It’s an incredibly mild night in Berlin for the middle of winter. My phone tells me it’s 12 degrees but I almost can’t believe it. Facing the winter with ease I leave my little hovel in Friedrichshain and hit the pavement. All the while dodging the crowds and kids out in the streets shooting their fireworks out of pseudo-automatic weapons. It’s crazy out on the streets already. Successfully running the gauntlet, I head over through to the other side of Rummelsberg, and beyond to make my way to the Funkhaüs for the first time.
I’m really not sure what to expect from a party of this calibre on New Year’s Eve in Berlin. In Australia, we sensible techno folk avoid parties this size like the plague. The music and sound are often terrible and the kind of people they tend to attract are, how should I put it, often found wanting in the subtle art of party etiquette. But, let’s face it, Australia rarely gets a line-up like this. It pretty well reads like a who’s who of modern techno – Villalobos, Kravitz, Beyer, Rachmad, Liebing, Loco Dice, and the rest! Plus, obviously, Berlin is a different animal; the same rules don’t always apply. So with that and a somewhat open mind, I ineptly follow the polite instructions of my out-dated maps app and arrive at the Funkhaus.
After a fairly rigid securities process the likes of which I hadn’t experienced during my time in Berlin – I was in. Scanning the scene upon entry; all looks above board. Checking the time, around 21:30; and after only being open for a few hours there’s already a solid crowd. And a solid cue for the clock room, groan. Walking into the main room for the first time I’m met with a confusing silence. Darkness over the decks and a crowd mumbling in expectant unison. I realised I’ve just missed Gregor Tresher, which is annoying but Pan-Pot is stepping up and I’m more than curious to hear them.
Whether the moment of silence and darkness was deliberate or not is of little consequence now. Pan-Pot glide in with a magic synth driven intro, then hit it hard. Searing hats and curious vocal samples (I’m sure that’s a Phuture sample?). They level off a little after a couple of tunes and adds some more housier flavours, but all the while keeps it straight up and driving. I was not expecting the music to be so upfront so early; it’s killer!
This room is amazing. It feels like some massive circus tent made out of concrete. The history of this place is mind-blowing, after it’s construction in 1950 It was owned and used by the GDR from 1956 to 1990 to broadcast their radio shows, general propaganda and the like, then after the reunification in 1990 the property was handing back to the newly formed government; sold a few times to various parties. Over the years its studios have been used for all different kinds of broadcasting and recordings from your more generic student radio, to the fairly recent recording of Depeche Mode’s album, ‘Spirit’ just last year. I read recently that it’s currently owned by a consortium of private entrepreneurs who intend to build, “one of the largest music studios in the world”. Bless them.
I roll along anxious to explore and find myself in the Kulturaal (Room 2) where I find the duo, Confidns opening the room with a banging warm-up set. “Work That” Pointdexter percussion cradle some blistering acid loop… definitely my kind of warm-up set. Just when I’m thinking I’ll sit down and write some bits down the boys drop HMC – “6 am”… be right back! Room 2 is also a lovely space, albeit a little more generic, appearing more evenly spaced and carpeted with stepped seating hugging the walls. It really is a killer venue. High ceilings for dancing, low ceilings for travelling. Triangle and various shapes cut into the concrete. Really cool.
As I traverse the corridors and shuffle through the dance floors a cyclone of accents, languages, colours and sounds swirl around me. I’m so impressed and disarmed by the vibe here. A nice mix of kids, seemingly fairly new to the whole techno deal, along with some clearly seasoned campaigners. Again, I always worry that electronic events of this size can often attract a somewhat inexperienced crowd but the few interactions I have with party goes are instantly friendly and easy. Smiles and small sweet interactions pepper my evening. Siting down taking some notes up the back, a seasoned raver swings in my direction enquiring after my welfare, “Alles Klar?” Alles Klar baby, nice one. And the best thing is all the kids getting around in freshly bought Drumcode t-shirts and the like; sehr suß!! I adore that shameless love for techno, regardless of whether it’s my flavour or not. Love what you love kids, with impunity!
Stumbling around trying to find the elusive third room I find myself back in the main hall with Pan-Pot playing some low end, acidic Ostgut Ton number, my search for the 3rd room is interrupted when he drops some kind of slamming, piano-tech monster that stops me in my tracks! My search for the 3rd room is concluded when I’m informed that it doesn’t open until… did he say 8 in the morning… right, of course, it doesn’t; Berlin, same rules do NOT apply!!!
At this point, I pause for pizza. The main food hall seems sweet enough, but I accidentally trip over this little crew downstairs pumping out pizza slices. No cash. It’s all card currency here, like most big events these days. Personally, I’m not a fan, but hey as long as the music’s right I’ll suck it up. Decent pizza too.
Back to the main room and Pan-Pot are still at it. The room is really filling up now and the energy along with it. Andrea Olivia is all set and about to take over from Pan-Pot at 23:30 and take us through to midnight and beyond. I’m curious as to how he will follow through, and naturally about what he’ll do and play when it hits midnight.
Olivia steps up, he’s playing through a laptop and his sound initially seems flatter then Pan-Pot’s but the sound techs are all over it in less than a minute and it’s sounding ardent and full again.
Back in room 2 with half an hour to go until midnight and it too is filling out with Gheist playing live and keeping it a little more laid back, deep and even more playful than Andrea’s slamming techno. Definitely worlds apart from when I left the Confidns lads. But you can’t argue with the results. In around the space of an hour Room 2 has gone from maybe 20 or 30 people, to being pretty well packed. The aforementioned, conveniently placed stepped seating is now littered with dancers, boppers and wallflowers alike all looking very very up for it.
I go out for a smoke and some air and to use the hilarious titles “Premium Toilets”. They’re festival toilets; there has never been nor will there ever be anything “Premium” about them. I slide through room 2 just to hear Modig start his set. He kicks off with a brilliant percussive 4/4 jam and quickly mixes into some depth and drive… but it’s 10 minutes to midnight – main room ahoy!
After witnessing the insanity that is New Years in Berlin on the streets near Gorlitza Banhoff in Kreuzberg last year, I was curious as to what it would look and feel like in a club setting. I’m thinking it’s safe to assume that the said lunatics who pump fireworks out of pseudo semi-automatic weapons probably won’t get in here, but again I am not the guy who knows stuff in this city. So I hit the main room and like a bucket of sexy water I’m drenched in some full techno track using “Age of Love” vocal samples… oh lordy!!
11:59 and the filter drowns out the driving techno, making way for a diving synth piece that descends into the ether. A robotic voice counts us down…fade out…2…1…cue crazy applause and cheering before back through that filter, a sharp hat creeps back in. Wait, I know that hat, I know that jazzy piano stabs… aaaaand they’re playing… the freakin’ Bells by Jeff Mills. Warum nicht? …if only just for a fleeting moment, it’s mixed out pretty quickly… and it’s gone; we’re back into smooth driving techno again…that was quite tastefully done!
And like that the party has a totally different feel… it’s almost as if the collective unconscious we’re holding their breath and exhaled in unison… the countdown has come and gone, now it’s time to get serious!
Thus the night came and went like they all do. A hundred track ID’s I’ll never discover and a thousand names I’ll never know. I could go on and on about each act, but I have a word limit and techno is limitless.
The party maintained a solid vibe and great energy, while naturally, some kids got a little messy while others got themselves into trouble. All pretty standard from what I saw. Personally, I was impressed by the lights and general production standards, but I was offered the opinion of one partygoer who stated that it was better last year at a different venue. I don’t think anyone really noticed and this was completely lost on me. Being a neophyte to Berlin, and to Europe generally, maybe I’m just easily impressed… but I don’t think so, not in this context anyway.
Other highlights included Steve Rachmad, he was just ridiculously good. He’s actually touring Australia soon, so I strongly recommend crossing the street for that one. Another was what I caught of Nina Kraviz set. I’m a fan of her DJing and her label generally, but she was in roaring form, plus hearing one of the tracks of 2017, Schacke – “A Future Not Yet Materialized” in a room that size, on a system of that magnitude, that, like quite a few others throughout the evening, was a moment I will not soon forget.