Berlin: The Real 24-Hour City

I am in a hallway in a turn-of-the-century community centre with high ceilings; the patchy walls are decked with fairy lights, protest posters peel from the yellowing walls.  Every inch of the scuffed floors is filled with the shuffling feet of a rainbow crowd. 

Dogs weave through a crowd of black and white Rastas, hippies with pastel dreads and randoms with out-grown, razor-cut hair do's. Fresh-faced white activists & weary black men cross paths and chat.  All around them, people are smiling & swaying in droves...
The ones squeezing their ways down the hall slow down as they pass by a group of Africans propping up the bar in the middle of the hall. They are dragged in by the exhibitionist banter, peppered with giddy outbursts of hilarity.  People toss them a few words and get sucked into another yet exchange of stories, ideas.   

Hip hop and reggae throbs out of a spacious room at one end of the hall.  In a room at the other end, clean-shaven hardtek fans in militant gear mill around a smokey room pumping with adrenalized beats (also packed).  Across the hall, Day-Glo patterns on silhouetted bodies jump out under the black lights on a second dancefloor, awash in psytrance (it’s standing room only in there). 

A warm haze coats the throng that's moving like a single, continuous entity that's languidly sprawled itself across the space.  The fugue of faces is flushed with goodwill; optimism is all that holds them together.  Updates are given about the comrades in jail that we came here to support.  Earnest banter about the ones who made it through their battle with the asylum system, and the ones who were deported (or died) trying. 

This is how Berlin rolls: dozens of tiny social ripples converge, colliding with you in a tide that leaves you whooping with delight... or fury.

This was the dynamic scene at a benefit party that I went to earlier this year.  How did I learn about it?  Not from looking at any of the snazzy & sensational posters papering Berlin's crumbling brick walls, oozing borrowed grit like a caricature of the urban condition.  No, I found out about it by reading a lot of low-key, black and white flyers... and going to demonstrations... and chatting to people... and checking out a lot of free websites.   This is what you, too, must do if you want to enjoy 'authentic' Berlin nightlife.

The fact is, there is no one source for these kinds of spectrum-crossing parties.  There are simply too many ways to get to them, for any one avenue to lead there.  

You may find yourself in a place like this because you volunteer at a community center. Or because you read an article about the refugees, and you were casting about for a way to help them. Or because your punk mates live in the Wagenplatz around the corner, and you overheard the music as you were passing by; or because you were a fan of one of the many DJ’s there, and their allure pulled you here, out of your usual hardcore / psytrance scene; or just because you were hungry and there was free curry being served in the hall.

The benefit party was well-fueled by Berliners with a vested interest in its cause.  So much so that it carried on till well past 8:00 a.m. in the morning.  Serious dancing happened, enlightening discussions were had, fresh strategies were devised, taking shape all through the hours when mainstream institutions of entertainment, education and politics had switched off their ideals & put their aspirations to bed for the night. 

‘New’ Berlin (that's what I call the Berlin that was created by the fall of the wall) is an idealist’s city, after all.  That means it's also an activist's city.  Well, we live in a far from ideal world after all.  So it stands to reason that its most authentic nightlife events are classified, not by styles, but by ideologies.  And the people living here carry those ideologies all around the clock.  They carry  them at the party as well as before it, and after, and beyond.  They live them, basically.

To experience the real Berlin, then, you have to abandon the belief that fun and real life don't mix.  Parties based in a real need, aim or cause, have a more authentic positive vibe than can be found at any of Berlin's escapist, hedonist clubs.  Their sense of fun can afford to careen in ethereal directions because it's grounded in a solid one. And that is: to help real people who are dealing with real situations - yes, even at night, and even when they’re “supposed to be having fun”.  

Newsflash: they are having fun: by denying that artificial ‘work-play’ divide, by laughing in the turbulent wake of the progress that they create and by being true to themselves, whatever happens. Even here. In the Alternative Disneyland of Europe.  That is something that a person can take away from an event, unlike the artificial state of abandon that entices you to leave what you are behind for the night. 

At the end of the day, authentic Berlin nightlife is just a nocturnal version of its day life... and that’s the real definition of a 24 hour city.  It's a place that maintains, 24 hours a day, a single, undivided sense of self; a self that hasn’t been artificially segmented into ‘good’ parts and ‘bad’, ‘rich’ parts and ‘poor’, ‘professional’ spheres and ‘personal’. 

All of this is pretty different from your conventional, commercialized city where the center has a ‘strip’ with two or three big, corporate clubs that are open fixed hours, cost a fortune to get into and drink at, and people lose all their inhibitions and act like ‘someone else’ for a few hours before going home and feigning shock at the depths of their own depravity (or blotting the memory of it out with a few more drinks).  

To understand Berlin, you have to understand, in part, how that commercial nightlife has changed the way that you think about going out.  We've all been at least slightly seduced into the idea that fun is something that can be ordered and paid for in advance - like a pizza.  That’s not exactly the natural order of things though, and Berlin seems to take a sadistic pleasure in reminding you of that fact by going in the opposite direction, and leaving almost everything up to you.  It gleefully leaves you clueless.

At those moments it's worth remembering that this is the largest part of the city's appeal.  In other cities, there are always places where wealth craters the social landscape.  it's scattered unevenly,  pooling in depressions created by its own weight, amassing generation after generation, while leaving pinnacles of raw need exposed.

Is Berlin’s consistency artificial?  Perhaps. It is a very Eastern Bloc city after all, and the communists were experts at staying ‘on message’ 24/7… But then again, Berlin is also less hypocritical, less split into the artificial dichotomies of a work-consume-die system.
So, one-off bursts of crazed enthusiasm are as rare in the day here, as they are at night. Everything happens in the security of a venue that seems as familiar as a living room, complete with flowery armchairs and sagging sofas, regardless of the time of day. Many clubs, bars and cafes in Berlin look like they are living rooms.  Even the regular doses of alcohol, drugs and eccentric thinking are a permanent fixture in many Berlin flats.

The city's 24-hour, subtle weirdness can give rise to bizarre, unplanned ‘WTF?’ imagery, but anyone wandering around with a camera and hoping to catch them will have a long wait between ‘Kodak moments’.  They’ll also be putting paid to any hopes of participating in those moments.  Standing on the sidelines, especially in the name of  ‘capturing Berlin life’  seems a tragic waste of potential Berlin life, if you ask me.  It’s like going to Rome just to watch TV in your hotel.  Or reading a tabloid paper in the Louvre. 

In other cities, choreographed outlandish spectacles can always be found in super-clubs and mega-concert halls, and stadiums - the so called 'cultural' centers.  Yet genuine experiences of local culture are rare.  Learning experiences are rare.  Here, they are to be expected.  

Maybe that’s a source of frustration for some travellers to the city: they just can’t turn their brains off the way they are accustomed to doing, back home.  But if this is the kind of Berlin that they'd like to see, perhaps they'd be better staying home.  Sure, a number of venues here cater to exactly that sort of audience… but that's an audience of non-residents (or new residents that haven’t really settled in to the city yet).

A classic example of this kind of venue would be Bar 25, which closed in 2010: full of unresponsive tourists on ketamine, shuffling from the cheap bar to the packed dance floor like bloated diners at an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Places like this lead to an understandable backlash, especially in clubs that had a similar concept (like Renate and Sisyphos  - they rarely advertised, and gave foreigners a hard time on the door).  Being inaccessible has often been Berlin’s defense mechanism, a way to avoid becoming impersonal and bland. 

I've noticed that the way that Berliners resist the commercialization of the nightlife scene has changed a lot, in the last five years.  In 2010, illegal open air parties here were pretty mundane... but hard to find.  The challenge of finding them was what made them 'edgy'.  I got the impression that, back then, Berlin equated authenticity with inaccessibility.   

These days, the people doing free parties are much more "in your face."  They're bolder, easier to find, and they seem to put more of their subversive energy into producing cutting edge sounds, a dynamic atmosphere, or radical ideas.  The new 'underground' is probably more like the old one - the pre-gentrification Berlin.  If the party scene is getting back to its roots, though, it's doing so the help of out-of-town crowd, not in isolation from them.  Crews from the festival and rave circuit from France, Italy, Spain, the UK, and further afield seem to be playing a way more active role in the scene here these days, and their style is mixing it up with the local scene.  I think that's a sign that the city’s passing out of its reactionary phase, and starting to embrace the rest of the world instead of .

This is necessary.  At the end of the day, the squatters, the activists, the students, the starving artists and musicians that define Berlin are being driven out of it, not by foreigners, but by rich people who are from Germany and the rest of the world.  The problem isn't their nationality, it's the flawed, universal business model that they bring with them.  It comes with pointless hierarchies and unsustainable fantasies of exclusivity.  The people displaced by that need to be replaced by fresh, new faces with the same egalitarian dreams as their predecessors.  And those dreams have no borders.  
So, before you launch into a rant about how 'overrated' Berlin is, or how hard it is to find the ‘cool' areal or how dead that area was when you finally found it, take a deep breath and remember: you’re not alone in your bewilderment.  We’ve all been there.  We've all felt lost in this city, at times.  Adapting to Berlin’s unique style and rhythm may not be fast or straightforward, but it is the best way (the only way) to get a handle on its nightlife. 

Figuring out Berlin’s nightlife is, basically, what happens as a byproduct of living here.  You're not supposed to get it right off the bat.  It’s part of the process of learning what makes Berlin tick, what kind of people you enjoy being with, and where you and your dreams fit into the grand scheme of things.  That’s the mystery that drives people out onto the streets every weekend, to new places, to try new things.  It's what drives them to fill up new venues with eager new audiences, lured by yet another mystery. Another promise of an answer. 

People who live here have just accepted that uncertainty.  We’ve made the leap, decided to lose ourselves  in the bewilderment, learned to enjoy the sense of unexplored avenues, unfinished business trailing like torn streamers in the wind.  Maybe you have to return to a structured, time-strapped world, where everything has to come to a conclusion on a fixed timescale.

Being here can teach you something about how to break free from that world, if you want it to… but first, you’ve got to put your camera down and get involved. 

“Never mind if it’s ‘impossible.’  What else can we hope to attain but the ‘impossible’?  Should we wait for someone else to attain our true desires?”
-Hakim Bey


Review: Sunday Rotation @ R19

Aside from the red Ganesh banner hanging over the decks, the bar in R19 is indistinguishable from the bar of any other after-hours club I've been to; think Sisyphos or Ritter Butzke at 1:00 p.m.  It's sultry, red-tinged and smoky.  The crumpled leather sofas and armchairs are full of grinning, blurry people swaying and resisting the call of gravity to assume a more horizontal position.

A DJ is casually manipulating the atmosphere from an inconspicuous spot in the corner.  Tech-house beats slouch along at a sedate pace and drawling vocals are slowed to the speed of dark, cool treacle. 
I am far too awake for this type of after-hours club but, luckily, R19 has an alternative variety on offer. A quickening pulse pulls me along the hall, away from the bar and into a second, bigger room.  Entering it feels like stepping into a hard trance all-dayer from the mid-nineties.  Everyone is on their feet in a fluro-washed darkness that's bubbling with spacey riffs.  Liquid, neon patterns are flowing across portholes of artificial light that are built into the walls.  The ceilings feel high as the sound echoes.  A driving 4-4 bassline barricades us with surround sound, creating a refuge against the daytime.

A slim woman in a sun-faded, sleeveless top scrawled with the letters for 'Om' appears and starts tearing around the dancefloor like she's high on sonic crack.  Hair whipping, the high hats yank her body from side to side and her feet follow with clomping, graceless steps.  This room feels like it's the pre-party for Boom.  Or the after-party.  For some of the people here, it might even be the main event.  Wandering outside for a breath of fresh air, passing smiling eyes and grinning faces, I can see why.  This is the Place To Be if you've already danced from dusk until dawn once this weekend, and are already in the mood to do it all over again.   

Sunday Rotation happens every Sunday daytime at R19 in Revaler Strasse 19, near Ostkreuz S-Bahn.


Preview: The Silly Season Is Here

Forget summer - in Berlin, the dead winter months of February & March are when the really silly season begins.

At this time of year, you can see what a big part of the city's identity the clubs are and, in a sense, how tenuous they are.  When I check out the optimistically long listings on the party sites each weekend, I can't help thinking that some of these places are just hanging in there, holding regular events out of sheer steely determination to legitimize their existence.  Same goes for the regulars who trek through the snow to get there. 

In the summer, it seems entirely too legitimate to try and stay in Berlin year long, and seek out your fortune - whether financial or social - in this city's party scene.  But in the winter, that self-assured sense of permanence goes away... to be precise, it heads to Spain, India, the UK, California on vacation... anywhere but here. 

Left behind in the cold, empty streets, Berlin's clubs can start to seem more like place-markers that have been left there to ensure that we don't forget that 'other' Berlin, the summertime Berlin.  And all of them go on offering us a roster of vaguely important sounding line-ups, consisting of relative unknowns from big labels who play one-off parties with over-the-top silly names that try and recapture some of that freewheeling summer delirium.

I guess it's a kind of preemptive strike against all the people that would try and sell Berlin's independent clubs out from under their feet if they ever dared to take a break.  After all, the Senate generally treats the party scene like it's a teenager who's going through a temporary rebellious phase that it can't wait for everyone to sell out grow out of. 

As if to defy them, Berliners grimly carry on keep on leaving the house at 11pm on every winter night of the weekend, braving howling wind, dog-poo icicles and snow, mechanically rehearsing a schedule of celebration that was scripted during the summer months, when there was still light in the sky at 22.30 and the heat outside was just starting to fade enough by midnight that you begin to imagine facing a sweaty, packed dancefloor...  Ahh, summer....

(...sorry, I was miles away just then).

Sure, there's a whiff of delusion about it all, but Berlin's party people want to be deluded, and that's why they throw themselves into the performance of self-deception with even more zest than they do in the summer.  Below I've listed the spots that have a reliably warm and absorbing indoor culture, where people will definitely be putting on their party hats... with their woolen ear flaps down!

Salon Zur Wilden Renate: every Saturday & Sunday

Golden Gate: every Thursday & Friday

Kater Blaue (ex-Bar 25): every Saturday & Sunday

Berghain: every Saturday & Sunday

Else: Openair party this Sunday

Salon Zur Wilden Renate

And here are Unscene's recommendations for fans of the off beat & unknown...

Wild Wedding indoor festival at Brunnen 70 this Saturday

Rosi's plays 'different styles of techno and drum n bass'  TONIGHT

Gabber Noir at Subland TONIGHT

Bodies drone night @ Urban Spree. Half price before midnite!

SisyphosNext event on Feb 13-16

Ohm club (pictured) this Saturday - obscure sounds & visuals.

Stattbad Wedding: Stattnacht party is this Saturday

R19 on Saturday and Sunday, all round friendly party and chill with variety of underground styles.

Dymaxiun Droids @ Normal Bar Tonite. They say: "Our mechanic minions have started to cook a semiconducting soup with only the finest non-biological ingredients including synthetic beats, throbbing soundscapes and pitch-black vinyl! Prepare for more Dark Techno, Breaks, UK Bass, Acid and more!"

Antifa Soliparty @ Supamolly tonight with hip hop electro & pop bands.  Gypsy rock and punk bands play on Saturday.

Hip hop and beats Soliparty for refugees @ about:blank TONIGHT.

New Yorck im Bethanien offers an underground smorgasbord of activism, vegan food, punk, reggae, psy music and techno all night... and its all for a donation! Saturday from 20.00 to 08.00. 

OHM club in Koepernickerstrasse
The Koepi has punk bands, vegan food and a record distro during "two days of madness in the vault of the Køpibasement (...) in order to help some friends in need".  So basically it's a benefit, too. 

Enjoy the weekend ;-)

Tip: Don't let the low attendance numbers on sites like Resident Advisor put you off of going out. Many Berliners don't mark their attendance - too paranoid about drawing attention to their favourite parties. 


Photoblog: Berlin is so meeeean...

Even Berlin's landmarks can be a bit rude at times
Berlin can be so mean. Many of its long-term inhabitants will already know this; most will have already learned not to let it bother them... until it catches them off-guard, that is.  For some reason, you always run into an asshole in this city at the worst of all possible times.  For example, when some old fogey sticks their foot out to trip you up as you're hurrying to get to an appointment on time.  Or when the travel agent starts cackling sourly after you desperately ask her to book a hotel for you in Köln on Rosenmontag.  Or when the guy at the tax office deliberately gives you the wrong forms to fill in, and then yells at you for not using the right forms after you've spent a week filling them out.  Or... I could go on, but why bother?  If you live in Berlin, you probably already know what I mean when I say 'Berlin can be mean'.

High-tech 'Fuck You' from an exhibit of robotic art.
This would be a good place to remind everyone that there are plenty of sympathetic folk around the city that help expats to mitigate the rage that these encounters foster in them.  When the talking therapy fails, some turn to the mic at an English comedy night, and the rest seem to turn to the Internet.  Yes, the collision between Anglo niceties and Berliner cruelties has given rise to plenty of gratuitous whining in the expat blogosphere (some of it even penned by yours truly).  And do you know what Berlin's response has been?  The answer can be found below.

Streetart may be getting more quaint these days, but its themes still come from the ghetto
But the "Berlin mean" (which seems to be an evil twin of the "Minnesota nice") can actually entertain us when it decides to cannily send itself up, turning its own nastiness into a special sort of performance that only other Berlin residents can understand.  "Berliner Schnauze" is the most obvious result of this, a kind of dialect that almost everyone in Germany has heard of.  But in the south, the phrase "Berliner Schnauze" is usually an insult, whereas here in town, it's a kind of in-joke. 

You may have already witnessed the playful sniping that sometimes happens between dyed-in-the wool Berliners who've run into each other at the kneipe, the bus stop, Lichtenberg station and other venues that they can afford to haunt.  Exhanging hostilities as freely as the English are known to exchange pleasantries, they vie for mastery in a game of misanthropic one-up manship until people stop and stare, becoming an unwitting audience to their ad-libbed street theatrics.  I can never really be sure if the spectators are watching for the entertainment value or whether they're just waiting to see if the 'game' takes a wrong turn and becomes a bloodbath.  But nine out of ten times, the combatants just end up laughing their 2-packs-a-day laugh and parting ways with a friendly 'Tschuss!', grinning like their day has just been brightened by the verbal blitzkrieg.

A friendly welcome from Bar 25/Holzmarkt

That's why I've decided to focus on the Fuck You art piece this week, which seems to be yet another Berliner specialty.  I think I've never seen such a wide array of works of art that say 'Fuck You' as I have in this city (and I've spent a great deal of time in New York, so that's really saying something).  It's a reflection of the city's true spirit, in a weird way, which seems to be trying to rise above itself without abandoning its roots: hence the need to turn Berliner Schnause into an art form that others can admire.  And I can't say that I disagree with that aim.  If Berlin residents start locking their crusty attitude away in an art gallery and charging for admission, at least that means they won't be giving it away for free.  That's a price hike that I'm sure many people here would gladly embrace.  

Enjoy the weekend... if you can!


Photoblog Review: Youthitude Zine, Tattoo and Film Festival

What ever happened to the drama in our lives? In the quest to become the individual directors of its content, we've given up our roles as its muses.  More time spent photographing, producing and presenting ourselves online has equaled less time spent in front of the lens or in search of fresh material.

So it's great to see that the unashamed theatrics of simply being can still be found in a medium where all but self-expression have been removed.

In zine-land, there's no chance to edit, second-guess or overproduce the content we come up with.  This is where the zine gets its addictive, artistic appeal from.
"How to Become a Sea Creature in a Call Center" & other zines...

Zine culture as we know it had its countercultural boom in the 1970s & 1980s punk scene, with label-band Crass leading the charge.  In the 1990s, the zine diversified, with grrrl bands like Suckdog and ravers mingling with the hardcore punk zine crowd.

The zine even survived for quite a while after the birth of the Internet, probably because it was able to capture that elusive "live" element that was missing from most written word mediums.

"We spoke online but never met each other" & other zines...

The sloppy, spontaneous, last-minute feel of the zine was born out if sheer necessity: when writing one, your resources were always limited and a very quick turnaround time was imperative - it had to be out in time for next week's gig if you hoped to put your oar in about current affairs or promote an event. So, zine writers had to think fast and accept a certain amount of sloppiness and spontaneous add-ins.  Basically, zines could be rightly called the streetart of the writing world.  And they are becoming that again, in part thanks to zine fetishists like the kids (of all ages) who are behind Berlin's recent zine festivals, such as Youthitude.

Zine culture is going through a silent explosion; and yes, it is happening in every European language... or at least, all of the European languages that you'd hear spoken around Neukoelln.  At the festival, I saw French, Italian, Spanish, German and English zines.

Villa Curiosum Bar

In 2015 the zine has become much more refined and multitextured than the text-and-collage heavy 1990s stuff that I used to collect, with all kinds of artistic styles and materials that were never used before.  They were also never available before, I guess... or at least not as cheaply as they are now.  The new zine scene also seems to be more influenced more by intuition, LSD and surrealism, as well as a hefty dose of fine arts school.  But even with all the pre-fabrication involved in this new style, the raw edge hasn't been removed from the medium: what you commit to a zine's pages can still never be deleted, revised or edited. That's what makes it such a truthful record of the modern world and our feelings and ideas within it... and more necessary than ever, now that personal PR and online networking have started to cannibalize the content of our lives.

One of the patches on sale at the Punk Is Dada stall at Villa Curiosum summed it up:  the Youthitude festival is all about the 'post-Internet' movement. And it's getting bigger than you might think!

Don't believe me?  Well, if you get bored of reading the Sunday paper tomorrow or (more likely) fail to find any good reading on your friends' status updates on Facebook, get down to the Youthitude festival.  Doors open at Villa Curiosum at 12:00 and the zine, film and tattoo fair will go on until 19:00.  After that there will be a wicked after party with live bands and cheap drinks for all...

Take Unscene's word for it: checking out this textual vernissage is guaranteed to bring you back to life with a hit of intellectual adrenalin... and if that fails, well, there's always the hammering of a tattooists needle to wake you up!


Preview: Father Time is Running Out

Christmas has ended, but when did it start?  By now, you've surely heard the tale of how the early Christians decided to nab the date of the winter solstice from the pagans and use it to celebrate the birth of Christ, some 2000 years ago.  They allegedly did this in the hopes of making their new holiday seem a little bit more appealing to the snake-worshipping maypole dancers haunting their local forests... and maybe even persuade them to put their clothes on once in a while and go to Church.

We're not averse to snake-worship
here at Unscene Berlin, really
The problem was, there was some confusion in Rome (the birthplace of organized Christianity) as to what date the winter solstice actually fell on.  They celebrated it on the 24th and 25th of December, whereas other European pagans knew that it fell on the 21st of December (as hundreds of precisely-aligned monuments like Stonehenge can attest to).  The Roman calendar was approximate and flawed, but the establishment wasn't so willing to accept astronomical tips given by outsiders... even less so if they happened to be naked and worshipping snakes.  Like all bureaucracies, Rome preferred to trudge on with a dysfunctional, antiquated system that was utterly out of sync with the cosmos, inflicting it on whatever unfortunate peoples they conquered until it started to break down... their system, that is, not the cosmos.

To the ancient Romans it might have seemed like the cosmos was breaking down when they woke up one morning and realized that the season didn't match the date on their calendars anymore.  Surprise!  Turns out their inaccurate, pre-Julian calendar had required regular inter-calculations by the people in power to keep it in sync... and, since most of those people in power were politicians, "this power was prone to abuse: a Pontifex could lengthen a year in which he or one of his political allies was in office, or refuse to lengthen one in which his opponents were in power." (Source: Wikipedia)

Year after year the dates were fudged - sometimes for convenience, sometimes out of sheer confusion about what date it really was.  The last years before the introduction of the Julian calendar were, unsurprisingly, called 'Years of Confusion'.  The pencil pushers of ancient Rome had switched the dates around one too many times to maintain the illusion they were in control, but no one could figure out when to harvest their crops without knowing the exact time of year.  Finally, Julius Cesar was forced to introduce the Julian calendar which didn't require constant maintenance.  It was still flawed, though; for one thing, the solstice was still calculated to the 25th of December and the year was 11 minutes off.  By the 16th century the dates had fallen out of sync again and, after calculating the dates for the new calendar, the Church discovered' that the winter solstice should fall on December 21st.  It decided to keep schtum about this discovery - possibly, Church officials were picturing angry pagans shrieking, 'I told you so' all across Europe, when they found out.  Christmas stayed on the 25th of December, and the Romans saved face.  Again.

Like those confused citizens of ancient Rome, I am looking out my window right now and wondering why it's spring in the middle of December.  But this time it's not the calendar that's out of sync, it's the seasons themselves.  The cause of this modern chaos is, however, the same as it was 2060 years ago: politicians fudging facts on the state of things, so they can maintain the illusion of control.

So why the Hell am I talking about this in a post about New Year's parties, anyway?  I guess I'm just trying to sum the year up and.  To me 2014 was a Global Year of Confusion because, at the end of it, no one knows what to expect from the climate (will things get worse?  What are we going to do about it?).  No one knows whether the people that IS has kidnapped will ever be returned, or whether police will be allowed to go on bullying the public, or whether Mexican governors will be allowed to get away with murder, or...  Throughout 2014, governments everywhere just seemed too busy to deal with any of the heaviest issues that were weighing on people's minds.  So in 2015, I reckon the only way to move those issues forward will be through alternative channels.  Because let's face it: counting on results from this system is as futile as trying to time your harvest to a calendar that keeps changing.

Villa Curiosum
The first event on my list is 'alternative' and free, and it has parallels to the ancient world (well, to the Renaissance world).  Villa Curiosum has taken over Ausland in Prenzlauerberg, where they will be putting on a series of random events for fans of the weird and exotic.  In the event blurb for Alltagskammer IV they say they're influenced by the Renaissance concept of a 'Wunderkammer':

"a collection of curiosities representing the world: stuffed animals, weird weapons, exotic souvenirs and unique early automats.   We believe that the 'real' miracle can only be found in everyday life!"

From now until December 28th these guys and girls will be painting, sewing costumes, printing with silkscreen, making weird hats, and drinking cocktails in a place called the Cunt Lab with sound installations playing in the background, everyday between 4 p.m. and closing time (and as we Berliners know, closing time does not actually exist).  Basically it's your run-of-the-mill creative orgy.  I think the ancient pagans would have approved...

The next Alltagskammer events are the Blac Blob Sound workshop on 26.12 and a Variété show for Beauties and Beasts on 27.12 which will "present unusual characters in their distorted realities" (basically, people like you and me).

Also on Boxing Day is Santa raves harder with the Cerebral Chaos dark psy crew (Chester's Inn, Kreuzberg).  I'd go just to check out what his beard looks like under the black lights, ha. It's 5 Euros to get in.

And then there's MagDalena im Exil at Dublex (Ostbahnhof) on Boxing Day, too, which will revive the sound of the defunct Maria club - one of the original alternatives of Berlin. 

And also also on Boxing Day, there's the Kiwimanjaro X-mas special, which lists its music style as 'independent', making it ideal for anyone who hates, er, dependent music.  It's also 5 Euros in.

In R19 on December 27th, Virus brings us a techno-goa-dinner party.  It's only 3 Euros to get in and that includes free food as well as the standard tunes and cheap drinks.  With all that on offer I wonder if there's any reason to even leave the place. Mind if I move in...?

To round off the year on December 31st in alternative style, there's Alway's the Hard Way. It's first on the list because of its Captain Obvious name... no questions about what you're getting when you go there!  Or are there?  A glance at the party blurb and it starts to sound as if someone has put all the dregs of the Berlin party scene in a blender and hit the 'chop' button.  What did they come up with? "Costume + Freakshow + BODY-SUSPENSION + Live ART + Vernissage + Club closing."
Sounds kind of avant garde, until you look at their T-shirt model >>>

Can prolls can be avant garde?  I have no idea but you should go to this party if you want to find out!   This one-of-a-kind event will take place at Spirograph, a club that I never even realized existed until now.  The turnover of clubs in this town seems to be speeding up...

For guaranteed quality techno there's Hyte Day 3 at Arena club with Carl Cox, Chris Liebing, Tobi Neumann and all the rest of the older, tougher techno crew.  Worth the 35,00 + price tag if you know exactly what you want and don't want to mess about.

There are also the usual secret location and one-off masqued balls etc. that happen every New Year's in random rented industrial venues around Berlin, but without knowing who's doing them or where they are, they're a bit of a lottery.  But if you're an adventurous type then that's probably music to your ears.

That's it for now but I will be posting last-minute event tips on Twitter @UnsceneBerlin, so keep checking back.  

See you in the alternative new year!


Preview: Housebreaking Berlin

Have you ever noticed that Germans seem a tad paranoid about people breaking into their houses? Most renovated flats in this city feature not just one, but two (or three locks) and at least one of them is usually a 10-cylinder job that seems designed to defend a bank vault.  Maybe that's the reason why Tresor is one of the city's favourite clubs?  Whatever the case, it's all a bit unnecessary; Berliners tend to be a pretty poor bunch, and their city has some of the lowest crime rates in Europe.   

Anyway, when you've been in this city's club scene for awhile, you will start to become a bit paranoid about an entirely different problem: how to break out of the house.  And by 'house' I mean that dance music style which it ultra-ubiquitous in all of the capital's clubs, from Asphalt to Zur Wilden Renate. Whenever you start to feel that way, Unscene Berlin should be your first stop.  On this blog and the Unscene Berlin Twitter page, I post up-to-the-minute housebreaking tips for would-be dancefloor-jackers.  

This week, I've rounded up some party alternatives that are guaranteed to help you blow the doors off of the sweaty fortress enclosed in thick, stoned beats that comprises your usual Berlin club.  And the best part is that they're all affordable - you won't get robbed on the door!

Tonight, Thursday the 11th, Musicas Interminaveis Para Viagem brings us the sound of punk revivalists banging out experimental noises, plus dub tech and hardcore. The venue is set in the arches of Jannowitzbruecke S-Bahn, next to the bridge. Picture what would happen if a bunch  of punks squatted the house vibes of Golden Gate club.

Also tonight, Taiko and others play at Nord Lable meets Subaltern Records to play the bendiest, break-iest, bouncy variations of dubstep and drum n bass at about blank.

Tomorrow night (Friday the 12th) there's a benefit party for Anarcha-feminist houing project Liebig 34, featuring DJs playing Bass Techno, Rave Techno, Mental Techno and other styles that they'll make up on the spot in defiance of all the existing categories.  Ah, those crazy anarchists!  It's all happening in the decadently squatty basement venue of the Koepi in Kreuzberg.

On Saturday December 13th, there's a dubtech night at Worwien in Skalitzerstrasse, Kreuzberg.  My mate goes there pretty regularly and says the atmosphere and music at this night are perfect for dancing all night even if the place is a bit small (picture a 'housebroken' version of Farbfernseher and you've got it).

As for me, I'm not going partying this weekend because I've had too much techno lately and could really use a 'break'. Pardon the pun!