OUR MAN ON THE GROUND IN BERLIN, MARK CURTIS, TALKS 12 HOURS IN BERGHAIN AND IF IT STILL DESERVES ITS TITLE AS TECHNO’S TEMPLE.
When it comes to clubbing, nowhere is like Berlin and, when it comes to clubbing in Berlin, nowhere is like Berghain. It’s Sunday morning; welcome to your new church.
Showered, breakfast eaten and dressed in my Sunday best, I’m now ready to worship. However, unlike most churches, there is a queue. The infamous Berghain queue. A notoriously tough door is an intimidating experience, especially when you catch your first glimpse of the tattooed and metal faced chief bouncer, Sven. Berghains’ “facist” door policy has its critics but once inside it is clear to see why it exists. Hipsters, weirdos, trannys, freaks, bears and even OAPs – you name it, Berghain has them on the dance floor. This is a place where ‘normal’ is left at home, and you wouldn’t want it any other way.
And then comes the techno. The sheer force of the driving techno propels arms into the air and feet flailing. From the heavenly roof of the main room, a huge sound system rattles the rib-cage. The Gods are barking orders at us, orders to dance. I occasionally allow myself the guilty pleasure of a brief Germanic fist pump and shout of “come on!”, such is the overwhelming experience of the main room. And it is just that – overwhelming. So, after a two-hour immersion in the darkest of trance like states, its time to bring in some light. A bizarre ice cream parlour upstairs offers ravers a somewhat other-worldly break from the weirdness below. Now time for Berghains’ jewel in the crown – the Panorama bar.
If the main room is serious, hard, industrial techno, Panorama bar is sunshine house music and smiles all round. It’s like night and day. The atmosphere here is as open as the famous gaping, stretched-arse-holed picture hanging from the bar. We are all friends here and, for the next six hours, we are best friends for life. Soon comes the moment the whole dance floor has been waiting for; in time with the drop, the window blinds open, allowing the sunlight to brutally invade the dance floor, bringing with it cheers, hugs, elation, ecstasy… and, of course, the satanic vision of haggered ravers well into their 11th hour (but certainly not their finest). Thankfully the blinds shut after a few seconds and we can all bask in the relief that, in this moment, we are not a part of that world outside. This is a place of guilt-free hedonism. Here we are more than human – Berghain is more than a club.
There are moments here where one needs to take stock. Its is so easy, too easy, to be taken for a ride on a wave of glorious hedonism into believing that this is the greatest club in the world. But is it? What we need is something that is rarely found in Berghain – a moment of clarity. The naysayers will tell you that “it isn’t the place that it used to be”, with the predictably standard “too touristy” reason given. Like many things in Berghain’s dark rooms, this is hard to swallow. When inside, when on the dance floor, you realise that this isnt the case and in fact you are perhaps part of something a bit special. It is that same ruthless door policy that you hate from the outside but love on the inside that ensures that generation ‘selfie’ is kept well at bay. It is this that creates the spirit of Berhain. The atmosphere and people are neither fake nor contrived. Berghain’s beauty is in the attitude that is brought in through the industrial metal doors by its clientele. Openness, love and positivity, be it from a local, a tranny, or, dare I say it, even the dreaded tourist; it doesn’t matter, as long as its there by the bucket load. This expectation from all that enter and it is this that makes Berghain unique, and is why Berghain probably is the greatest club in the world. The dinosaurs will always criticise to infere that we aren’t having as much fun as they did. Let them. There is a reason why dinosaurs are extinct.
Yes, Berghain is more than a club. Berghain a religion. It is a temple full of wicked sinners. And God, it feels good.