festivals

Techno and Teargas: My Very First First of May in Berlin


Kottbusser Tor

OK, so I originally thought this blog post would be a short little summary of my very first May Day in Berlin, but when I sat down and wrote out my notes the next day, I produced pages and pages of text. So, this is my attempt to reduce everything down to a brief narrative with some pretty pictures. But I won’t keep you in suspense: I wasn’t teargassed or pepper-sprayed or tasered. Most of my day was actually spent wandering around the MyFest street-fair, dancing at a few open-air events, and hanging out with friends. Even the infamous “18Uhr Demo” was mostly peaceful—at least until the end. (Slideshow of 51 images at the end of this article.) (more…)

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Happy Calendar-Reboot!


Despite having just flown back from Canada two days ago, I’m already back into the nocturnal rhythms of Berlin. In fact, I used jet-lag to my advantage: I got home in the early morning, slept during the day, got up at 8pm, and then got ready for a night at Watergate (the Vakant + Dumb Unit label night). And then, the same routine the next day for the Final Friday night at Panorama Bar, with Margaret Dygas, Cassy, and Dinky (and Matthew Styles). Now, I’m making use of a brief pocket of quiet while my houseguest sleeps to post this message. In a couple of hours, we’ll have dinner, count down to midnight at a friend’s house, nap until 6am, and then head out to the insane Silvester party at Berghain/Panoramabar. The line-up features primarily the nightclub’s resident DJs, but there are also a few guests (e.g., Soundstream, Deetron) and even a few surprises (i.e., Andrew Butler of Hercules and Love Affair). The whole thing runs from Saturday midnight until late Monday, and will require a couple of cycles of dance+go home+nap+eat+dance.

It’s been interesting to see how the massive influx of tourists has impacted Berlin’s nightlife in these past days. Thursday night at Watergate involved a ridiculously long line (for a Thursday) and a crowd that seemed to be primarily populated by tourists (including tourists from other parts of Germany, mind you). I made the acquaintance of two guys from Munich, one from Beirut (Lebanon), one from Chile, and several American ex-pats (now living in Berlin). And, of course, there were French- and Italian-speakers everywhere, mostly making themselves noticeable because they can’t seem to resist the temptation to try to jump the queue for the door, the bathrooms, the bar, etc.

Friday at Panoramabar was similar but different: there were tons of tourists in the queue for the door, but proportionally less of them seemed to make it in—or, rather, only certain kinds of tourists seemed to make it past the bouncers. The queue was insanely long when we arrived around 1am (which was admittedly far too early for Berliners and part of the reason why the proportion of tourists was so high), running all the way back to where the taxis were. The wait would probably be 1.5-2 hours. I was with 3 friends, so I left two of them at the back of the line, and then I went to the door with one of my friends and approached the door. Since I’ve been something of a regular at the place, I was relatively confident that I could walk directly to the door and the doormen would wave me in, but I was less certain that I could bring in 3 other people. So, my strategy was to approach the door with one other person, and then ask if I could bring in two more people. As I expected, the doorman Andrej saw me and waved me in. “A quick question,” I said in German, “I still have two other friends stuck at the back of the line. Could I bring them in with me?” “Only two?” he said, sternly. “Yes, yes. Just two more people.” “OK, fine.” And, with that, I ran back to the far end of the line, picked up my other 2 friends, and went in. The rest of the night was too long and crazy to relate here, but suffice it to say that I met a lot of locals, non-local Germans, local ex-pats, frequent visitors, and tourists.

OK, time to go gird my loins! I have a lot of hard work ahead of me.

Last Weekend in Berlin


Hello there! I bet you’ve been wondering where I’ve been. The short answer is: in Chicago. The slightly less short answer is: on the job market and applying for every fucking post-doc on the planet. So, things have been a little busy over here. Also, relocating across the Atlantic, writing new dissertation chapters, revising old dissertation chapters, submitting two new journal articles and reviewing two books is keeping me rather occupied.

But I’m back. I’m no less busy—that’s for sure—but I have days and days worth of ideas and stories that I want to publish here and I’m quickly realizing that there is never a “good time” to sit down and write new, unsolicited, non-deadlined material. But before I even post a link to that amazing set of sketches about Berghain or comment on the recent spate of homophobia-related violence or write a short essay on the problem of doing academic work on a “fun” topic…I want to indulge in some nostalgia and write a brief review of my last weekend in Berlin this summer. Some of the events described here will reappear as a feature in Resident Advisor very soon (i.e., the Luna Land party and the drama behind it), so stay tuned for that, too!

Part of what made this weekend especially epic was the presence of a friend from Britain, whom I had met last spring at DEMF / Movement (in Detroit). In the interest of privacy, I’m going to give him the obviously fake name of Milhouse, which should also make for some amusing resonances with The Simpsons as you read through this.

Luna Park - Broken Swan Ride

The Swan Ride at Luna Park...without the swans

Thursday, Aug 26: Heiligenfeld #1 at Watergate

Milhouse arrived in the early afternoon, (more…)

Pathologizing Crowds: Love Parade 2010, Death, and the Problem of Crowds


Yes, yes, I’m a bit late to be commenting on the tragedy at Duisburg. The story has been covered in print and online endlessly since the event last Saturday, and the German press has been reporting daily on the personal and political aftermath. There’s even a Wikipedia page devoted to the disaster already. In a nutshell: there was a huge turnout at the Love Parade last Saturday (July 24), which was held in Duisburg this year, and overcrowding in the tunnel which served as the only entrance and exit to the even site led to a panic and a stampede, killing 21 and wounding more than 500 (note: initial reports counted 19 dead, but two others succumbed to their wounds a few days later).

I’m not planning to describe the event in any detail. Der Spiegel has been providing thorough English-language and German-language coverage of the event and its aftermath, including descriptive details and arresting photography. I’m also not writing here to respond to the disaster from the point of view of the Electronic Dance Music community; Will Lynch has already provided a clear and concise report of the event at Resident Advisor, and Emmy over at What Time Is Your Flight? has reflected on the impact of this event on dance music/festival communities and has gathered together news coverage and video from the event.

What I want to talk about here is crowds. (more…)

Surrogate DEMF Reviews, While You Wait


Despite having been back from my travels for two whole days, I still don’t have any notes from either the Detroit or Montréal festivals to post here. Don’t worry, I have lots of fieldnotes with lots of pictures and anecdotes; I just need to write them in decent prose, sort through my photos, and decide on how I’m going to organize things (chronologically or thematically?).

In the meanwhile, though, check out this review of the first day of the Detroit festivities (the Movement Festival a.k.a. DEMF), written by one of the British lads that I met during my travels (more about that when I finally write my own event review). He wrote it for Data Transmission, an online magazine / social media hub for electronic dance music that resembles Resident Advisor but is more UK-centric. Actually, it’s interesting to compare the reviews by both sites, since they have a different roster of writers, a different editorial philosophy, and a different (but overlapping) target audience. Here are the two reviews side-by-side:

By the way, the photos for the Data Transmission review were taken by my own very dear Rémi, who accompanied me through both Detroit and Montréal. The story of how that came about goes back to a few days before the festival in Chicago…

From Detroit/Montréal with love


Hey folks.

Yes, I know; I’ve been rather lax in updating my blog lately. I’ve pretty much disappeared off the face of the earth for a couple of weeks. I’ve had a houseguest with me in Chicago for a while, and then we set off to Detroit and later Montréal for various electronic music festivals (DEMF/Movement and Mutek, respetively). I’m hearing lots of great music and having lots of interesting encounters that will make for some very amusing reading sometime soon, but for now it’s all I can do to take some shorthand notes and keep going. As it is, I’m missing an experimental electronics concert to write this (I think I’ll be able to catch the last part of it). In the meanwhile, here’s one of my favorite pictures of the Detroit Electronic Music Festival / Movement.

At the TV Lounge

The "SHXT SHOW" party at the TV Lounge