The Berghain nightclub building
|Former names||Ostgut (1998–2003)|
|Address||Am Wriezener Bahnhof|
|Location||Friedrichshain, Berlin, Germany|
Berghain is a nightclub in Berlin, Germany. It is named after its location near the border between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain in Berlin, and is a short walk from Berlin Ostbahnhof main line railway station. Philip Sherburne described Berghain in 2007 as "quite possibly the current world capital of techno, much as E-Werk or Tresor were in their respective heydays".
Berghain is the reincarnation of the "legendary" Ostgut club (1998–2003) and emerged from a male-only fetish night club called "Snax", which was held in different locations before it found its permanent home at the Ostgut. The Ostgut became a focal point of the Berlin techno subculture after the venue was opened to the general public on regular nights, while the exclusive Snax nights continued to be held six to eight times annually.
Ostgut eventually closed on January 6, 2003, following a 30-hour farewell event, and the former railway warehouse that housed the club was subsequently demolished. Berghain then opened in 2004. The name "Berghain" is a portmanteau of the names of the two quarters that flank the south and north sides of the building in which the club is housed: Kreuzberg (formerly in West Berlin) and Friedrichshain (formerly in East Berlin); the literal meaning of the German word Berghain is "mountain grove".
The Snax event is still held twice a year on Holy Saturday and in November. As Minneapolis-born DJ and producer Dustin Zahn, who performed a DJ set at the 2013 Snax party, explained: "Once a year in honor of the old Ostgut tradition, Berghain closes its doors to the straight crowd and unleashes a no-holds-barred gay marathon where anything goes." Located in the same building is the famous Berlin gay sex club Lab.Oratory, which draws an international crowd and exhibits the same hedonism as Berghain.
The club is located in a former power plant (originally rented from the energy company Vattenfall) in Friedrichshain, near Berlin Ostbahnhof railway station. In 2011 the building was bought from Vattenfall and is now owned property. The building is distinguished by its enormous dimensions, and accommodates an 18 m-high (59 ft) dance floor and space for 1,500 guests. The interior's minimalist design is dominated by steel and concrete.
The club contains a "cavernous" main room, as well as a smaller upstairs space called the "Panorama Bar", which is decorated with large-scale Wolfgang Tillmans photographs and features tall windows with a view of East Berlin. In 2007 only half of the building was in use.
Over the course of its existence, Berghain has become associated with decadence and hedonism. A 2006 New Zealand Herald article describes "people openly indulging in sexual acts" inside the club, with the building, at the time, containing several dark rooms specifically set aside for such activity. The Guardian writer Helen Pidd stated in a 2008 article, "[Walk] past the booths on the ground floor and you're sure to see a bare bottom or 10". Photography is strictly forbidden inside Berghain, and no mirrors or reflecting surfaces can be found anywhere in the club.
Berghain is also renowned for its lengthy opening hours. As Pidd wrote in 2008, "[No] one arrives before 4am, and most stay until well past teatime". Jesse Rose, whose "Made To Play" music label ran a residency at the club in 2011, explained his appreciation of the club for DJ Magazine's 2011 "Top 100 Clubs" list thus:
- Still the best club in the world for me because it doesn't care about being the best club in the world. The guys do what they want, the way they want and it continually works. No VIP, no mirrors in the bathroom, no expensive cocktails, just a good sound system and great crowd.
In 2005, Berghain's owners started a record label named Ostgut Ton. The label's first releases were by Berghain/Panorama Bar DJ residents, such as Marcel Dettmann, Cassy and Ben Klock. The music released by the label is mostly techno, tech house, Detroit techno and minimal techno. Nick Höppner, a resident DJ who founded and managed the label until December 2012, stated in 2007: "The simple division is that Panorama Bar more or less caters to house ... and Berghain is really the platform for purist techno." Jenus Baumecker-Kahmke succeeded Höppner as the label's manager but stepped down in January 2018. The position was the taken over by A.J. Samuels, who also manages Ostgut Ton’s two sublabels, Unterton and A-Ton.
In 2007, Berghain collaborated with the Berlin State Ballet to create "Shut Up and Dance! Updated", a ballet for five dancers that was performed at the club in late June and early July of that year. The ballet's soundtrack, released on Ostgut Ton on May 29, 2007, is made up of five specially composed tracks by prominent minimal techno artists, such as Luciano, Âme, Sleeparchive and Luke Slater (The 7th Plain). The soundtrack received some positive reviews, including a five-star review in The Guardian, while the ballet itself received bad notices from Resident Advisor (RA) magazine.
In October 2010, the label released a five-year anniversary compilation titled Fünf, for which field recordings from within the club were used as the basis for the two-disc collection. Höppner further explained the concept behind the compilation in an August 2010 interview:
Well, it wasn't really my idea ... I didn't like the thought of doing it like everyone else–maybe a mix through the back catalog and a few exclusive new tracks by some key artists... I wanted something more special. Then a while ago I met Emika, she’s making music herself on Ninja Tune. We sat together one day last summer and she told me about her last visit to Berghain. It was a regular Sunday morning and she noticed how everything in the building was resonating and vibrating and swinging and humming–she realized that there were a lot of sounds coming from the building itself. That led to the idea of doing field recordings within the building while it's not open to the public ... It took about two or three weeks ... It was a four gigabyte library.
Höppner also spoke about the label's artist roster and sales performance, stating that many people who submit recordings are turned down due to "so many in-house artists", while the label, at that time, was selling more product than other labels, but was not generating a large profit margin. Regarding the period from 2010 to 2015, Höppner said: "Everyone has his tastes and a very high standard of quality. Just maintaining this level of quality is our ambition I guess. Keep it interesting, and whatever that might actually mean remains to be seen."
Berghain first entered DJ Magazine's Top 100 Clubs list in 2008, ranking at number 20, and reached the top position in the following year. In 2017 the club was ranked number 12 in the magazine's list.
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- Lab.Oratory Berlin
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Berlin's Berghain club is known for many things: its hardcore opening hours (starting from Saturday it stays open until Monday noon), its DJs (who play some of the best techno in Europe), and its relaxed attitude towards sex in public (walk past the booths on the ground floor and you're sure to see a bare bottom or 10).
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