Music & clubs

Music 2021: Top trends, concerts and venues

What's Berlin's best venue? Which genre defined the year? We round up 2021's live highlights and trends

This year we drank in live music following months of lockdown and livestreams. Here’s a roundup of 2021’s highlights and trends.


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British post-punk outfit Squid have the ability to transform into a single pulsating organism on stage. Photo: Holly Whitaker 

Squid – SO36

Nascent British post-punk outfit Squid are not your typical rockstars. They cut a reserved figure, mostly sparking to life only when the topic shifts to music in its many intricacies. On stage, however, they are transformed into a single pulsating organism, emboldened by the rare ability to tap into the hive mind seemingly at will. Originally planned for Lido, Squid’s October gig was shifted to SO36, a venue much better suited to their relentless energy. Repetition is simply not an option for Squid.

They are risk-takers in live performance, and that they produce so consistently with such a methodology is incredible. At SO36, a stage packed to the rafters with odd gear was the only clue that things were about to take a turn. It’s a mark of their confidence that they are already willing to totally reimagine crowd favourites after just one album. Missing a show like this is certainly cause for regret, but though it will never be like this again, it might well be even better.


A cautionary tale of two venues that took on daring restorations of historic buildings with wildly different results.

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This year, Silent Green finally broke into its swing as a fully fledged arts, festival and culture space, housing some of Berlin’s best events. Photo: IMAGO / imageBROKER / Schoening

Top Silent Green

The Wedding crematorium turned event space has gone from strength to strength. The 2019 completion of the Betonhalle had already given the city a truly unique venue with exceptional acoustics and great outdoor space. But it’s only in the latter half of this year that Silent Green finally broke into its swing as a fully fledged arts, festival and culture space, housing some of Berlin’s best events, from literature and film festivals to ambient concerts and Jazzfest. There’s no venue in Berlin with more exciting and diverse curation.

Flop Revier Südost

Revier Südost was a mess even before allegations of racism and homophobia forced it to close. Housed in the vast old Bärenquell brewery in Schöneweide, the crumbling building had the janky aesthetic of old Griessmühle but none of the vibe. The sound was terrible and, at the return of flagship party Cocktail D’Amore, the toilets were literally falling apart. The dream to build a new multi-purpose art space in the east has been a failure on every front. Whenever Revier Südost reopens, it must answer a lot of questions before you should consider paying the cost of admission.


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Homegrown R&B acts like Lie Ning have been a welcome addition to Berlin’s soundscape. Photo: Isabel Hayne


This could be the musos’ choice for genre of the year. Berlin’s storied affection for the 1990s has found a new niche, and breakout acts like Layla, K.Zia and Lie Ning have been a welcome addition to the city’s soundscape.

Off to Ukraine!

If you want to find the real trend of the Berlin music scene in 2021, you’ll have to go to Ukraine. This year, it felt like everyone and everything simply upped sticks and moved to Kyiv, AKA the new Lisbon.

Limited-run analogue media

Whether or not this counts as a real trend is up for debate, but one blessed consequence of the pandemic has been a renewed focus on smaller and more sustainable projects. With that, businesses such as Discarchive (a hand-made, lathe-cut, vinyl producer) are flourishing. Similarly, tape-only labels like Doom Chakra Tapes are a triumph for independents. So, for whatever reason, 2021 has been a good year for independent music.