(Night)Life Beyond Techno

Although recognised worldwide as a technotropolis, there is a lot more to Berlin’s music scene than Berghain and techno, I promise.

For many people freshly landed in Berlin — their eyes glassy, their fists poised — the refrain is, resoundingly: TECHNO. And understandably so. Berlin spouts techno the way Rome oozes religious artefacts. And, much like the queues to the Vatican, the throngs of darkly clad beat-seekers surge outside their temples, clamouring for a chance to see the city’s DJs presiding regally over their balcony of mixers.

Being here and not particularly liking techno is about as socially viable as being a vegan at a bacon party

With this in mind, it can sometimes feel as though being here and not particularly liking techno is about as socially viable as being a vegan at a bacon party (are there bacon parties? I hope there are bacon parties). But Berlin, although typecast as a techno dominatrix, is first and foremost a good time girl. And for better or worse, doesn’t discriminate between genres as long as at least one other person is enthusiastic about it.

Berghain Berlin

Berghain at night (Photo courtesy of Michael Mayer on Flickr)

So where does one go for a night out, that doesn’t necessarily entail forming an hour’s queue in the unforgiving German cold — wearing black and your best expression of studied indifference — and which may or may not conclude with a super nonchalant walk of shame when you don’t understand the bouncer’s cryptic entry conditions?

It depends what you’re into.

Electronic

While techno has the most vociferous following, Berlin’s permissive grittiness and post-wall-fall hedonism was the perfect context for all electronic music to flourish. Although less anchored to a specific club or venue, electronic music alternatives in their myriad incarnations can be found all over the city, except in the west — no one goes there after midnight or before they’re 90.

If you prefer your ceilings low and your floors high, follow the crime scene-esque stairs to Monarch

Everything in the experimental family, from drone to ambient electronica, shows up at the transient but bountiful CTM and Atonal festivals, on either end of the year. But for the months in between, experimental music lovers can count on the more bookish audio visual musings at Spektrum and the reliably eclectic lineups at the structurally questionable but resilient Loophole. Kraftwerk Berlin (a reinvigorated former power plant) also provides an appropriately industrial stage to various sound installations and performances throughout the year.
 

 
For your uppers, Neukölln bar and ever-so-sneaky basement club Sameheads is a staple success, offering all from 80s disco to contagious afrobeats, against a regularly changing backdrop of curated art and curiosities. In a similar vein, Loftus Hall peppers its program with some gloriously cheesy Italo disco and outrun electro nights which draw an audience of unabashed synth nerds and Intergalactic FM devotees. Solid people, I tell you.
 

#nighti #nighti #party #party #retro #dancefloor #otisredding #discoball #shiny #shizzle

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Lurking on a deserted strip of Kreuzberg, Gretchen’s cavernous hall plays host to an assortment of djs and live acts, with a tendency towards leftfield beats, bass, dub and regular Ninja Tune-verified guests. While the vaulted ceilings aren’t acoustically sound, the lineup generally is. If, however, you prefer your ceilings low and your floors high, follow the crime scene-esque stairs near Kaisers at Kottbusser Tor to Monarch, an atmospheric bar-cum-club with an authentic urban view of the passing trains, not to mention regular events for the beat heads among you.

Hip Hop

Hip hop in Germany started tentatively in the 80s, and gained momentum in the 90s, merging American influences and German cultural quirks to take its own distinctive form. Today it has a massive local following and a variety of sub-styles that range from Turkish-German gangster rap to tongue-in-cheek parody collectives. Even food’s got involved.
 

 
The hugely popular Burgers and Hip Hop event at Prince Charles combines juicy, old-school hip hop with a gourmet burger cook-off, a holy alliance if ever there was one. For those who’ve already eaten and want to channel some 8Mile intensity, Rap am Mittwoch hosts monthly rap battles at Bi Nuu, a venue discreetly nestled beneath the Schlesisches Tor train station. Yaam — the little Jamaica of east Berlin — and Cassiopeia both offer a more pacifistic brand of hippie hip hop, with dancehall, reggae, afrobeats and dub filling in any gaps.

Live Jazz

Another nugget in the cornucopia of the Berlin music scene is jazz. From swing to lounge to Bulgarian folk, the offerings are varied and broadly dispersed around the city.

 

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If you’re looking to go steady with one location, B-flat in Mitte might be The One. As a reliable source of live jazz since ‘95 with a host of local as well as international jazz musicians gracing its atmospheric stage, it’s a stable option with a distinctly New Yorkish detective movie feel to it. Other jazz events often jump from location to location like Charlie Parker’s frenzied fingerwork — so one needs to be alert. Das Edelweiss, conveniently located in the drug dealership also known as Görlitzer park, hosts jams every Tuesday, drawing large, convivial crowds of jazz enthusiasts both on the stage and in front of it. On a more intimate scale, Donau 115 in Neukölln is a veritable gem for quirky live performances, with Thursdays reserved for jazz. Its cosy proportions and popularity mean it’s good to get there earlier, so you won’t be left fogging up the glass disconsolately from the outside as you gaze at the fun within. Believe me, it looks needy and nobody likes that look.
 

#embryo #shanglhangl #impromptu #instrumental #Berlin #music #nightlive

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A bit off the beaten track but beating nonetheless, the newly relocated Shangl Hangl also offers an eclectic but smashing programme of live music and has its own Thursday jazz session to throw into the ring.

Indie & Rock

Due largely to Berlin’s very handy geographical position, its relatively cheap accommodation and suspiciously cheap food; it is a happy pit stop for bands on the touring circuit — and particularly attractive to the obscure, >1000 Youtube-view bands that are on the cusp of… something. As such, the spectrum of available music is vast and can be counted on in various locations, among them: 8mm Bar and the Bang Bang Club for rock, Antje Oekelsund for clandestine indie, Wild at Heart for the brylcreemed, the stoical Schokoladen, Marie-Antoinette, Astra and Lido for a little bit of everything. Of course, apart from formal venues, music in Berlin has a glorious way of popping up in darkened backrooms and shopping carts so it pays to be a bit opportunistic.

In Short

Although techno here is indisputably good (and liking techno doesn’t preclude enjoying other music), for those people who start asking themselves ‘are there others like me?’ and ‘is there more?’: Yes and yes. The music is out there, you just have to believe.

Disclaimer: This list is based on places I can verify as being jolly good fun, but that’s certainly not to say that there aren’t many more glorious places lurking in the background that I just haven’t had the good fortune or good sense to go to yet.
 

Sameheads

Richardstraße 10, 12043 Berlin

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Prince Charles

Prinzenstraße 85f, 10969 Berlin

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Loftus Hall

Maybachufer 48, 12045 Berlin

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Spektrum

Bürknerstraße 12, 12047, Berlin, Allemagne

Kraftwerk Berlin

Köpenicker Str. 70, 10179, Berlin, Allemagne

Gretchen Club

Obentrautstraße 19-21, 10963 Berlin

Monarch

Skalitzer Str. 134, 10999 Berlin

Bi Nuu

U-Bahnhof Schlesisches Tor, 10997 Berlin

B-Flat

b-flat, Rosenthaler Straße, Berlin, Allemagne

Das Edelweiss

Das Edelweiss, Görlitzer Straße, Berlin, Allemagne

8mm Bar

8MM Bar, Schönhauser Allee, Berlin, Allemagne

 
Check out all the places to go out in Berlin in our guide

Pictures courtesy of Darren Johnson (Flickr Creative Commons)

Gabriella Seemann is a South African-raised, Berlin-based art director, and writer. She values good banter and bacon.
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