Imogen Goodman from the Music team here, scouting out the weirdest and wildest parts of Club Xberg all night in the surreal warehouse complex known as the Arena. Unfortunately, for all the effort the organisers have gone to, they can’t quite compete with the fact that the average young Berliner’s night doesn’t start until at least 2am, and the dance floors all boast gaping holes at midnight. There’s even a bit of a school disco vibe at the main stage, as warm-up act DJ Supermarkt recycles some pretty uncool ‘retro’ hits to a smattering of out-of-it young’uns.
Luckily, in the Arena Club, Pilo is filling the void with his powerful brand of underground techno to a packed (albeit small) room of dancers. He looks like he’s enjoying the attention, too. A whole festival’s-worth of electro loving 20-somethings are gradually filtering and gravitating towards the tiny Club stage like children following the Pied Piper. With the rusted metal steps and the dead machinery in the upstairs levels, it could be the defunct Control Room at the heart of a huge industrial operation, pounding heavy bass lines and looping Bhangra vocal samples – but I don’t know how anyone in this sci-fi fantasy world would explain the perplexing ‘Arena of Love’, a creepy pop-up love grotto in the White Room.
After some deep thought, I unveiled the theoretical framework behind it. Imagine you’re at a festival with your crush-of-the-moment. You guys are having a great time, but you were hoping for romance. If only there were some way to break the ice, maybe a room full of red, heart-shaped balloons, cheesy ‘90s ballads; a guy handing out lollipops for the ladies? I Love Engtanz have got your back, buddy. At first, everyone seems to sense that it’s ironic. They’ve all got that, “Ha, the follies of youth” facial expression and everyone’s dancing a bit too enthusiastically. But as the clock strikes one, the Arena of Love is magically transformed into something that people seem to be taking kind of seriously. I’m not sure if love is actually in the air or if it may be some sort of mind control.
There’s no ‘maybe’ about it in the case of cult icon Miss Kittin, one of the highlights of the night and undoubtedly the presence behind all those kitty masks floating around the Arena: she is definitely controlling our minds. As she takes to the stage in a Space 1999-style black and white dress, she looks like she’s just been catapulted in via a futuristic escape pod. She’s got the knack of transforming awkward ESL lyrics into charismatic chants in the same manner as Björk or Lali Puna, and it’s largely down to her masterful manipulation of the backing tracks and her flawless vocals, even while doing the Robot.
Miss Kittin’s moves are outshone by five incredible dancers in the Glashaus who accompany Vjaun Allure’s set. Each one has a pantomimic stage persona, from the street-savvy break-dancer to the hyper sexual mannequin. Vjaun’s assistants even try for some audience participation, but the unlucky girl they wheedle on stage has a hard time competing with the mesmerising Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.
Moving back to the main stage, producer, DJ and record label founder Boys Noize takes over as ‘Xberg reaches its nocturnal peak. His set is the jewel in the crown of an all-night Boys Noize records special, with label mates Pilo, Audionite, Djedjotronic, Strip Steve and Scntst all spinning records in the Arena Club. With a selection of big-name collaborations under his belt (Kelis, Black Eyed Peas, Scissor Sisters, etc.), he’s a decent bet to make up for Röyksopp’s last-minute cancellation. His aggressive brand of electro house definitely makes enough ‘noize’ to pull any remaining stragglers away from the outdoor beach bar and towards the main stage.
Somehow for one of the most exciting sets of the night – The Prodigy’s Maxim’s DJ set – the crowd is thinning out. Possibly because it’s 5:30am and even the nuclear bunker-style doors in the Arena can’t veil the fact that it’s starting to look like daytime. Credit where it’s due, though: even this weary journalist left her laptop to gyrate to some tunes, before putting on the sunglasses and venturing back into the cold light of day. Time to do some snoozing before all-night party round two, right?