Photo by Guido Woller
Does the nightly music buffet leave you paralysed by indecision? We’ve hand-picked eight places you need to know.
Photos by Anitab Berber (facebook) 1, Rachel Glassberg 2, Dietmar Liste 3, Eva Bruhns 4, 5, Guido Woller 6, Tim (flickr) 7,
1Gerichtstraße 23, 13347 Berlin
TECHNO: There comes a point (usually hovering around age 35) when a DJ who isn’t making Steve Wynn money starts thinking about the next step, if only to add a couple of extra years to his already stunted life. This could mean opening a matzo factory or selling Daniel Day-Lewis counterfeit leather for his cobbling. Tom Clark decided to open a club in Wedding. At AB, named after the famed Weimar decadent, the bartenders gamely attempt to apply a cocktail party chic to the techno world. This works, until one turns around and finds 97 percent of the clientele in the Berlin uniform of black t-shirt, black jeans and sneakers.
2Rigaer Straße 71-73, 10247 Berlin
INDIE: It’s situated on Friedrichshain’s anarchist Rigaer Straße, but the punks steer clear of this home for introverted indie kids (who are not uncommonly pushing 40). Hidden in a dark Hinterhof, perpetually in danger of getting turned into condos, the scrappy venue hosts mainly locals and a smattering of touring acts, plus all-night dance parties where the songs have words and the only K present is Records. The mostly-German Italo-pop coverband The Adriano Celentano Gebäckorchester has an irregular, informal residency in which sweat, confetti and many a Mexikaner tend to factor prominently.
JAZZ: When one thinks of culture on Oranienburger Straße, it’s usually followed by a trip to the doctor and a penicillin shot. But, thanks to organisation by the longstanding Jazzkeller 69. e.V., there’s still a place to see 63-year-old East German alto-saxophonists blow hour-long riffs on the Chilean national anthem. Ignore the drunken teenage barfmachines on the ground floor (that said, the beer is pretty good), and descend to the wood-panelled basement where some of avant-jazz’s biggest names (small pond, of course) will remind you of what a good time was in 1993. Then wander outside, stare at the desiccated Tacheles, and try to recall where those good times might be now.
4Skalitzer Straße 134, 10999 Berlin
NERD: Nicknamed “Jabba’s barge” by Return of the Jedi enthusiasts for its oblong shape and slanted floor-to-ceiling windows, Monarch boasts a similarly geek-approved programme: plenty of ‘world music’ (here’s where you catch that Thai psych/Japanese experimental/Surinamese grindcore band your favourite blog told you about) and the occasional Powerpoint presentation about obscure record labels. A current go-to for the bookers of dearly departed neighbour Festsaal Kreuzberg, it can also be a chance to catch biggish acts in a microscopic setting.
5Köpenicker Straße 70, 10197 Berlin
DARK: Shift didn’t shift much when it transformed into OHM and the spot, sort-of next to Tresor, maintains the vibe of the cleanest bathroom a goth has ever danced in (after being kicked out of his/her parents place, of course). The music is a slightly older version of the Chester’s zeitgeist: a clique of the aforementioned goths, a little dance-experimental a la PAN Records, and a touch of Cristian Vogel bass that risks cracking the porcelain tiles that adorn its insides. It will remind your Ossi uncle of the fallout shelters he once could only read about in magazines.
GAY: Steeped as much in its own history as in its own parties, gay hotspot Schwuz, short for “Schwules Zentrum”, launched in 1977 and was a take-off point for both Berlin’s Christopher Street Day and Berlin’s German-language queer magazine Siegessäule. Formerly occupying a mid-sized basement on Mehringdamm, it wasn’t until it moved into the former Cube space in Neukölln in November 2013 that it became a contender for Berlin’s party-hungry zombies, gay and straight alike. Hosting a full rainbow of concerts ranging from German metal mama Jennifer Rostock to underground heroes Easter, its sprawling space and sound system bought from Berghain make it a serious engagement. And while Berghain can also be called a gay centre, the clearest difference between the two? Schwuz’ unending guestlist and the lack of disappointed faces walking away.
PUNK: While it doesn’t have the big name draw of its Kreuzberg cousin SO36, its semi-secret status is what gives this Friedrichshain punk club charm. If punk clubs wanted to have charm. The programming here is just as much of a tossed salad as at SO: the requisite punk shows, but also techno parties, classical concerts, theatre plays and coffee and cake on Sundays. A perfect squat bar atmosphere greets you when you walk in, but you have to actually go past the bar, through a hall and down a long concrete corridor to get the actual venue, a wide-open room with two floors, one for a stage and dancing and another for the bar and pisser. Here’s hoping you can find your way out later... the parties can go early into the morning.
ALL IN ONE: It’s an almost-clichéd Berliner dream come true: a huge multi-layered space in Friedrichshain’s RAW area founded by French expatriates, it includes not only two venues but a party basement, a gallery, a book-and-art store, an art residency and a huge courtyard with a bar selling local (ergo expensive) beer. An eclectic, risk-taking programme hosts old underground glories like Tuxedomoon and Legendary Pink Dots alongside touring rock bands, local hip hop/disco acts, weirdo neo-something songwriters and noise artists. Just beware of the infamously spotty sound.