After a few nights here, I am admittedly growing tired of the EDM music scene, I find the beat repetitive and a monotonous drone at times. But Berlin natives beg to differ. It is considered the birth place of this genre of music, and Berghain the ultimate temple of worship. It is also notorious for being the hardest club in the world to get into.
It almost feels like a legend, a fairytale story that is spoken amongst the youth demographic of the city, both locals and tourists alike. With great difficulty accessing it’s famed halls, and guarded by a man who gives Cerberus a run for his money, legend tells of a dance floor like no other, music pumped through world class sound systems and tales of hedonism and indulgence.
It’s a peculiar thing. I am not a massive EDM fan, I love a good boogie on the dance floor but appreciate the more ‘mainstream’ likes of Beyoncé and Rihanna myself. But in a rather pretentious move, I added ‘getting into Berghain’ as one of my 2015 bucket list to-do’s.
And I did. I got into Berghain. How?
Let me walk you through my night.[
You plan your day around the attempt to get into Berghain. Which sounds completely absurd, planning a day to get into a club. We took it easy, did a bit of exercise, walked around to find outfits for the line. And then came home and reset our power bars like Super Mario contenders to full with an extended nap at 8 PM.
Alarm goes off. It’s 11 PM. Time to get ready.
Having some partners in crime in the Mission Berghain process is always much more fun, and I was lucky to be accompanied by some super fun girls from Cali.
‘Some people who have gotten to the door have been asked who is playing so we should try learn some names’.
Kelli was all over it. ‘What’s the name of the set that is playing?’.
‘Lee-sure (leisure) Systems’, pipes back Jay.
They hi 5.
Daniel Avery, TB Arthur, Perc, Kink, Ceephax Acid Crew.
Fuck. How am I going to remember this.
Jay comes up with some weird and hilarious ways of remembering the names. Perky, Kinky, TBA.
I have no chance.
Apparently the dress code is a determinant of yay or nay by the Berghain bouncer. We stick to the well known ‘all black’ to be safe.
The girls have some cute bespoke vintage jackets to bring a bit of ‘Berlin’ to their outfits. I go with a black skirt and crop top I already have, teamed with some black flat boots. Honestly, it was nothing spectacular or eye catching.
We try our best to look ‘grunge’, but we aren’t inherently so. I’m a small relatively polished ethnic looking girl. Packing on the eyeliner and mascara is our best bet. I even lined my lips with black. Hair up in a high pony and a bit messy. It all feels a bit contrived but whatever. It’s all part of the formula. Or so I tell myself.
Its now close to 1230 AM. And we head down to the bar at our hostel for some pre drinks. I decide to not have any incase I reach a point of no return. We head to a bar pre Berghain in Raw Tempel; Suicide Circus. As you will learn quickly on travelling to Berlin, there are ridiculous lines for all the clubs which can induce a state of suicidal ideation.
There isn’t really a Star Bar or Scubar with a less stringent door policy to fall back on if you find the line to the Beresford ridiculous.
You will most definitely have to wait for entry into a club. And so we wait. Pay cover, and buy time in a cigarette & smoke machine filled enclosed space. I feel like an emphysema patient.
It’s now 2:30 AM and pre-game is done. Tyler has his GPS out and navigating the German streets that all look the same with their ‘strabe’ suffix. We make the walk through a rather dingy and dimly lit street towards a building with muffled sounds in the distance. It’s feels like navigating our way up a vein towards the heart, beating surely in the distance. It’s a bit nerve inducing.
And then you see it.
The former energy plant is a bit of an eyesore. But it fits the projected persona. There are barb wired fences all around the complex. It looks uninviting and desolate. Yet this loud noise is beating from the interior which, like the fire in a dragons belly, breathes life into the perimeters surrounding it with the vibrations; an otherwise dull and uninteresting exterior.
It’s a chilly night for summer. And sadly but surely there is a mammoth line extending out from the buildings entrance. At 3 am. What is this place?
We walk to the back of the line. I feel like my 6 year old self upset to wait my turn for the jumping castle.
There are a lines of taxi’s waiting like hungry seagulls for people to give up, few little kebab shops set up, serving beer, hot drinks, hot food. I was so tempted to get something to keep me warm. But I was afraid to detract from my one night alias and that somehow having a cup of coffee would not allow me to get in. And that Sven had spies in the line.
So I don’t. Sacrifices must be made, right?
I take it as an opportunity to people watch. Everyone is in black. Except for a handful of misguided individuals.
‘It’s such a gnarly crowd’, says Tyler. And that is such an appropriate adjective to describe the majority of the crowd. Guys dressed like Kanye in long shirts and skinny jeans. Girls in cool vintage jackets and tailored pants teamed with Nike’s or Addidas runners; some sort of gothic sporteluxe look. I looked like the most conservative vanilla human being in comparison.
The line crawls at a snails pace and in painstaking silence so that all you hear is the muffled beat from inside. People and pairs drop out of the line, giving up on their Berghain dream and bring me a little closer to the door. Jay’s Raynaud’s starts playing up, her hands are going blue and white. We are freezing.
Two and a half hours go by and we can see the entrance in sight. And a glimpse of intimidating Sven and his squad of formidable bouncers. By this point, I am exhuausted, pissed off, and ready to curl up in bed. And even though the odds of me getting in are slim, I continue to stay in line, as though a prion has taken over my brain’s decision making centre to behave like a pretentious moron.
Some guy whips out his iPhone and temporarily steps out of order to get a selfie with the line and the front of the building. I have heard this was rookie error.
‘No phones, look bored, wear black’ ; the holy trinity for Berghain. Internal monologue in the voice of Emma Watson in the Philosopher’s Stone: What. An. Idiot.
Of course, that fellow gets in. And at that moment I realise these rules are a load of bullshit. By the time I am at the front, I look well minging. My hair is a genuine mess, my makeup is like a cross between Kate Moss and panda (mainly Panda), and I cannot wipe the pissed off look off my face.
‘How old are you?’.
’22.’ I reply. Even though im 23.
What are you doing Prasanthi.
‘Actually, I am 23, I am not sure why I said I was 22.’
‘so are you 22, or 23?’
‘do you have ID?’
No I just waited 2.5 hours in line and left that at home because I am Queen Idiot. What do you think.
He motions us to come forward with his hands, and I pull out my passport in the process.
‘I didn’t ask to see your id. I asked if you had id’.
Alright mate. Calm your farm.
Sven made the stringent door policy liken itself to judgement day. Would you be accepted into paradise or turned away?
For me, it was as though they were orcas tossing their catch of the day in the air, toying around for shits and giggles, before feasting.
‘Come in’. Hi-5ing a million angels (30 Rock reference).
We walk through and are ushered left into a room where a woman invites me forward with a subtle nod of her head and starts feeling me up for god knows what. She delicately picks up a couple of green dot stickers and grabs my phone and sticks them over my cameras. ‘No photo’s. At all’.
I pay the cover, about 13 euros, and walk in. Jay and I turn to each other and exchange a few expletives. About how we are cold. And how that was intense.
Then we lock hands and feel a little excited.
I won’t reveal much about what was inside. I will leave that for you to uncover if you choose to visit. I guess the whole experience made me realise there was no real secret to success.
The world famous bouncer’s agent says “he seeks inspiration from the nocturnal atmosphere and meets characters that awaken his visions; he is able to discern the potential of his protagonists before they even suspect a thing.”
Berghain’s appeal comes from its elusiveness, its non formulaic approach to the dance scene, unpredictable and volatile, keeping party goers on edge and wanting more. Berghain is like a 16 year old teenage girl playing hard to get, and we are all hormone fuelled pubescent boys.
Was it worth it? I am not sure it was. I’d much rather a low key thing at a friend’s place with everyone invited.
But each to their own. Each country, and city, is different to the next. And in Berlin, hitting the nightlife, especially Berghain, is a sure reminder of these cultural differences. And I will never forget it.