Travel

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.

The Techno Jet-Set: Tourism, Mobility, and Money in Berlin’s EDM Scenes


Yes, there's a company dedicated to techno tourism. In fact, there are several. This was taken at the FLY BerMuDa party in early November, 2011

As I was conducting an interview a couple of nights ago, I realized that I didn’t have a publicly-accessible and easily-readable description of my current research project on so-called “techno-tourism.” If you read my article on the Spreepark party in Resident Advisor last fall, you probably already have an idea of what this project is about: the waves of travelers coming to Berlin for its nightlife scenes, many of them enjoying a kind of international mobility that used to be the exclusive domain of wealthy “jet-set” elites. The framing of my project is pretty much directly indebted to Tobias Rapp’s book (Lost and Sound: Berlin, Techno und the Easy Jet Set, 2010) and his coining of the word “EasyJetSet,” which highlights the similarities to and differences from an earlier era of luxury “jet-setter” tourism.

There’s a lot to be said about this project, about the earlier research that has been done on tourism, the economic and social factors, and so on, but here’s a concise summary of the most relevant points. (more…)

We Make Interestingness


I love me some contrasting stripes. A lovely public art installation in front of UQÀM, Place Pasteur.

Hey folks, salut de Montréal! I’ve had “write articles for blog” on my to-do list for the last month or so, but then real life keeps on being inconvenient. At the moment, I’m in Montréal for the AAA meeting (American Anthropological Association), which is a massive 7000-person mega-conference. I gave a paper last Wednesday, spent the rest of the week going to far too many papers, dropped an obscene amount of money at The Bay buying proper Canadian winter clothing, and now I’m preparing to go give a guest lecture in a seminar at UQÀM (Université de Québec à Montréal). I’m still planning on finishing the series of summaries of my dissertation chapters—and I have an interesting report on the BerMuDa weekend in Berlin, too—but here’s a short little thing to tide us all over. Oh, and by the way, I heard that, way over at the Society for Ethnomusicology conference (SEM), I was awarded the Lise Waxer Student Paper prize for the paper I gave last year. Yay! Incidentally, the paper was drawn from one of my dissertation chapters on “liquidarity”.

So, I once made a sort of joke-motto with some fellow humanities grad students that went something like this: “The Humanities: We Make Interestingness.” This was in response to (more…)

Checking in from Berlin


My name in graffiti on a mail box

I think that's my name as a graffiti tag, on some sort of electrical box on Sonnenallee in Neukölln.

OK, OK. I know that it’s been a while since I’ve checked in on here (since Grenada!) but here’s what I’ve been up to in the past month or so:

  • Travel to and from Grenada
  • Attempt to sell off most of my furniture and my car
  • Get my !@#$ing PhD diploma and attend Convocation with my parents
  • Pack my entire life into boxes, load it into a U-Haul truck while some guy yells at us about blocking the alleyway, and then drive it 8 hours to Canada
  • Store most of my crap at my parents’ place and try to shove the remaining articles into 3 pieces of luggage
  • Remind Canada’s bureaucracy of my continuing existence
  • Spend a week in Toronto seeing friends, visiting old haunts, and having meetings at my alma mater
  • Spend about 20 hours in 3 flights taking me from my hometown to Berlin-town. Screaming babies were a bonus feature
  • Eat roasted chicken from City Chicken (Neukölln) and get plastered on wine and Sekt before finally crashing on my friend’s floor
  • Make a deposit at my Hauptmieterin’s (sublessor) bank account and retrieve the keys to my apartment
  • Schlep my numerous bags to my new apartment and settle in
  • Begin the long process of announcing my presence to the German bureaucracy
  • Struggle endlessly to unlock my iPhone 4 so I can use a reasonably-priced German SIM card
  • Re-stock the kitchen
  • Oversee repairs to the bathroom of my new apartment, which seems to involve plaster and sweaty men (not the sexy kind)
  • Orchestrate and attend reunions with overlapping circles of friends (and attempt not to alienate anyone in the process)
  • Sleep, eventually.

And now I’m in Berlin. (more…)

Grenada Soundwalk


All the bougainvilleas everywhere on this island…

Grenada! I’ve been here for a few days with my mom, who has this lovely gig where she guest-lectures at the university here for a week, and in exchange she’s flown out here with one companion and put up in a nice hotel. In previous years, it was my dad or my sister who went, but this year it’s my turn (as a post-dissertation reward). Yay! It’s wonderful, but I’ll admit that my blog-productivity has taken a hit this week. I’ll be back next week and hopefully back to blogging (if selling off/packing my whole apartment doesn’t kill me first), but here’s a little something to tide you over until then. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Grenada Nighttime Soundwalk:

This was a recording a took of an 8-minute walk I took around the grounds of the hotel, accompanied by the sounds of chirping frogs, (more…)

Inkonsequent in Berlin: Golden Gate’s Reimund Maria Spitzer on Bar 25 and Gentrification


You folks might recall that I wrote a feature story for Resident Advisor a couple of months ago that provided a sketch of the circumstances around the Luna Land Party in Spreepark Plänterwald. The story was mostly about the bizarre history of Spreepark itself and the rising tension between the Berlin institution, Bar 25, and the American promoter, minimoo, that organized the party there. But another important part of the story was the gentrification going on in Berlin’s entertainment districts, particularly the way that urban redevelopment projects like Mediaspree were putting pressure on Berlin’s nightclubs. This pressure had put Bar 25 in the position of announcing its “final” closure for at least four years running; each time, somewhat miraculously, they managed to extend their lease for a bit longer. This fall, however, the bar was closed for good. A few days after my story was published on RA, YouTube video began to surface showing Bar 25’s premises, empty and razed to the ground. After years of holding massive closing parties and then reappearing in the spring, it seemed that people needed some visual evidence that Bar 25 was really gone.

But Bar 25 isn’t the only bar / club in that area that has been under pressure. (more…)

Party in Chicago? Survey Time!


Hey folks, do you party in Chicago? Are you (or were you) a part of any of Chicago’s Electronic Dance Music scenes? Well, then LMGM’s Super Funtastic Surveygasm is just the thing for you!

Well, OK, maybe it’s not as funtastic as the title suggests; and it’s probably not going to give you an orgasm (if it does, don’t tell me). But you will be helping me out and contributing to a better understanding of the Chicago scene(s). This survey is primarily background research for a magazine/journalism article I’ll be writing soon on “Clubbing in Chicago,” but I’m also planning to use the results as another source of data for my own dissertation research (for which Chicago is one of 3 main research sites). As an added plus for all those who participate, I’ll be publishing some of the preliminary data on this blog; also, on the survey form, you can opt-in to be contacted when I publish the results.

The survey is anonymous and should take no more than 15 minutes. So, grab a drink, make yourself comfortable, and click on the image of Mr. HappySurvey below to begin:

Link to Survey

Suggestions Needed: Berlin, Summer of 2010 tracks


Perhaps it’s too late for your hazy memories, but: what were your tracks of the summer of 2010? Much like the project I started last year, I’m planning to put together a DJ mix that reflects the sounds of my recent trip to Berlin. This is primarily directed at folks who were in Berlin last summer and were hearing the same tracks I was, but I’m still happy to have suggestions to people who were partying elsewhere. If you were hearing a track all over the place during the summer, post it in the comments! Here’s my preliminary list:

  • The Gathering. “In My System (Jeff K System Mix).” Silver Network. [Marc Schneider & Jan Krueger played the fuck outta this track that summer]
  • Axel Boman. “Purple Drank.” Pampa. [“I woke up with your name on my lipsssss…”]
  • Laserkraft 3D. “Nein Mann.” Sme Music. [OK, not really; this wasn’t on any of the dancefloors where I went, but the track made the rounds of all of the Berlin party kids]
  • Akabu. “Another World (Andre Lodemann Mix).” Z Records. [I could be wrong, but I believe there’s a bit of Debussy’s La Mer on here.]
  • Kink. “E79.” Ovum.
  • Maya Jane Coles. “What They Say.” RealTone Records. [Apparently, the vocal sample is from a DJ Sneak track]
  • DJ Koze. “Blume der Nacht.” Pampa. [As featured on Superpitcher’s amazing RA Podcast]
  • Davide Squillace. “The Other Side of the Bed.” Desolat.
  • (more…)

Inconvenience and the Privilege of the Local DJ


Somewhere in Revaler Straße 99, someone is very pleased with himself

In this post, I want to make the somewhat counter-intuitive argument that there are some privileges to being a local DJ. In so doing, I’ll also explore how the privliges of being local intersect in surprising ways with vinyl/digital debates and ideas about expertise, labor, artistic value, authenticity, and so on. More broadly, I’ll be making some arguments about how privilege works in Electronic Dance Music (EDM) scenes and why this should make us re-think how we understand our commitment to the values of inclusiveness and equality that are part of the history of EDM scenes (if sometimes in contradictory ways). You might ask why I use the term “privilege” here instead of “advantage” or “benefit.” This is because the notion of privilege helps give me clarity about how the ease or difficulty of doing something can say something about the uneven distribution of access, opportunity, and resources in society. I’ll come back to privilege in a moment, but let’s begin first with brighter side of local-ness. (more…)