It would be hard to talk about Berlin without talking about techno, a scene in which few rival to a city that runs on a latent bass system which never stops thumping.
It was back in June when I opened my Spotify and searched ‘berlin techno’ after I had figuratively speaking, dipped my toes in the scene on a trip to Munich.
So there I sat one night and staring back at me was the plainly named ‘Berlin Techno’ playlist. Its name was simple and its following modest. The description read: “Feel the overcrowding and ecstasy of the rave culture, characterised by a dry beat, experimental and high tech, futuristic sounds coming from Detroit, Pure Acid and Berghain.”
Shuffle play? Sure. Four hours went by during which I had been brought on a transformative journey. The beats were usually dull and predictable, with layered beats playing somewhere off in the deep corner’s of my headphones; ominously echoing all down my ear canal, creating a cavernous effect.
Its slow thump would then pick up pace, leading to a sense of urgency. Long story boring, I was sold and on a plane to Berlin the succeeding August with one good friend in tow.
Ill save you the gory details that go with most Ryanair flights but I do leave you with this warning. The difference between priority and non-priority is not the €10 asshole charge. It is the difference between receiving basic human rights and not.
Fast-forward – Setting – A bar in the cultural Raw area, two men are sat facing each other over a bottle of Pilsner (the local beer) scouring Google search for the ‘go-to’ club. Suicide Circus, good but not an essential visit; Watergate, main stream; Berghain, racist door policy, no phone, hedonism and the best sound system in the world.
“Google, take me there… I wanna go there”
The queue was stoic. Everyone stood silently and was dressed in black (including us) excluding the three tourists directly in front of me who, dressed in tan pants and blue Under Armour polo shirts (who knew they made polo shirts?) were turned away. No reason, just a brilliant “no” that made me want to see what was behind that curtain all the more.
Now it was our turn, and as I stared up at the bouncer, our judge, jury and executioner for the next 30 seconds, he asked; “Are you with them?”
I scoffed: “No, just me and my friend tonight.”
He looked us over, although he wasn’t really looking at us more than he was just enjoying his position of power over us silly foreigners who had traipsed halfway across Europe and ended up in front of him, awaiting his judgement.
He looked away: “O.K”
Fuck it, we were in. Beyond that curtain I knew all that I had ever wanted was waiting. A thick smell of smoke hung in the hallway preceding the derelict building’s dance floor. Bass banged in our ear as we stood there smiling like two children while the woman first searched our wallets, then took our phones, placing small stickers over front and back camera.
“No Phones,” she warned.
I could try and explain to you the next seven hours but it would be pointless. An exercise of ego. Just trust me when I say it was exactly how you expect a rave to be, and then some.
For Berghain is known for its sound system; a system with such low bass it could keep a dead heart beating; where you are allowed to smoke inside, a luxury long forgotten in Ireland; where the place though crowded isn’t overwhelming and you’re never waiting more than four minutes to get served a drink.
Our next techno experience was a parade we witnessed on the main street in East Berlin. As me and my friend nursed an ever so slight hangover I mistook the low thump that could be heard far off in the distance as the beginning thumps of a brain aneurism.
Then, to my relief, it arrived. I found no media reports but I could guess it to be around 2,000 and 3,000 people, dutifully following along these techno trucks, each blasting a different beat.
I looked deep into my coffee and thought ‘what the actual fuck is going on’ at the same time my friend looked at me and read those words aloud, straight off my forehead.
Indeed, who were these people. It’s a Tuesday afternoon, do they not have jobs? I put on my reporter hat and started to read the signs that appeared. Old classics such as “free weed,” “Peace Love and Techno” were waved in the air by ardent young Germans.
But what can I say. It is arguably the best two hours of free techno I’ve enjoyed, like, ever. Just look at the pictures and you can see what I had found myself at the centre of. What i imagine the Paddy’s day parade looks like on acid.
I suppose the only way to close this little digression is our last night in Berlin’s oldest club, Tresor. We walk in, take in the abandoned power plant in all its glory, a site of such cultural relevance, the first club to open after the fall of the wall. Climb to the third floor only to see a huge screen in black that read;
“Next time, die consciously”