IS THIS THE WORLD’S BEST GAY NIGHT­CLUB?

BER­LIN’S BERGHAIN NIGHT­CLUB IS A FOR­MER POWER STA­TION WITH MUL­TI­PLE DANCE FLOORS, DE­PRAVED FETISH NIGHTS AND THE UL­TI­MATE PARTY PLAYPEN. STORY AND PHO­TOS BY MARC AN­DREWS.

DNA Magazine - - FEATURE -

Var­i­ously de­scribed as the world’s cap­i­tal of elec­tro, techno, tech house, min­i­mal techno (or just in­dus­trial noise to some ears), Berghain is a Ber­lin in­sti­tu­tion. It’s an at­trac­tion right up there with Check­point Char­lie, the Ber­lin Wall and the Ger­man cap­i­tal’s dis­coball-shaped TV tower (Fernse­hturm).

Berghain gets its name from its lo­ca­tion smack bang be­tween two Ber­lin dis­tricts: Kreuzberg on the for­mer West Ber­lin side and Friedrichs­hain on the old East Ber­lin side. The for­mer power sta­tion, now the capi­tol of dance mu­sic, can host up to 1,500 techno-lov­ing guests at any one time.

Not merely one coatcheck, well-stocked bar and well-lit dance floor, Berghain of­fers a mul­ti­tude of quirky spa­ces housed un­der one hu­mungous me­tal­lic and con­crete shell. The club’s big room fea­tures a high plat­form with huge hangar-like ceil­ings and in­ces­sant techno beats re­ver­ber­at­ing off the cav­ernous stair­case and walls. Be­side the main dance floor is a size­able dark room with a sling – just one of the many spe­cial al­lo­ca­tions Berghain makes for its liebling gay au­di­ence.

Berghain be­gan as a gay club over a decade ago. Then called Snax (with a spe­cial Easter event still held un­der that name once a year) it hosted men-only par­ties with the en­tire space opened up ex­clu­sively for gay men to en­joy. Be­sides the usual up­stairs Berghain and Panorama dance and bar ar­eas, there was also ac­cess to the ex­ten­sive Lab.Ora­tory maze down­stairs, where all kinds of sex­ual mis­chief, per­ver­sion and gen­eral de­bauch­ery is not so much al­lowed as ac­tively en­cour­aged.

Dur­ing Berghain’s spe­cial Snax week­ends, the Lab morphs into an any­thing goes gay pig­pen. A large pit with steel grat­ing al­lows pa­trons to be pisser or pis­see, de­pend­ing on what side of the metal walk­way you’re on. There’s also a

In the maze down­stairs, sex­ual mis­chief, per­ver­sion and de­bauch­ery are not just al­lowed but ac­tively en­cour­aged.

raised bath area for those who want to fur­ther in­dulge in streams of plea­sure. Else­where guests can freely roam around the bow­els of this huge in­dus­trial labyrinth to dis­cover the rope rack, the “butt room” (a dark room with a bench where naked bot­toms are bent over in wait­ing), a size­able fist­ing sta­tion, an open plan shower for wa­ter-lov­ing ex­hi­bi­tion­ists, a vast ar­ray of slings, plus a some­what in­dis­pens­able douch­ing area for height­ened hy­giene. There is, quite sim­ply, noth­ing in the world like the Lab’s down­stairs de­prav­ity. That’s just another rea­son that makes Berghain sehr spe­cial.

Dur­ing any reg­u­lar cal­en­dar month, The Lab hosts gay nights such as Fri­day Fuck 2-4-1 (sex party with two for one drink spe­cial), Yel­low Facts (let the piss party flow), Faust­house (for fist­ing en­thu­si­asts – the man­age­ment rec­om­mends cut­ting your fin­ger­nails prior to ar­rival), Naked Sex Party (for those who like to nude up in true Ger­manic style), Re­volt­ing (a night for both male and fe­male cross-dressers), Ath­letes (sports fetish wear) and Spritz­tour (for those with a pen­chant for biker gear).

Ever evolv­ing, the down­stairs space also now squeezes in the oc­ca­sional suit and tie night (Of­fice Slut), plus there’s Sewer Sys­tem (for those who pre­fer their club to be one mas­sive dark room), Oil And Grease (no dress code) and a true Berghain clas­sic, Mask (face cov­ered, body nude).

While Lab.Ora­tory is gay only, the door pol­icy of Berghain’s mixed main rooms up­stairs can be ex­ceed­ingly bru­tal. Po­ten­tial club­bers can be turned away for no rea­son other than the Berghain staff con­sider you un­cool. When we were in the queue at 5am one Satur­day night, 20 straight tourists in front of us were all sent

home. We made it in be­cause at that time of night Berghain wants to be seen as wel­com­ing its faith­ful fol­low­ing of gay men.

In­trigu­ingly, once you do get in and se­cu­rity frisks you, what they’re look­ing for isn’t drugs but cam­eras. There is no photograph­y al­lowed on the premises. Berghain is also a club with­out any mir­rors or re­flec­tive sur­faces. In many ways it’s like step­ping back in time to the pre-AIDS, ’70s disco heydey when peo­ple par­tied with­out lim­its.

Yet it’s not Berghain’s sex­ual pro­cliv­i­ties or strict door pol­icy that have made it so in­fa­mous. It’s more due to its Zeit­geist-defin­ing elec­tronic dance mu­sic as it cham­pi­ons nu­mer­ous new sub-gen­res be­fore they be­come com­mer­cial or chart favourites. With its ex­posed con­crete and steel­work, the in­dus­trial edge of the mu­sic per­fectly matches the gritty, aus­tere sur­round­ings. Known as “the es­sen­tial techno pil­grim­age”, in 2009 DJ Mag voted Berghain the #1 club in the world. They de­clared that “as far as techno goes, there is lit­tle de­bate about where the cen­tre of the universe lies at the mo­ment – deep in­side the vast vor­tex of 70 Am Wriezener Bahn­hof, Ber­lin. Or Berghain and its up­stairs Panorama Bar to be spe­cific.”

It comes as no sur­prise that Lady Gaga, of all edgy pop stars, chose to launch her Art­pop al­bum at Berghain. She swanned in to war­ble a few new dit­ties on a Fri­day night in the Panorama Bar, which is also the hot spot to buy ice cream if you need to cool down in be­tween dance floor seizures.

Now en­ter­ing its sec­ond decade, Berghain con­tin­ues to set the trends and raise the bar in the world of club­bing, dance mu­sic and gay nightlife. It is most def­i­nitely the coolest club in the world, but be­ing as it’s in Ber­lin – the coolest city in the world – you wouldn’t ex­pect any­thing else.

HOW TO GET INTO BERGHAIN

At last year’s Hackathon held in Ber­lin, the big is­sue for the com­puter geeks didn’t re­volve around Wik­ileaks, Google, or even how to reach the fi­nal level of An­gry Birds but – would you be­lieve? – how to get into Berghain. What did th­ese unchic geeks come up with? They cre­ated an app to tell you what to wear to en­sure you get past the door bitches/butches and, im­por­tantly, where to pur­chase that Berghain-friendly out­fit. Such is the all-per­va­sive power of the world’s coolest club. more: berghain.de or find Berghain on Face­book. For what’s on at the Lab. Ora­tory check out lab-ora­tory.de.

Our low key cor­re­spon­dent, Marc An­drews.

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