Berlin and Berghain were everything I could have hoped for. This entry will have few pictures, because Berghain doesn’t allow them. As I will have only my memory to guide me, a nearly pictureless entry seems fitting.
My delightful new dance partner Sasha and I got into Berlin on Friday by train (no airports – joy!) and enjoyed exploring and staying the first night at a hotel. Then we stayed with friends Alex and Ami, a gay couple married 17 years now – how time flies – with whom I had partied with some 8 or 9 years ago in Berlin – and who are regulars at Berghain. They are super fun hosts and they took excellent care of us all weekend. We did touristy things on Saturday, but you’re not here to read about that!
We dreamed about getting up at 5am Sunday to catch most of Lucy, a DJ I love, but we only managed to get to the club by 8:30AM. There we bumped into our friends Alex and Diana, on their way out! They had been out all night at Kit Kat and were done.
The line wasn’t all that long, and we went to the guest list door and observed a number of people being turned away. There was no arguing. They door guys shook their head and the people just left, sighing. The door guys chatted between themselves casually and didn’t pay attention to letting anyone in for a few minutes. But when they did, Sasha and I went right in thanks to the guest list, stored our coats and went straight to the main room to hear Lucy and let my friend Greg aka Donor know we were there. Lucy was tremendous, just as he was the one time I saw him before in Amsterdam. Amazing music. Too bad he turned out to be not such a friendly guy when I introduced myself. Bit of a “superstar”. Oh well…his music is worth it.
I really enjoyed Greg’s set and the view from the booth, and when he played a Richie Hawtin Minus Orange track from way back when (1999-2001), I had total flashbacks of being in booths together back in our day – what a treat! It was also a good chance to relax a bit before attacking the rest of the day – my plan was to stay until 10pm after Len Faki, which would definitely require pacing. Alex and Ami and their friend James joined in time and seemed to enjoy Greg’s set a lot too.
It wasn’t crowded all day, until around 8 or 9PM. There was always room to dance. The people seemed to be about 30-40% gay men, 20-30% fetish, and the rest of us, mostly reasonably mature and dressed in black or sometimes nothing at all. Only a few super flashy girls, like one super tall slinky blonde in a shiny leather bodysuit – who ended up in the back of the DJ booth later on… always with company, such as a certain superstar DJ. 😉
I like how they gave the DJs 4-5 hours sets that they can really sink their teeth into. It also meant that the music didn’t continually go up and up (how could you for such a very long event?) so each set peaked and then the next DJ started out a bit slower again and built their story up.
Next up was Norman Nodge, a Berghain resident who spun for 5 hours (!). At first I wasn’t all that impressed because he was spinning some retro 80’s and breakbeat techno, which isn’t really my thing. But it gave me a chance to chat with Greg before he left, and the last three hours of his set were amazing and by then, the party was full on.
The club is massive, but interestingly the two dancefloors were not as huge as I expected. The hugeness is the building, and all its winding corridors and hallways and places to sit and play and dark rooms and bars and a café that has sandwiches, fruit and ice cream up top. The Panorama Bar is a lovely dance room with huge windows, and it had sunshine streaming into it and a very happy, party vibe while the Berghain room was the dark, thundering place. I’ll give you one guess where I spent 100% of my time.
The sound quality was absolutely superb, no matter where in the room you danced. That came in handy when it did get crowded later. For once in my life, I didn’t feel the need to always be in front or up high. Part of it was that everyone wasn’t quite as tall as they are in the Netherlands, but also, the perfect sound and the people-watching made it fun to be just about anywhere.
The bathrooms were unacceptable, in my opinion. Clean enough, but there were only a few toilets for women and they were always occupied by groups of people doing illicit things, forEVER. For those of us who had no other choice of where to pee, this was a real problem. I think I probably spent at least 2-3 hours of my day in the bathroom lines. Sigh.
Next up was Len Faki, who didn’t impress me too much. Norman seemed much more complex and interesting, while Len’s set was simple, straightforward and minimal. He ended well, and I had thought that was when we were going to leave. However everyone had told me how good Ben Klock is, so I thought I should give him a few minutes.
OH MY WOW! Both Sasha and I were blown away by Ben Klock. We had all these adjectives to describe the other DJs, such as eclectic, complex, progressive, minimal, etc, but the only word I could come up with for Ben was “perfect”. Not too fast, not too slow, not too hard or soft, and always, but always interesting, captivating even!… and two more hours flew by before we finally admitted defeat. Ben Klock = highly recommended.
The next day was spent in recovery mode, doing little to nothing before catching the train home. I couldn’t have asked for a better few days, or better hosts or a better dance partner to share it all with. Now I just have to wonder….what, if anything, can top that?! If the answer is “nothing” I’m totally satisfied.