When you live in Berlin, there are a few things you simply can’t avoid. The Rewe jingle, for instance, or small children in large snowsuits, well behaved dogs waiting patiently for their owners or, Techno.
Techno seems to me like an acquired taste, like olives, or anchovies. The things that you really don’t like, but hope one day you will. Maybe a rite of passage into adulthood, or in the outstanding case of Techno: proper Berlin nightlife.
Maybe I was never exposed to the right sort of Techno. Or maybe, I am genetically unsound, not fit to be a European urbanite but, to me, bass heavy pounding is a perfect recipe for a panic attack. And, to be frank, I have enough of that on my own terms; I do not feel the need to stimulate them for “fun”.
Berlin has a population of 3.5 million people, and sometimes it feels like every single one of them likes techno, except for me. So, this is what I have come to: Shouting into the void of the Internet. Hoping I am not 1 out of 3.5 million, trying to find things to do, and music to dance to that isn’t Techno. To make the quest more manageable, I’ve split it into categories. If you are like me, it can be helpful to ask yourself some questions: Do you like to dance, but just hate feeling like you’re in a robot world? Or, is the traditional Berlin nightlife not your thing at all? I for one, love to dance; I’m just not too fond of feeling like I am a cyborg, born of the fantasies of an omnipotent D.J God.
The following is what I have found.
If you want to dance, and are open to the probability of camp, try the Soul Explosion parties. Soul explosion is dance heavy, sweat producing fun. They play real funk and soul, not only the well-known singles we associate funk with. Even if you don’t label yourself a lover of funk, I would highly recommend trying out the Soul Explosion parties. The dancing will never be confined to the classic techno step-touch. Something ignites inside you at the good Soul Explosion parties (they are, admittedly, a hit or miss) maybe it is contagious rhythm of nostalgic yet unfamiliar tunes, or, my hypothesis: the freedom to smile and laugh as you dance.
Check out the schedule of events here: http://www.soulexplosion.de/
If you are brave enough to chance an encounter with German Rap, hip-hop parties can be a fun alternative to techno clubs. The hip-hop scene is alive and well here. The sporadic Hip-Hop and Hamburgers party hosted by Prince Charles blast the well-known R&B of my youth. I like to take hip hop parties as an opportunity to test my skill at remembering the lyrics to the Destiny’s Child and TLC songs that came out when I was in grade school, exposing my American-ness with each verse of “Say My Name” or “Scrubs”. Hip Hop parties give you the perfect opportunity to sing along, demonstrate your otherwise embarrassing skills, and dig up your old Bat Mitzvah dance moves. (Unless of course, you are listening to German rap. I have no advice for that scenario)
You can look into the official Prince Charles Sound cloud here, be aware, they do host their fair share of techno events: https://soundcloud.com/princecharlesberlin
Moving away from more traditional club atmospheres, Jazz and Swing are also well and alive. Jazz in Berlin is exceptional. Edelweiss in Gorlizter Park offers famous Tuesday night Jam sessions, where musicians are encouraged to cycle in and out. Google is your friend in the world of Jazz and Swing. There are plenty of jazz venues mixing and reinventing the genre, with eclectic influences and new wave performance techniques. Something special about Jazz, in particular is the fact that it’s all live. There is something important about witnessing a musician play their instrument, it transforms you from dancer to an active participant in the art. Live music brings the human directly into the experience of making, reminding us that music (of all sorts, yes, even techno) is nothing short of art.
Some interesting Jazz venues include, Quasimodo, B-flat and KunstFabrik-Schlot, all worth looking into because they offer very varying lineups and events
The Swing Dance community is a large but quiet minority. The most amazing thing about the Swing community of Berlin is that the majority of venues are strictly era-appropriate. This means that the people dress and act in the tune of the 40’s and 50’s. Not only charming, swing dancing gives you the opportunity to get out of the “going out must wear all black” habit and into the glamorous and dapper feeling of swing. Don’t be dissuaded from trying out Swing even if you don’t know how to dance. Most venues offer lessons prior to the event to brush up your moves.
Swing Patrol offers both classes and events: http://swingpatrolberlinen.weebly.com/
This website: http://www.swinginberlin.de/ is an awesome and simple calendar of all the swing events going on in Berlin, one for every night of the week!
Lastly, I must say this. Although I may be betraying myself, I ask you not to discount all electronic music. If you want to dance, very little can measure up to house music. Yes, it is electronic, and yes, it might even be considered techno, but not all electronic music is industrial. A lot of house music has strong Latin and Disco influences, replacing the anxiety producing thumps of techno with something a little friendlier.
If traditional nightlife doesn’t appeal to you, Berlin still has a lot to offer. Don’t discount the possibilities of enjoying Jazz, or Swing, but also remember that many galleries throughout Berlin have late open hours and there are enough bars here to go to a different one every weekend, and still have many left over. It is worth the time you will spend on Google, I promise, because you will find interesting and thought provoking exhibitions, lectures, movies and gatherings, and they won’t always be electronic.
I won’t lie to you, I still hold on to the hope that I will find a way to enjoy techno. Just as I will never ask a waiter to hold the olives if they are in a salad. Sometimes, it is good to push ourselves to try the things we previously vowed against. But olives may always taste like chewy salt and techno may always inspire feelings of futuristic dystopia in me. It is all together impossible to predict how, or if our tastes will change. But in the mean time, techno adversaries, speak up and fear not. The night is still yours.