Bicultural Urbanite Luke
Gone with the Wind: A tribute to former Berlin party days
Recent times have seen a number of iconic Berlin clubs close down, sparking fears among partygoers about the future of a city that built its modern identity around the allures and ideals of underground club culture.
Words by Luke Troynar, pictures by Tsari Paxton
A few months back, veteran Berlin club Farbfernseher announced it was closing its doors forever. The news came shortly after riverside techno favourite Arena threw its final rave for the foreseeable future. These much-lamented closures have since been followed by growing speculation that a proposed autobahn in Ostkreuz will likely force several more of the city’s most cherished party locations, including ://about blank and Wilde Renate, to follow suit. There’s also been widespread dance floor rumours that decadent Neukölln hotspot Griessmuehle may be in its last season of mischief due to imminent redevelopment plans (though I’ve yet to find any confirmation of this).
To add insult to injury, summer tech-house favourite Club der Visionäre literally burst into flames and burned to a crisp just weeks before the peak of the season. While the latter incident was obviously not a planned closure, the timing felt eerily symbolic of the looming threat to the essence of Berlin’s legendary underground club scene.
Besides giving rise to waves of sweet nostalgia, the apparent trajectory of this situation has prompted contemplation: Are we approaching the end of an era? Is the unrivalled authenticity, hedonism and diversity of Berlin’s techno culture steadily being swallowed up by the inevitable commercialisation of a large capital city finally growing up? Will Berlin’s international reputation as the best place in the world to have the time of your life soon become a thing of the past? While there’s no telling just how things will develop—perhaps a new breed of countercultural parties will shoot up in response to current circumstances—there’s also no denying that the times, indeed, are a changing.
Of course, it’s not just Berlin that’s changed. Part of the reason those giddy days of endless dance floor pleasure feel gone with the wind, for me and my cohort at least, is because we’re no longer carefree twenty-somethings. We grew up: our priorities and lifestyles shifted and, for the most part, we left the feckless pursuits of youth inside dimly lit rooms behind us. Yet the city, too, has changed. Gone are the days of 4-euro-entry clubs waiting around every corner; in their place, venues charging as much as 20 euro—and with bounties on their heads.
My point here is not to wallow in commiseration for bygone days, nor to propagate ever more fearmongering about the growing pressures of neoliberal forces on many of Berlin’s beloved core attributes (though the latter exercise would arguably be well warranted). My intention is rather to appreciate just how good my lot and I had it when we arrived here around 2010, during what was perhaps the tail end of Berlin’s much-touted ‘golden days’.
Looking back now, it was a time of unbridled euphoria, vague optimism and blissful naivety—when rent was the same price as your monthly supermarket budget and the biggest stress the city posed was remembering to go home from the club.