're just looking for a laugh and a drink, and maybe someone to flirt with for an evening.

Luckily, I now have an easy out; ever since the weather started getting warmer, Berlin has again started throwing its legendary outdoor summer parties, commonly known as Open Airs. I had never heard that term before moving here and previously always associated the "open air" concept with outdoor movie theaters or well-designed buildings with an airy atrium or courtyard or something. But give a DJ a turntable with a portable power supply and soon you've got pop-up dance parties under bridges and on river banks all over Berlin.

And if you're lucky, you might even get a double rainbow.

An outdoor summer party is in some ways a lot better than a club:

1. It takes place in the day, so you can party your little heart out and still go to bed at a reasonable hour.

2. You don't need flashing lights or smoke machines or disco balls. You've got trees, water, sky, sand - all the visuals are there and they're natural and beautiful.

3. Those sunglasses you always wear in the club now actually make sense.

4. You can see the people you're dancing with for once.

5. If you're getting on with someone you just met and you go off to talk, you'll actually probably talk instead of having to shout at each other over the music, and you'll find a nice spot by the water to do it.

6. You're much more likely to get into the party than into a club, and entry usually costs 5€ or less. Oftentimes it's free, especially if it's being held on public property.

Of course, if you can't dance while sober and you're not willing to day-drink, an open air might not be for you. Don't worry, though - on warm summer nights, these outdoor parties are also known to stretch late into the wee hours.

Case in point: the author dances outdoors, long after the sun has disappeared.

But even after reading about how great open airs are, you still want to go to a techno club. OKAY. FINE. If you are a tourist, visiting the city for two days with 5-10 friends or new acquaintances from your hostel, and are delusional enough to think you will get into Berghain or Kater Holzig, I'm sorry to say that you won't. You just won't. But if you do decide to try to get into one of Berlin's many wonderful techno havens, here's another list, this time with some helpful tips:

1. Be prepared to wait in line. The wait for Berghain is usually 2+ hours, which is worth it if you actually get in. The wait for other clubs can be 30-60 minutes, depending on what time you go. 1-3 am is peak.

2. Don't speak. Not because it hurts (sorry Gwen Stefani), but because the bouncers will overhear you speaking English and will assume you're a tourist. Which you are. But you don't want them to know that. And they don't need to know. So keep quiet.

3. DON'T BE WASTED. If you are off your tits, the bouncers will notice, and they will deny you entry faster than Leonardo DiCaprio gets denied Oscars.

4. Break up into smaller groups of 2-4 people, with no more than 2 men in each group.

5. Wear unassuming clothing. If you've got high heels and a short skirt on, you're not getting in. If you've suited up a la Barney Stinson, you're not getting in. It's best to go for an alternative look. I wear black a lot to the clubs and it seems to work. But I've also seen people at clubs decked out in pleather bodysuits, bunny costumes and captain outfits. Follow your heart.

Even a group of all ladies in pretty dresses won't necessarily be let in.

6. Try to find out beforehand if there is a theme night at one of the dance floors in the club. I recently got into Kater Holzig because my roommate looked at Resident Advisor and found out that one of the floors was having a pyjama party. When we showed up in bathrobes, the bouncers nearly let us in for free - that's how excited they were to see people who dressed up for the theme party.

7. Even if there is no theme night, wearing glitter on your face usually shows the bouncers that you mean business.

8. Try going during the day on a Sunday. Most of Berlin's techno clubs start the party on Thursday night and rock on through until Monday morning. Anytime during the weekend is fair game for roving packs of partiers who wish to boogie. Berghain actually schedules its best DJs for 10am on Sunday morning, and the lines at 8am are much better than at 1am.

This sounds like a lot of work, but believe me, even if you go infrequently or even just once, visiting these clubs is an incredible experience and it's totally worth the effort. Let me know if you happen to come to town - unless you're a drunken frat boy or under 18, I'll probably agree to take you along on a Berlin techno journey.

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At 14:08, Blogger Rebekah Hiller said...

Take me on one? I'm unassuming and can speak German and despite having lived here for 2+ years, have never been to Berghain or Kater Holzig (the former because of the 'you won't get in' reason, the latter because I've just not for some reason...)



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