Having mentioned to a number of people that we would be partying in Germany’s capital, the original plan simply to savour Salvation, but then also realising that Hustlaball was a homage we would hook onto, although, before leaving London, virtually everyone we spoke to about our latest clubbing expedition into Europe, said, “…if you are going to Berlin you have to go to Berghain…”, explaining that we would be blown away by the venue, the music & the people that populate the place, some even going as far to say that this colossal club was one of THE best in Europe and maybe even the world. So, with such a prolific picture having been painted, regardless of just how huge Hustlaball turned out to be & how superb Salvation was, our weekend of decadent dancing delrium would not be complete without at worst, a look in on this iconic industrial style institution, we thinking there would be at least one person truly disgusted if we returned to London having missed out. So, what was so special about this Sunday morning? And what made Berghain so brilliant?
Well, despite so many people having been so forthright in their views about this Berlin beast of a club, much of the devil in the detail was left out, the only clue as to what we could expect being in the music, which we kind of knew would be planted firmly in the techno bracket, the general trend in Germany (particularly Berlin) being to this much tougher end of tech. But having done little or no research on the club, we were totally unprepared to for sheer size of the place & the divine decadence that Berghain would bring, our only thoughts that it would be the Berlin equivalent of Beyond, but we were to be shocked & surprised by the scale of our underestimation of just what this East Berlin bounty would bring. Indeed, to compare it with London’s audacious afterhours, as we were in our heads, is like saying hot is cold, on is off, & black is white, the only similarity being that they both begin with B but that’s exactly where the comparisons begin & end.
But before we go on, it is worth highlighting a little history of the club, the name being derived from the two quarters of the city it straddles, Kruezberg to the north & Friedrichshain to the south, hence the club being called Berghain, the venue a former power plant standing tall on the landscape just east of Berlin’s fourth largest railway station Ostkreuz, itself the inspiration for the legendary club Ostgut, of which Berghain is a re-incarnation. But the foundations of Berghain go deeper, having emerged out of fetish men only nightclub, Snax, an event that still takes place yearly, although echoes of it remain within Berghain each & every week, the extensive basement a massive darkroom where trance & techno are traded for sex & seduction, although the main emphasis of the club is the main floor where the 18 metre high dancefloor dominates the design & a further upward trip leads to the Panorama bar which has equally huge proportions but a slightly more laid back feel to the music & vibe.
So, with the history lesson over & a pinch of a picture painted, our Berghain experience started with a trip from across town, Salvation in Shoneberg to be exact, in the fabulous company of D.J. Nick Tcherniak & singer P.A. Valerie, our trip fantastic to Berlin’s best in the hands of a taxi driver who fortunately knew exactly where to head, such is the magnitude of the clubs standing & familiarity in the German capital. And as we disembarked from the taxi, whilst we had a vision in our minds of what to expect, nothing could have prepared us for the sight before our eyes, the gigantic ex power plant raising skywards like a Berlin version of Tate Modern, although we could hardly take in the sheer scale of it all quite yet, as the hilarious conversation with which we had engaged with both Nick & Valerie in the cab, continued virtually to the door. With a healthy queue assembled, we thought we would chance our luck with a fast track entrance, Valerie bowling up to the rather scary looking brute on the door to test a little of the German her sister had religiously taught her, although the straight forward English approach from Nick seemed to be getting a better reception, yet, despite our pleas for accelerated entry, our request eventually fell on deaf ears, we finding our place in the queue, to patiently wait on the start of our Berghain bash.
Now, we promised we wouldn’t quote, but such was the continued hilarity the three of us were indulging while waiting, was not going unnoticed, Valerie coming out with one laughable line after the next, Nick stoking her fire & even our little anecdotes causing a stir around us, the waiting crowd nothing like any queue for a club we had seen before, well with the possible exception of Trade in its heyday, each & every person waiting their turn to enter this mecca of techno clubbing in Berlin clearly music fans rather than posing queens, even the cross between Lady Gaga & Lena Zavaroni, this wasn’t a case of being glamorous rather being passionate. And when our turn arrived, the guy that had the look as though he had just chewed a wasp & Valerie’s tough northerner gave us a smile & waved us through without incident, the incredibly tough door policy entrance now negotiated and our towering techno trip to Berghain now well & truly on its way.
With yet another incredibly efficient coatcheck process complete, Nick needed to spend a penny, so went in search of what looked like the toilets, disappearing into this dark space, but coming back as quickly he went, exclaiming “…I just want to confirm that that is NOT the toilet…” need we say more, the poor innocent Mr Tcherniak having walked straight into the infamous darkroom. So, with the laughter back, we all started ascending this incredible space, a truly industrial setting like we have never seen of like of in a club, the continual references to Tate Modern without the art & paintwork flooding through our minds eyes, the backdrop of pure Techno beginning to pump through our bodies. Having made it to the main floor, our breath was simply taken away by the dimensions of the space, the place teaming with party heads that were clearly well into the incredible tough sounding beats that were bouncing off the metal surfaces & the discreet yet inviting lighting illuminating just enough to retain that drench of decadence that we hadn’t seen in a club in close on 20 years.
Nick had now found the proper facilities, returning suitably relieved to gather us up and take us round through the labyrinth of corridors and then up yet further metal stairs to the Panorama bar, a second space in this incredible clubbing cathedral that made for Berghain’s host venue, the might, the mass & the magnificence of the place now really beginning to dawn on us. And like the huge room now below us, this Panorama bar was filled with ardent clubbers, locals rather than travellers, Berliners that were mixed in their makeup but liberal with their attitude, such a refreshing change from the g queen pushing & shoving that happens all too often back home, just a cavorting crowd intent on escaping into the trance house grooves that set this space aside from its bigger techno triumph downstairs. But, looking around, whilst the dimesions of this space weren’t quite as vast as before, they were no less awe inspiring, huge pieces of art spread across the far wall (hence our continual refrence to Tate Modern) & just a handful of spot lighting to add to the already awesome ambiance.
So, with yet more refreshments in our hands, we headed for a neat spot in the corner, where we had a superb view of East Berlin outside (albeit a peak through the substantial metal blinds), as well as resident D.J. Cassy who was selecting some superlative sounds & from vinyl no less, this together with the whole atmosphere, somehow transporting us back in time to our early days of clubbing, mixing in with a most eclectic crowd of people that simply just wanted to party. So, with Nick & Valerie in close call, we very much joined in on this pulsating Panorama party, throwing ourselves into the deep grooves, trading moves with our twosome dancing partners as well as others around us, only momentarily pausing to record this tremendous time for posterity on our phone, yet more hilarity occurring as a virtual synchronistic Facebook broadcast was in motion, neatly followed by Valerie’s make-up moment (you had to be there), we ourselves exclaiming to the world “…here we are at Berghain with Nick Tcherniak & Valerie post Salvation & couldn’t be in better company in this amazing club…”, our morning getter better by the minute, our enjoyment levels rising as quickly as the sun outside & the inescapable feeling that we were experiencing something very special indeed.
Having all agreed that after the splendour of Salvation before, our braving of Berghain would be just a short pop in to say, “…we have done it…”, so good was this club & so incredible was the venue, that an hour extended to two and then into a third, Cass’s music hitting every single sweet spot in our body and our company enriching the whole experience more than words can say. But as the D.J. switch came & then music took on a more electro feel, the call of time on our towering techno trip was coming close, both Nick & Valerie conscious of their impending flight back to London & our need to re-charge our batteries for our final forays around this wonderful city we had found ourselves within. So, squeezing our way past the party people packing out the Panorama bar, we meandered back through the myriad of corridors still strewn with clubbers taking respite from the two rooms of musical madness, down the metal stairs to collect our belongings & then out into the East Berlin morning sunshine to make our way back west, conversing lyrically with Nick & Valerie on what was, without question THE most amazing outing we have enjoyed in years.
To say that Berghain is breathtaking only tells a minuscule amount of the full story, every single element of this colossal club adding up to make it the best event we have witnessed in Europe, ever. Yes, the music is firmly planted in purist techno in the towering main space, and the draconian darkroom downstairs would be a shock for some, but there is always the Panorama bar for the slightly more feint hearted, yet the whole Berghain offering is quite unique and one that we would never really believe we would say “…you have to go…” until we did. For us, the club captures everything that is so decadent yet so splendid about the city within which it stands, Berlin, and by golly do the Berliners know how to party, our simple three hour snippet of a showing a mere drop in the ocean compared with the eighteen or so of hedonistic hours that the club’s doors are open, from dark to dawn to dusk, the decadence doesn’t stop. So, while Beyond is undoubtedly brilliant, Berghain is the best and by a long shot, meaning we will be back for sure. (DISCO MATT)