Berlin, Germany’s capital city and for some the techno capital of the world alongside Detroit, where the genre was founded.
While Ibiza still holds a special place as the nightlife party destination most electronic music fans seek to travel to, Berlin’s never-ending focus on quality techno and underground house music (and the iconic venues that host these parties) have firmly placed the city on the map as a true international music tourism destination.
On the weekend of September 9-11th, a friend and I made the trek to the city to experience its hedonistic and culturally-focused techno scene, specifically hoping we could make it into Berghain/Panorama Bar – the venue considered by most to be the most exclusive venue to get into in the world. The former Communist power plant with cathedral ceilings hosts no-holds-barred techno and house events that feature the best names in the underground dance music scene for parties that often begin Friday night and go deep into Monday afternoon. The New York Times and Rolling Stone both agree, it’s the world’s most famous club both because of its music programming and the extra selective door policy that turns more people away than it lets inside. The simple truth is that the difficulty of getting into Berghain/Panorama Bar, can often lead to disappointment. Plenty of news outlets and blogs have discussed the presumed criteria used by the venue’s door staff to select who can enter and who will instead have to party elsewhere for the night. All I can say is that despite being on the nearly-impossible-to-be-on guest list, I had no qualms following the plentiful of advice I read and heard, and made it in without mentioning that I was on the list.
Perhaps I was just lucky, but once stamped and inside I went on to party for 7 hours straight, only leaving to make my way to see Radiohead at Lollapalooza Berlin before coming back to Berghain for some more early morning shenanigans. Drink prices (€5 for two shots, €6 for two beers) were über cheap — especially when compared to other party destinations the likes of Ibiza, Las Vegas, New York City, etc — and the music simply out of this world, both in the house-centered Panorama Bar or in the techno darkness of Berghain’s massive room.
But the sound system. Oh the sound system… The sophisticated, fine-tuned and imposing Funktion One speakers that boom in Berghain operate far below 50 percent of their full capacity, yet provide a clean, crisp sound that is a joy to the ear. Benedikt Kock, who installed the system, famously said that turning up the system to full power, “would be like getting a massage of every nerve of your body.” The clean sound, Koch stated, is specifically calibrated so that people get less tired during the venue’s iconic marathon parties. Yet despite all of this, it is practically impossible to survive exposure to Berghain’s sound system without either using ear plugs or suffering consequences. Not using ear protection would no doubt open one’s ears to a risk of tinnitus, a ringing of the ears and temporary ear loss, which in turn could lead to permanent ear damage.
I noticed the need of ear plugs the second I walked in. My friend and I looked at one another and without needing to even utter a word both reached for our DownBeats canister, untwisted it and placed the ear plugs in our ears. We kept them in throughout both rounds inside the venue, always able to talk to one another on the dance floor without problems, all the while experiencing an enhanced, clean sound experience thanks to the work of both the sound system and the hi-fidelity ear plugs gelling well together.
The following day, after a little recovery from the 24 hour party marathon of the day prior, we made our way to Tresor, another Berlin techno institution that is this year celebrating 25 years of activity — a milestone for any nightlife venue anywhere in the world. The venue is armed with a 3D IOSONO system downstairs as well as crisp VOID speakers in the upstairs room, both providing a booming, no-nonsense techno experience with absolutely no fluff. Once again the DownBeats ear plugs came in clutch, augmenting the sonic experience by removing unnecessary highs and lows, all the whole filtering the DJ’s chosen tracks with utmost clarity and perfect balance.
We even took the ear plugs to Club der Visionaere, the Berlin riverside bar with a wooden sun terrace known for its groovy Sunday afternoon parties. Visionquest’s Shaun Reeves and Ryan Crosson were playing, and despite the less cavernous surroundings there was no doubt that bringing ear plugs with us anywhere was a smart choice.
If you’re planning a techno visit to Berlin in the near future I strongly recommend you bring a pair of ear plugs. Sure, customs are alway the way to go, but bring a pair of DownBeats with you attached to some keys or your belt, as you never know which party you may end up going to when visiting this magical city.