The German capital might not have a real industry to its name, but it does export one thing on a mass, pan-continental scale: the Berlin party.
Berlin isn’t the birthplace of techno. Nor is it even where electronic music is at its most progressive. It is, however, home to the largest, most all-encompassing party culture in the world, and that’s hardly a secret. Every weekend thousands of revellers pour through Schönefeld airport for a taste of the city’s famous 24/7 rave culture.
Memorably dubbed the “Easyjetset” by music critic Tobias Rapp, they’ve been blamed for everything from keeping us awake at night, to homogenizing our wonderfully hotchpotch cityscape. But what happens to these weekend warriors after they leave?
As it turns out, they’re attempting to recreate Berlin’s dancefloor epiphanies back in their home countries. And it’s not just one-off parties or even small clubs: musical empires are sprouting out of the seeds planted in the depths of Tresor, Bar25 and Berghain.
Paris is no stranger to electronic music, but the city lost its nocturnal mojo somewhere in the noughties as ground-floor clubs succumbed to the residential party poopers living above. In response, many Parisians came to Berlin in order to get their twenty-something kicks right through the night. One of them was Brice Coudert, who visited here simply because “there was nothing to do in Paris.”
In Istanbul if there’s a party named after Berlin, it’s the best, it’s the coolest. Actually it has become a joke in the scene now, but it’s true.
On his first trip to Berlin eight years ago Coudert wasn’t a techno fan, but he happened upon Berghain after a chance tip-off from his gay boss: “It was like a revolution. I heard the music and I really loved it. I knew from then on that this music was going to be a big part of my life.” After that, he flew back to Berlin almost every two weeks, renting a hut in Bar25 and witnessing up close the success of Sunday parties.
Back in Paris, he is now one of the founders of Concrete (photo), a fortnightly club claimed by many to be responsible for an electronic renaissance in the French capital. His 19-hour blowouts, from 7am Sunday to 2am Monday on a boat in the river Seine, have become one of the hottest tickets in town, with 2000 people knocking down the door every other week.
As well as the Sunday timeslot, Coudert believes that having a venue with lots of light and open-air possibilities was crucial, especially in summer, in attracting the punters. Something he knew only too well from his Bar25 days.
Concrete has just released its first record, which sold out in Berlin’s Hardwax store within hours, and they are now organising what is set to be the biggest underground music gathering in Paris’ history: this summer’s 15,000-strong Weather Festival, with Berghain residents Marcel Dettmann, Len Faki and Tamo Sumo among the headliners. Not bad considering the club is less than two years old.
While acknowledging the role that Berlin has played – “It was the birth of my electronic music culture. I discovered everything there” – Coudert is adamant that “I have always understood that the cities are different. We want to create an institution in Paris… to create a Parisian way of partying.”
There’s a new club in Istanbul that also has strong ties to Berlin. Evrim Tufekcioglu lived in Berlin for one year before returning to Turkey last August and opening her club, Wake Up Call, just one month later. They have since forged a close relationship with Berghain’s Ostgut Ton label.
“If you book a Berlin DJ, the club is going to be full,” says Tufekcioglu. “In Istanbul if there’s a party named after Berlin, it’s the best, it’s the coolest. Actually it has become a joke in the scene now, but it’s true.”
After running a karaoke bar for six years, it was her year immersed in Berlin’s electronic music scene that finally inspired her to do something different. Tufekcioglu says that in Berlin she realised the importance of both the sound system and the atmosphere. It took her time to find and fine-tune the right system; the pitch-perfect sound of her favourite, Panorama Bar, was always in the back of her mind.
Tufekcioglu also wanted an open and friendly atmosphere, with the focus on the music rather than on picking people up. These two things, Tufekcioglu believes, explain the club’s current success: “It has become the cool club in the city and everybody wants to get in… people are saying that we have refreshed the music scene in Istanbul.”
Back up north, yet another club has been exporting elements of Berlin’s party culture for eight years now. Culture Box is Copenhagen’s most significant electronic music venue. Co-owner Kenneth Christiansen, who first visited Berlin for the Love Parade in 1991, says, “We are very inspired by Berlin. We’ve been visiting there for so many years.”
He said that about four years ago, when Danish people started hopping on flights to Germany more often, “we thought, let’s try to do this harder techno more so people don’t have to travel to Berlin.” And it’s not only the music that is influenced by connections to the Hauptstadt, but also the style of the club: Christiansen added that the “underground roughness” of the Berlin scene was particularly inspiring to him.
“When I moved back to Poland I decided to show Warsaw that you could take the techno scene to the next level,” says Michał Brzozowski owner of 1500m2.
Brzozowski first came to Berlin in 1999 as part of a teenage Euro trip and ended up staying for eight years, DJing and organising illegal parties alongside his studies. It turned out to be the best Ausbildung he could imagine as he’s now in charge of one of Warsaw’s most respected nightclubs, regularly booking big names like Ellen Allien, Fritz Kalkbrenner and Boys Noize.
Taking over a former printing factory, he decided to keep the raw, industrial feel of the premises. “I didn’t want to change the architecture.” Secondly, he sorted out the security staff: “They were rubbish. They were throwing people out who entered the toilets in doubles to take drugs or have sex.” Thirdly, he fixed the sound system: “If you’re a techno head, you know how it should sound.”
And lastly, he instigated one of Poland’s most ambitious booking policies, including regular Berlin nights. Watergate and Ritter Butzke are both partner venues and he has just received Poland’s exclusive rights to Ostgut Ton artists. Berghain resident Ben Klock recently played in 1500m2 for Brzozowski’s birthday celebration. “He was so amazed that his agent contacted me the next day saying that he’d like to play here on a regular basis.”
Like the other nightclub owners, Brzozowski is eager to stress that he is not trying to replicate the Berlin scene, rather using it as inspiration and developing it in his own way. 1500m2 also has a restaurant, cafe, theatre, boutique and even a bike shop – Brzozowski calls it a “multi-dimensional project” – and with plans for their own record label and much more, it seems that after three years, 1500m2 is just getting started.
Berlin’s neverending weekend hasn’t just annexed Monday morning, but rather an entire continent. These four nightclub owners came to Berlin – some by chance, others by design – to take their Party 101 class, and they’re now responsible for some of the wildest parties in their respective cities.
Not only did they learn about the intricacies of club music, but Berlin seems to have enabled them to imagine greater things. Each club owner dreams of bringing electronic music to a wider audience in their countries. “That’s what I took from Berlin. Techno, house and clubbing are all things that are part of the culture. It’s not underground, it’s normal,” said Coudert. “I want to make the scene grow like in Berlin and that’s why I’m happy when people come who don’t know about the music. They discover it at Concrete and we can educate them.”
Brzozowski echoes this sentiment in Warsaw. “You need to build the scene up. My aim is to bring techno and house music to normal people.” Tufekcioglu has similarly big plans: “We are creating a new electronic music generation in Istanbul.”
The next time anyone laments a party tourist, just remember what seeds can be sown at the most unlikely of hours. These Berlin exports are still in their early days and we’re yet to see the full extent of what will grow, but whether it’s 1500m2 cultural platform or Concrete’s new label, the signs are promising. So let us celebrate that these are four ravers who didn’t forget to go home.