JIM CARROLL ON THE RECORD
A decade on, Berghain still holds its rep as the the best club in the world, but for how long?
The front page of German newspaper Der Tagesspiegeln is not where you’d usually expect to find Sven Marquardt on a Sunday morning. But when the most famous bouncer in the world has a book of photos and Hugo Bass T-shirts to flog, you’ll find him turning up in some incongruous settings to talk about his past as a model and his fondness for walking around abandoned abattoirs.
The colourful Marquardt’s celebrity is largely down to his job running the door at the Berghain club. It’s also a prime example of the continued currency of the venue based in a former power plant in Berlin. Open since 2004, Berghain has become the most famous underground club in the world – infamous too, judging by the coverage devoted to the club’s unpredictable door policy.
We’ve been here before. When it comes to celebrating (fetishising?) spaces and venues, dance music regularly comes over all dizzy. Every city has its revered spaces, which sometimes attract wide-eyed visitors from elsewhere keen to see what the fuss is about.
Often, these venues are only eulogised after the doors have closed and the wrecking ball has swung. Look at the nostalgia surrounding Sir Henry’s in Cork, for instance, which was recently the subject of an in-depth UCC exhibition and provided a backdrop for the play Deep. Surely similar cultural odes are due for such Dubliny clubs as Sides, the Asylum or Olympic Ballroom.
Clubs, though, are really about the moment rather than nostalgia. Despite all the hype and hoopla which surrounds it, Berghain commands respect and attention a decade on from opening because it still delivers seminal moments.
It might not be much to look at from the outside, but it’s a different experience once you walk through the doors. Once inside, the sound system, so crisp, clear and clean, hits you right away. The bare, concrete walls, high ceilings and imposing, austere power-plant infrastructure remain largely intact, but your attention is firmly on what’s coming out of those speakers.
While the top floor has the Panorama Bar for those who tastes skewer towards house,
Berghain has become the most famous club in the world – infamous too, judging by the coverage devoted to its unpredictable door policy
the main attraction last Sunday afternoon was the energy and excitement on the Berghain floor. Every weekend, a galaxy of selectors redraw and redefine the soundtrack because they know that what works for this crowd (the door policy ensures a combination of young and old, gays and straights, freaks and suits) will work on any techno-friendly floor in the world.
Of course, Berghain has its detractors. Any club this famous always will. And, just as clubs come and go and fashions rise and fall, Berghain too will one day be usurped in clubbers’ affections by somewhere else with a better story to tell. But that’s for the future. Right now, Berghain rules the roost.
YOU’VE GOT TO HEAR THIS
David Bowie Low The latest single Sue (Or In A
Season Of Crime) has a certain sepia-tinge to it, enough to send us back to the fruits of Bowie’s Berlin sojourn in the 1970s. Low remains rich, adventurous, enigmatic, melancholic and endearing and will send you tripping to an alternative universe.
There are many reasons to head to the Cork Jazz Festival next weekend – including some musical ones. Estonians Villu Veski and Tiit Kalustie bring their Sounds of the Nordic Islands’ programme Leeside, where they’ll be joined by Ensemble Eriu. Make a date for the Triskel Christchurch next Friday, October 24th.