Inside Berghain: 20 Years of Kompakt
If you live in Berlin, or have just been to Berlin, there’s a very good chance that you’ve at least heard of a specific legendary nightclub. If you talk to anyone familiar with the city and its nightlife invariably talk will at some point turn to Berghain with rumours of hoards of people being turned away at the door and widely discussed theories about what or who makes the cut usually being the topic of conversation. Synonymous with the German capital and its vibrant club scene, there are few clubs that have ever had the fearsome reputation that precedes a visit to Friedrichshain’s infamous ex power plant. The nightspot is notoriously difficult to get in to, with long queues, the possible chance of the rejection by the clubs strict door policy and no photography allowed inside all adding to the clubs mystique.
Equally as iconic in German electronic music culture is Cologne based imprint Kompakt Records with the legendary German label co-owned by Michael Mayer celebrating their 20th year anniversary with a series of special releases and events across Europe. So with the DT crew in Berlin for the cities annual Berlin Festival and Kompakt hosting their 20th Birthday celebrations at Berghain we made our way over to the East side for a night at the mecca of techno complete with a showcase by one of our favorite labels.
Seeing the club’s long queue snake down from the building we arrived early by Berlin standards at 2am to catch rising star Dave DK in the main room. Heading through the foyer and up the industrial metal stairs to main room we listened to the tail end of Dave DK whilst taking the occasional break to catch glimpses of Tobias Thomas upstairs in Panorama Bar. Quickly garnering an appreciation of why the man born Dave Krauseman is garnering so much attention amongst underground DJs within the scene, Dave seems as at home in the studio as behind the decks and built a cohesive journey of a set that showcased his trademark eclecticism. Juggling a variety of electronic music, he maintained a distinctly kicking groove which would lay the foundations of the night to come.
Such was the quality of the programming that timetabling problems were bound to occur and no amount of programming prowess would have prevented the inevitable set time clashes that would take place. Deciding upon seeing Kolsch’s live set in Panorama Bar over John Tejada’s live performance downstairs in Berghain wasn’t an easy choice but with the Speicher staple’s album ‘1977’ becoming our unofficial soundtrack to the summer we felt we had to go with the Dane.
Our faith was quickly rewarded as Kolsch brought a softer edge to the night’s proceedings, skipping through a slew of synth laden numbers with a rendition of album track ‘Goldfisch’ a particular highlight.
Next up was another one of our favorite acts in recent years in one half of the Pachanga Boys’ Rebolledo and following on from Kolsch the Mexican didn’t disappoint with his eclectic array of sounds constantly keeping the crowd guessing as to where he would take them next. Following Rebolledo was none other than Kompakt label boss himself Michael Mayer with the imprint impresario wilfully blending melodies, fierce drum patterns and all round energy under a poppier aesthetic for a unique sound. The trickling intricacies that made themselves apparent in Mayer’s set brought us closer to the music, which in additon to the feeling of connectedness with our fellow spectators made for an amazing atmosphere. Old favorites mixed in with fresh cuts showcased the labels past, present and future and Michael’s performance will be one that lives long in the memory.
With the time approaching 2.30pm and the club still full of energy we unfortunately had to make our departure in order to catch our scheduled flight back to London that afternoon. They say time flies when you’re having fun and we’d been having such a great time immersing ourselves in the music and atmosphere that the hours seemed to drift past at an alarming rate as we danced around in the crespuscular haze that envelopes Berlin in the Autumn.
Had it been possible we would have been inclined to stay much longer with performaces from Chris Liebing, Blond:ish and Len Faki all scheduled for later in the day but alas our time at Berghain was at an end. An amazing club, an amazing label and quite simply an amazing night. Thank you Berlin, we can’t wait for Kompakt to bring their anniversary celebrations to London this October!