Monday, August 24, 2009

Berlin: Spectacular Spectacle

Saturday in Berlin spent curled up all fetal, recovering from the night before. Eventually made it to a free festival in the park and met up with Christine & Steve. Rode Christine's pushy for a bit. Drank some Becks, ate 1.95 EUR pizza. Yes, a whole pizza for 1.95 EUR (less than $4!). And it as so tasty too.
Came home and got ready to go to Berghain. I tried to dress so I would neither stand out or fit in. I know they have a mysterious door policy, so I want to make sure I make it past the bouncers. Berghain is close enough to walk to from my hotel. It opens at midnight, so I started walking there about 12.30am. Along the way, I met 2 girls and a girl from the Netherlands who asked me for directions to Panorama Bar (which is part of Berghain). We continued walking together, and then an American guy name Ben, who now lives in Sydney, also asked us for directions. He joined us to.

Thank god we go their early. The line was already massive. Luckily we only waited about 10 minutes in the line before we were at the front of the queue. 3 Fuzzy-type Australia men were denied entry in front of us. They kicked up a stick, because obviously they think they're God's gift to clubbing in Australia. Sucked in fellas.

Ben and I decided we should act like a couple to better our chances of getting in. The door tactics are quite intriguing, and they seem to be happy to let boy/boy, girl/girl or boy/girl groups of 2 in now problem. If you're a girl/girl/boy or boy/boy/girl group of 3, you're ok too, but groups of men, women or mixed gender that were larger than 3 people seemed to get turned away. Our plan worked, and we were ushered through the doors. Once inside, I kind of worked out what the deal was with the strict door policy...

On entry, you were searched head to toe vigorously. Not the pat down you get at home - I'm talking every pocket checked, bags emptied out, definitely no cameras allowed. It was 12 EUR to enter, and they had a huge cloak room to put anything you don't want to lug around. You enter on the ground floor, which is a cavernous concrete space with high ceilings, leather couches and a a bar set in front of the infamous dark rooms.

You climb a huge staircase at the top of which you've entered the main room, which is called Berghain. The Funktion One sound system dominates the huge concrete, metal and glass space, with 1 of 4 towering speaker stacks in each corner of the dance floor. The ceiling height of this space is about 3-4 stories high. I stood in the middle of the dancefloor, and the sound was perfect. Quite a technical feat, because of the awful acoustics that would go hand in hand with using a concrete power plant as a night club. Last night, they were playing banging techno in Berghain. Mookie and Vic would have been proud.

There are dark corners, hidden bars and secret rooms everywhere. If you climb up another flight of stairs out of the main room, you'll find yourself in the Panorama Bar, which has an amazing view of East Berlin. In Panorama, they were playing mostly Minimal and Tech House - a lot more gentle than downstairs. But personally I preferred the music in Berghain, and spent most of my night down there.

Before I said once I was inside I could understand the odd door policy. I'd read the history of the club earlier, and it actually started as a male-only fetish night called 'Snax' quite a few years ago. This night was the catalyst for another legendary Berlin club, 'Ostgut'. Ostgut closed down in 2003 when the venue was demolished, and a year later, Berghain opened to take it's place. The 'Snax' club night still takes place once a year... but a large component of the crowd on any night is male, gay and openly into fetish. It stands to very good reason that groups of yobs like those Aussie blokes don't get in because the club clearly wants a happy balance of all kinds of people, getting along and having a good time - which is exactly how it seemed to me.

There were lots of very scary looking pumped up German fetishists - the kind you don't fuck with (unless, of course, that's the type of thing you're into). I think I even saw the Techno Viking. But the best outfit of the night was an older gentleman, wearing pretty much exactly what this bear is wearing:
Plus a gag ball and knee pads. Yes knee pads. I think it's nice he puts safety first.

I danced for quite sometime in Berghain, and chatted with a lovely gay couple who were dressed the same and could hardly speak English. They were so cute in their checked shirts. There were lots of very tough looking gay men at Berghain - and I like their style. They don't fuck around, they aren't queens, they don't talk like fairies, they dance hard and they look like real men. And there seemed to be a bit of a Droog fashion thing happening - lots of white skinny jeans, braces and shit-kicking 18-hole doc boots. If I didn't know better, I would have thought these dudes were Neo-Nazi types.

It got to about 5am and I decided it was time to call it a night. But before I left, I had enough courage to take a wander through the maze of hidden dark rooms downstairs. Maybe girls don't normally go back there (no pun intended), but I needed to know if what they say goes on in those back rooms is true. Berghain has a policy of accepting sexual behaviour openly, and the dark rooms are used for people who'd like a little privacy. The answer is that what they say goes on in Berghain, remains in Berghain. I'll let you make up your own mind on that one!

It's not to everyone's taste, but this is a club that certainly has it's own mystique. From the strange door policies to the breathe taking venue and sound, it's really easy to understand why Berghain was ranked the number one club in the world in 2009.

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