Berlin techno. Top clubs and underground scene

“You always want friction, though. That’s the theme in any good club: diversity, friction.”
[techno club’s world-famous bouncer, Sven Marquardt. Link]

If you are not into techno music or you have never been in Berlin, you would probably not imagine its underground/techno world. People normally think of Berlin as a cultural city with an invaluable historical background, the capital city of one of the richest nations on Earth. And that is also true, but we will cover that part on a different post.

Think about an extremely posh, expensive and exclusive club in London (Mayfair), New York or Paris. Overdressed people having sophisticated cocktails and showing off, enjoying more to be seen than to be there, and listening to pop (and cheesy?) music. Exactly the opposite is Berghain and all/most of the clubs in Berlin. Nobody judge, nobody looks, nobody cares.

This is our top 6 clubs in Berlin, followed by our favourite German DJs.

1. Berghain

Berghain
Berghain (source: Vincent Voignier)

It may be the world’s strictest, most rigorous, most inscrutable and most intriguing door policy.

There are endless tips, advice, and myths about how you can get it. Some of them are: dress in black, do not dress too posh, groups of no more than 3, do not talk or laugh in the queue, speak German, look gay, show your tattoos and piercings, do not be drunk or high, act natural, do not look too gay, etc. The truth is that nobody has the key to getting in, and the majority of the people cannot make it. So be prepared for a cold face telling you to go to another place, or to be pointed to the outside without telling you anything. There was even an app called “How to Get Into Berghain“, which would give you the lineup and would recommend the perfect outfit/apparel. There is also an interesting illustrated guide made by pulseradio.

Once inside, “there are no more limits”. It is really hard to explain its vibe and atmosphere, it is just different. It may be one in a lifetime experience for some people. Anything can happen, basically. It is a massive building, with a 60-foot ceilings main floor. On the first floor, there is a smaller dance floor called Panorama Bar, with a bar and some cages on the back (which used to contain electrical equipment). This ex-power station looks like an abandoned building, and it is so enormous that you can find new stairways and rooms after spending hours and/or days. There is also a small garden which is opened in the summer., with a bar and a tiny dance floor in a container. The unisex bathroom is large and the stalls can accommodate “up to 6 people”, and of course there are no mirrors.

Its wardrobe is quite large and well organised. This is because people inside tend to dress and/or undress a lot and in too many different ways. Tickets are given on a chain which is quite handy and very appropriate for partying.

You will get a stamp at the door. With it, you can leave whenever you want and come back again. And there is a different queue for the lucky ones stamped. Panorama Bar opens on Friday, but Berghain (main room) opens from Saturday night until Monday morning (there have even been some New Year’s Eve parties from Thursday until Monday).

It has also a strict no media policy. Pictures are extremely prohibited and you will get kicked out instantly if you even attempt to take a picture inside. Normally they put a sticker on your phone camera. Its owners do not give interviews either, following their own policy.

There is another great article by Rolling Stone (Thomas Rogers) called “Berghain: The Secretive, Sex-Fueled World of Techno’s Coolest Club“. You can find more detailed information there, including about its most extreme sex club called Lab.Oratory.

They run a few gay-fetish parties per year (one on Easter and one on November). They normally have a theme, and again they are strict at the door. On Easter 2014, for instance, it was leather or rubbers.

The Rolling Stone magazine defined its music greatly: “In broad strokes, the term ‘Berghain techno’ might refer to strains of austere, stripped-down techno with rigid kick drums and a sense of deep, trippy introspection that often taps into dark or creepy moods. The club’s upstairs space, called Panorama Bar, offers more playful and house-oriented fare. The DJs there favor brighter sounds, soulful vocals and are more influenced by disco”.

The magazine also published 15 tracks (its “essential playlist”) in the same article, as follows:

  1. Marcel Dettman, “Allies”
  2. Ben Klock “Subzero” (Function-Regis Remix)
  3. Head High,”Rave” (Dirt Mix)
  4. Murat Tepeli “Forever” (Prosumer’s Hold Me Touch Me Remix)
  5. DJ Gregory “Attend 1”
  6. Planetary Assault Systems “Kat”
  7. Roman Lindau “Raumgestaltung”
  8. Norman Nodge “MDR 03”
  9. Nick Hoppner “ISP”
  10. DVS1 “Pressure”
  11. STL “Silent State”
  12. Floorplan “Chord Principle”
  13. Function “Disaffected”
  14. Paranoid London, “Paris Dub 1”
  15. Oracy “Family Day”

Its residences are excellent: Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann. And they also have a record label called Ostgut Ton, with a presence on Facebook and Soundcloud.

Web – RA

2. Sisyphos

Sisyphos
Sisyphos (source: www.alohastone.com)

Sisyphos is one of Berlin’s greatest venues for open-air parties. It is also one of the main alternatives to Berghain.

It is also very difficult to get in. Similar policy as #1. One of the explanations from the bouncers was “we only accept people that we know or we trust”. But normally you do not get any explanation at all, they do not bother to talk to you. This explains the reviews and ratings you can find online, which is a love or hate situation. Most of the times you will find 1’s from the people who could not get in, and 5’s from the people who could get in, resulting in a ~3.5 average (out of 5).

Inside you have everything in one place: an excellent and large outdoor space, with a relaxed and “cautiously disregarded” decoration, where you can buy drinks, food (hot dogs, vegetarian pizza) and chill out. A tiny wooden dance floor next to the garden, as a continuation of the open air space. A small inside area with more house-oriented music (it can be diverse) and the major room with a powerful sound system and a good set of crazy lights. There are also disco balls and odd object hanging from the ceiling. The crowd is normally very multicultural and of course, quite underground. Outside you will also find abandoned vehicles, playground animals, a treehouse, chairs made out of boulders, mattresses, cats, caravans, and more.

Parties in Sisyphos are quite long as well. You can go on Friday night and stay until Monday morning if you are up to. Or you can leave and come back again with your stamp.

It is located in an old dog cookie factory on the Hauptstraße (Lichtenberg) and it is less central than the others. The closest station is Berlin Betriebsbf Rummelsburg (S3).

Web – RA

3. Zur Wilden Renate

Zur Wilden Renate
Zur Wilden Renate

Renate, as they call it, is a “multi-floor, multi-room club that seems a little different every time you go” (RA). It has several small rooms, as it used to be an apartment building.

There are actually three main dance floors, but there is also a lounge room with a bed, another one with a stripper pole, another one with TVs, another with a photo booth, etc. A large outdoor courtyard is open during the summer, which includes a wooden cabin with another bar, and DJ booth. It really feels like a labyrinth of cosy rooms, dark halls, and good techno. You can easily feel in a living room, or a theatre, or a bedroom, or a bar, or a house party, or a small club. Each room has its own ambiance and music type. The crown is normally very energetic and chilled.

The music basically covers a few “different levels” of techno and house-techno. Berlin-based DJs play most of the times. Quite often there is a theme so you may want to check it in advance and stick to it.

Web – RA

4. Watergate

Watergate
Watergate (source: berlin-enjoy.com)

This is also an iconic and World famous club. Probably all the best DJs on Earth have played here at least once. Is not as big as the others, but it has a beautiful terrace by the River Spree. This open air space is next to another room in the ground floor (“Waterfloor”), which has floor-to-celling windows (with curtains) and a large bar. The main room is upstairs, and its LED lighting panel goes throw the entire length of the top floor of the club (see picture above). The interior is more stylish and less “raw” than the rest of the clubs.

Door policy? Fortunately, this one is not as strict as the ones above. So a lot of people use it as a backup, in case you cannot get in #1, #2 or #3. Hence you will probably find a more diverse crowd, less “underground” or “shabby” or “outlier”. Also, the techno here seems to be less intense, but of course this will depend on the DJ’s playing. Prices are slightly higher than others, but the lineup is mostly international and renamed.

It is located in Berlin’s famous Kreuzberg neighbourhood (S/U-Bahn) and close to many other places for partying.

Web – RA

5. Chalet

Chalet
Chalet (source: residentadvisor.net)

This club was built in a 150-year-old building (three-storey brick house), and it came from the minds behind Bar 25 and Kater Holzig. It is also located in Kreuzberg and only 7 minutes away (walking) from Watergate, and in front of Club de Visionare.

Its best room is probably the garden, which makes it especially good in spring or summer. Kind of romantic but odd decoration, as a small enchanted forest with a fairy tale pond. There is an open fire pit near the outdoor cocktail bar. The atmosphere is chill and there is always a good vibe. It is not expensive at all, the entrance is €10 and the wardrobe €1. Inside there are three floors with different techno/house, although they are not all of them always opened.

Its door policy is not as strict as the first three on the list, which does not mean that your entrance is guaranteed.  Sometimes people get rejected at the door by unfriendly bouncers. It opens Thur-Sun most weeks (non-stop Saturday night through Monday morning).

WebRA

6. ://about blank

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://about blank (source: dw.com)

This club is the least popular on the list, although it is gaining popularity slowly and silently. It has two main floors inside, with a few “nooks and crannies” as well. There is also a garden, which can be opened even in winter (with a bonfire). This garden is quite large, with funny and odd objects such as a red caravan and a wooden bungalow with alternative music. The entrance is not impressive, as you can see in the image above, but the ambiance inside is great. One of its best-known parties is a gay one called Homopatik, with a local cult figure Mr. Ties.

Its door policy is not extremely rigorous as the others. Some people have said, “If you are not totally wasted and have a normal attitude you should get in with no trouble”.

It is located in Friedrichshain (Ostrkeuz S-Bahnhof station), just a short walk from Zur Wilde Renate. It is also cheap, with the entrance around €6 before midnight and €10 afterwards (€15 on some special events). The beer is only €3.

WebRA

Appendix: Our favourites German DJs

Sascha Ring (Moderat / Apparat)
Chris Liebing
Ben Klock
Marcel Dettmann
Monkey Safari
Adam Port
David August
Sven Väth
Dixon
Tale of Us
Loce Dice
Monika Kruse
Ame
Paul Kalkbrenner
Solomun

More?
Robin Schulz
Magda
Paul Van Dyk
Ellen Allien

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