World Dance Music Capital 02: Berlin

Words by: Gregorio
Posted: 11/11/08 14:48

As we can continue in our pursuit for the World Dance Music Capital, we encounter the dazzling crown jewel of 21st century clubbing destinations - Berlin. With historical roots in the scene, which can be traced right back to how it all began (read UFO Club, E-werk and Tresor), the last few years has seen what can only be described as an explosion of the Berlin scene. 

So just as underground deep house and minimal techno became trendy a few years ago, it was almost like the sound Berlin had been nurturing for some years before that was revealed; a new wall had come down. Yet, far from signalling the mainstream beginning of the end for the underground sound and dance music culture of Berlin, in what happened was a renaissance and strengthening of the values that created the scene in the first place.

Paul Van Dyk explains "I think Berlin was a place for one of the first real sub cultures in electronic music, against the mainstream with punk elements in it that still exist today".

Another DJ and Berlin resident, Miss Fitz, says the city "gives artists from all fields an opportunity to get out of the rat-race and be creative rather than productive. It's really beautiful having an urban community with people that don't take life too seriously and enjoy their days."

In pure terms, what is on offer from the perspective of Berlin clubs and Berlin clubbing is pretty much the best concentration of arenas, atmospheres, designs and sounds you're likely to find anywhere in the world. Unsurprisingly then, Berlin is guaranteed to be heavily featured in those "best clubs in the world" style features, and more often than not also likely to provide the winner, in the form of Berghain/Panoramabar or Watergate.

Related news: BERLIN CALLING - The film capturing today's electronic music generation...

Berghain / Panoramabar
Arguably the best club in the world right now, this place is quite simply a mecca for the most avant-garde underground deep house, minimal and techno. Set in an imposing old power plant, which previously hosted a fetish club until 2003, the industrial Berghain main room is of colossal proportions, defying the 1500 capacity, and is clad in steel and concrete with not one single mirror. The hedonism makes Studio 54 look like a boy scout's meeting - people (gay men mainly) make no secret about having sex in open - and cameras (even on phones) are strictly prohibited. These conditions, coupled with only the finest Grade A artists from the underground scene, make for a unique rave experience. Upstairs is the more intimate and lighter house sounds of the Panoramabar, although when I say lighter we're including guests like Carl Craig, Guy Gerber, Shinedoe and Paul Woolford in that description.  

Bruno Pronsato has called playing panoramabar "a liberating experience". He adds "you are bound by no 'club rules' and the people pretty much *expect* something different than the typical club fare. when i play there i typically set something up more along the lines of an hour long aural experience as opposed to an hour of hits. it's lovely."

Tip: Berghain is only open on Saturday night, when the club doesn't start until midnight and carries on well until Sunday evening. Fridays are Panoramabar only.

Location: 70 Am Wriezener Bahnhof Friedrichshain
Berlin, BE DE 10243
Tel: n/a|

If Berghain is a dark, cold and industrial beast then Weekend is a sophisticated and elegant lioness, because whilst it screams cool from each and every feature (including the clientele), it also has a rather ferocious bite.

A stunningly beautiful 400 capacity club set over 3 floors (12th, 15th and the roof terrace), this place would be like a fancy interior design showroom if it wasn't for the likes of Dixon and Laurent Garnier keeping it real.

It has also become an important staging post for many hot labels, such as Cadenza, Bpitch and Mobilee, who hold residencies there.

Tobi Neumann who holds a residency here describes it "like Berlin it is such a melting pot of creativity now. Weekend is just a very free place and a great place to meet other artists or just spend time in the company of many nice mates."

Tip: Catch the sunrise!

Location: Alexanderstr. 7 Berlin, BE DE 10178
Tel: +49 30 24631676|

The architecture and design of this club is often reason enough for punters to pay a visit, yet here is a venue hosting M.A.N.D.Y, Luciano, Hawtin, Ricardo, Magda, Loco Dice and Rhadoo in the next month alone, which in terms of the big names, makes their programming unparalleled almost anywhere.

As the name suggests, the location is riverside with the focal point of the split level club being striking windows that are the full height of the building; providing a memorable view of the city in the morning, afternoon or whenever the party actually finishes.

Inside, the main feature is the LED light show, which entices, enthrals and trips out even the most seasoned of clubbers. From the DJ's perspective, the experience is just as enchanting.

Simon Baker describes "It has many of the attributes that makes a great club for me; low ceilings, quality sound system, clued up crowd, good close contact to the dance floor so you can get involved, snazzy lighting and a wicked outdoor area."

Tip: Entry into Berlin clubs is generally quite cheap, especially considering what is on offer. Expect to pay between €8 and €14, even for the big name nights and on Saturday also! That said, getting past the security at Watergate is often an achievement in itself.

Location: Falckensteinstr. 49 Berlin, BE DE 10997
Tel: +49 30 61280395|

When the day of judgement for dance music arrives, Tresor Club can feel satisfied with its status as one of the rocks upon which the whole culture was founded. From beginnings in 1991 Tresor Club represented not only the start of a new cultural movement of dance music but of Berlin's own rebirth after the destruction of the Berlin wall. Style wise, it was like a mini-Berghain, a disused vault defined by steel, concrete and damp walls. Musically, it provided the breeding ground for Berliners like Paul Van Dyk and Dr Motte.

Through the 90s it was inextricably linked to Detroit techno with Jeff Mills and Juan Atkins big influences through both the club and Tresor record label. It is somewhat ironic that due its location near Potsdamer Platz, which has in the last 20 years become a centrepoint for 'New' Berlin, in 2005 the club was forced to leave its original site and relocated in 2007. The new venue, an old power station, is even more industrial and disused than the original, including some of the same features such as iron bars to separate the DJ booth. Moreover, although the big names are less frequent nowadays, the Tresor Club sound is still very much alive in the renowned techno and trance orientated programming. 

Paul Van Dyk reveals "As Berlin is my home, I grew up loving the dirty basement, clubbing atmosphere in places like Tresor."

Tip: Find the basement through a dark, long and imposing tunnel. You first…….!

Location: Köpenikerstr. 59-73 Berlin, BE DE 10179
Tel: n/a|

Bar 25
Even amongst the other greats in Berlin, Bar 25 is yet another venue that has worked a niche and cemented itself as a unique clubbing experience. An open air venue situated quite literally on the banks of the River Spree, it has the type of after-party atmosphere that made dc10 notorious, yet is spacious enough to allow you to properly chill out.

The 'anything goes' atmosphere has made Sunday afternoons at Bar 25 somewhat of a seminal occasion for this generation's techno loving Berliners, where the name of the DJ and the exact genre of music really do…….not…….matter.

Tip: Sadly, Bar 25 is closed during winter months. Sorry! Partying in the sun, Berlin style. Read the review

Location: Holzmarktstr. 25 S-Bahn Ostbahnhof oder Jannowitzbrücke Berlin, BE DE 10407
Tel: +49 30 27583209

Club Der Visionaire
A more intimate version of Bar 25 if you like, this riverside spot takes the mix of relaxing, intimacy and clubbing to another level.

Dip your toes in the river, eat delicious pizza and then go and enjoy Ricardo or Luciano on a dancefloor the size of a small living room - yes you heard right! If it sounds like the afterhour party you've always dreamed about, then you'd be right.

Tobi Neumann
called the club "Simply Fantastic!" after attending the summer closing party this year".

Tip: Yes, you've guessed it, this also only opens during summer months, but take note, the programme can offer events midweek also, so check listings.

Location: Am Flutgraben 1, D Berlin, BE DE 12435
 Tel:  n/a

Large complex of mutli-use spaces only a few km outside the very centre of Berlin. Whilst it is also used for rock concerts, the 5000 capacity has meant the likes of Paul Van Dyk's Vandit Nights and dance acts such as The Chemical Brothers, have made use of it also.   Van Dyk added that "Arena is definitively a special venue as it is pretty much the only one I use for big dance events. For each event we give it a complete makeover with new lights, visuals and decoration, besides the outstanding sound system of course. These way visitors are always entering a completely new "club" every time they come to one of my parties."

Tip: Check listings before your visit so as not to miss out on any big event that might be held here.

Location: Eichenstrasse 4
Berlin, BE DE 12435
Tel: +49 30.533 20 30

The dedicated club situated, yes you guessed it, next to the Arena complex.

A large concrete space in itself, it might lack the character and grit of Beghain or Tresor and the style of Weekend or Watergate, but that doesn't stop some clued up crowds and top notch programming, represented by labels such Cécille, Clink and Oslo.

Tip: If you are visiting in summer, check out Club der Visionaere, which is nearby.

Location: Eichenstraße 4
Berlin, BE DE 12435
Tel: n/a|

From origins as a weekly event that moved clubs each week over a decade ago, Cookies (named after host Cookie of course) is now firmly established as a venue in it's own right. A central location and quirk of only opening on Tuesday and Thursday means it has become a popular destination on the Berlin clubbing journey.

This year has seen Onur Ozer, Tiefschwarz and also Get Physical Records amongst others.  Patrica Weil, who manages bookings for the label says "At Cookies you'll meet people from everywhere - artists, actors, directors, ravers, manager and priests! The mainroom reminds you of the good old Berlin days back in the 20's."

Tip: Another string to the Cookies bow according to Patricia is "the beautiful restaurant" upstairs, "where you can start your evening with a healthy dinner."

Location: Friedrichstrasse 158/164
Berlin, BE DE 10117
Tel: n/a|

Located away from the action in a dull looking warehouse, this is a cracking medium sized club with multiple rooms and a very varied music programming.

The strength of this place is twofold; firstly, the variety of different spaces/rooms with each having their own sound and secondly, the booking of the deepest of super cool deep house artists.

The recent presence of Kerri Chandler and Innervisions with Dixon has made this a dark horse amongst the best of the Berlin clubbing experience.

Tip: Check out the chill out space upstairs.

Location: The Prop House GmbH Heidestrasse 14 Berlin, BE DE 10557
Tel: +49 30 28484873  |

:: Best of the Rest

An ad-hoc art project space near Alexandaer Platz, this was formerly a Hungarian Cultural centre. The size of the venue allows for big installation and also interesting parties, with various levels and odd interior design. Shonky informed us that "Every month they have exhibitions on and then parties during the night. Last week end Cassy , Guido Schneider were playing, a really cool place. and "

Location: Karl-Liebknecht Strasse 9 Berlin, BE DE 10178
Tel: n/a|  

Maria Am Ostbahnhof
1500 capacity, dual room concert hall and club all rolled into one.
Has seen Justice, Dj Krush and Roots Manuva recently but also hosts techno nights featuring artists with minor releases on labels like Cocoon and 8-bit.

Don't be fooled by the 'multipurposeness' though, you'll find proper Berlin clubbing here.             

Location: Stralauer Platz 33/34 Berlin, BE DE 10243
Tel: +49 30 21238190|

Recently opened, as a new venture from the Weekend club, this space is notable by the distinct lack of features, meaning the focus rests squarely on the music and the crowd mood. Logically, Weekend have used their existing relationships to great effect meaning the likes of Dixon and Brodinski have appeared in the opening weeks.

Location: Rosmarinstrasse 8, Mitte Berlin, BE DE 10117
Tel: n/a

A well established venue set in the basement of an old brewery, this cool and cosy setting has become a fixture for big name touring drum 'n' bass, breakbeat and hiphop artists, and attracts an up for it crowd.
, Coldcut and Benga being a flavour of 2008's guests. Check listings and you may even encounter some techno.

Location: Cantianstr. 15 / Milastr. 4 Berlin, BE DE 10437
Tel: +49 30 322970520

The Neue Berliner Initiative (NBI), has events from club nights to live music to sports. The schedule is regular so on Wednesdays, for example, Shonky advises that "they have an indie and electronic party with cheap entrance of only 3 euros. The crowd is mostly gay but you find people from lots of different countries there, a cool place to go mid week."

Location: Schönhauser Allee 36 Berlin, BE DE 10435
Tel: +49 30 44051681|

Ever popular, albeit without the cool of some of the cities better known hotspots, Rosi's is kind of no frills venue that offers a variety of house and electro as well as live bands and student orientated nights.

If you fancy a cheap night with an unpretentious crowd and some quality electro, then Rosi's is your place  
Revaler Str. 29 NÄHE S-BHF OSTKREUZ Berlin, BE DE 10245
Tel: n/a

Columbia Halle
Large concert arena in Southern Berlin that has seen Moby, Underworld and a M-nus event featuring Richie, Magda, Loco Dice and Dubfire in 2008.

Check listings to see if there are any big events planned.

Location: Columbiadamm 9-11 Berlin, BE DE 10965
Tel: +49 30 6980980

Open only from September to May, this place offers quality techno and electronic music but without any international names particularly.
The defining feature is without question the sound system, which emits perfect non-ear deafening acoustics from almost every angle of the room.

Location: Kopernikusstraße / Ecke Libauer Str. Berlin, BE DE 10245
Tel: +49 30 29309800|

White Trash Fast Food 
Authentic American diner that also hosts cabaret, live music and DJ led nights. 

Another recommendation from Shonky who says "rock music, entry fee of only 3 euros and cool nasty burgers, make this another place to go midweek".

Location: Schönhauser Allee 6-7 Berlin, BE DE 10119
Tel: +49 30 50348668|

Young club in the city centre that has already earned itself a reputation amongst the 'trendies' as a place to hang out.

2 rooms that cater for a wide spectrum of musical tastes and there is the occasional international guest, such as Guy J recently.

Dorotheenstrasse 90 Berlin,BE  DE 10117
Tel: n/a

Love Parade
The most famous street party in the world, presided over by Dr.Motte and Westbam since 1989, has only actually taken place in Berlin once in the last 5 years (2006). 
Issues over funding, licensing problems and legal debate over who pays the cleaning up bill, means that Love Parade™ will take place in Bochum, Duisburg & Gelsenkirchen respectively until 2011.

It is certainly a shame that it no longer takes place in its spiritual home as the scenes with the backdrop of the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Victory Column are some of the most iconic in dance culture history.

So, whilst not strictly in the Berlin clubbing guide for the near future, we couldn't not mention it, could we?

Sage and KitKatClub
Trendy club that Hosts "Rock at Sage", covering the latest German rock sounds and indie artists. However, the reason for inclusion here is thanks to it becoming home to the legendary KitKatClub. Originally started in 1994, 'Kitty', as it is affectionaly known, amalgamating techno and fetishism to create some of the world's most notorious parties, to the extent that it is almost a household name even beyond Germany. If you like this kind of thing, then you should go but make sure you dress accordingly too - leather, latex, fetish, etc are needed to gain entry. It might not be as wild as the glory days, but take note that if fingers get discussed, nobody is talking about chocolate.

Location: Brückenstr. 1 Berlin, BE DE 10179
Tel: +49 30 27591080

H20 club
1000 capacity venue that has been cleverly built under the railway arches near Alexanderplatz.

Resident DJs play a variety of music, from old skool hip hop to electro to classic house, which perhaps makes this more a place to visit if you want a night away from the full on Berlin underground rave experience.

Location: Dircksenstr. Karl-Liebknechtstr.Mitte Berlin, BE DE 10178
Tel: +49 34 560 52490

Golden Gate
Popular underground venue, with solid techno Berlin sounds. At the absolute extreme to Weekend style wise, so leave your best frock at home ladies.  A bit hippy, a bit 'too cool for skool' and a bit second hand market chic, this place may be a little towards leftfield compared to typical Berlin clubbing, but that's what it's all about, right? Germany's finest local DJs and the odd international guest make this a great Plan B venue when the Berghain bouncers don't like the look of you.

Location: Dircksenstr. 77 Berlin, BE DE 10178
Tel: n/a| 

Ballhaus Ost
Mutli-use site dedicated to the arts with events encompassing dance, photography, speeches, exhibitions and music of course. Yet another all day Sunday after-party option, you can expect a big roster of local DJs playing underground electronic music and techno with an experimental and creative flavour, true to the ethos of the venue.

Location: Pappelallee 15 Berlin, BE DE 10437
Tel: +49 30 44049250

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