E   Love Parade, Please Not Again Berlin Images A Berlin Cultural History

Sean Nye

University of Minnesota

For Ronald Hitzler

“The current official guidebook of the city, endorsed by city mayor Eberhard Diepgen, is divided into two parts: The Past and The Future. The present is conspicuously omitted. It is as if the only permitted celebration of the present is the Love Parade, whose participants stray distractedly from the painful debates about the past and the future and simply hang out at the contested sites from the Brandenburg Gate to the Victory Column, treated by Berliners as benign invaders from outer space.”

Svetlana Boym

Interactive mapclick a link below to display relevant location markers
Love Parade first route, 1989-1995
Love Parade second route, 1996-2003, 2006
Old Club Mile (approximately 1992-1997)
New Club Mile (approximately 2004-present)
Charlottenberg, pop techno scene
Kreuzberg, techno house scene
Prenzlauer Berg/Spandauer Vorstadt, minimal-electro scene
Friedrichshain, hardcore scene
     Clear all

    I. History, Updated and Rewound.

  1. Finally, the history of the Love Parade in Berlin is at an end. What was for a number of years the biggest festival of electronic music in Germany, and, indeed, the world, will no longer see the sites of the capital. As early as 2003, the Love Parade appeared to have been banished; yet, after a two-year hiatus and against all expectations, it returned in 2006. Plagued with financial difficulties, it was finally saved by Germany’s biggest fitness chain, McFit — binding the uneasy twin-functionality of techno as the music of transcendent experience and the music of treadmill aerobics: rave freaks and health freaks united. However, the alliance proved uneasy. McFit has established a monopoly over the parade, and the two main stars connected to the parade’s founding and history — Dr. Motte and Westbam — are no longer board members.1 In 2006 Dr. Motte even gave his parade speech at the Fuck Parade, an underground anti-Love Parade that started in 1996.2 The return to the capital ultimately proved short-lived. The Love Parade has now moved to a new home: the Ruhr Valley.

  2. Yet the parade forges on, and its unlikely comeback is, in fact, not so unlikely. From its inception, the Love Parade has been declared dead every year. The pressure to end the parade has been immense — from public organizations, popular sentiment, and branches of the techno scene. Each year, people voice hopes that the Love Parade will end, so that citizens can be free from the raver-proles — the paradigmatically postmodern rebels without a cause — flouncing through their streets. Unlike traditional annual events, the Love Parade”s future is always in crisis. Nevertheless, the Love Parade has survived for 20 years and is now entering what I would call its fourth historic stage.3

  3. The first stage from 1989 to 1995 consisted of its rapid development out of the Berlin underground. The event occurred annually on a major shopping boulevard, the Kurfürstendamm, in the heart of West Berlin.

    Video 1: Dr. Motte and Westbam: “Sunshine” (1997)
    All video examples are excerpts unless otherwise noted.

    This was the first of an annual series of a Love Parade anthem videos. It was produced already after the Love Parade had moved to Die Strasse des 17. Juni. However, the vast majority of the footage comes from the Love Parades that took place on the Kurfürstendamm. At the same time, the video established the preferred subjects of the parade in its fully fledged pop stage: girls gone wild, gay boys, Bravilian carnival references, hooligans on lampposts, and dancing masses. Exaggerated stories of nudity and sex acts were often told regarding the Love Parade; but throughout its history, the Love Parade remained a rather conservative display of bodies and fashion. See also the 1995 Love Parade documentary Love is the Message for a subcultural representation of the parade’s early stage.

    Initially, it was known primarily in Berlin, but its fame quickly spread throughout Germany and the world. The history from 1989 to 1992 has been recently recounted in the superb film We Call It Techno!: A Documentary about Germany’s Early Techno Scene and Culture (2008). 1992 proved to be a fateful year for techno, when the first major pop techno hit, U96’s “Das Boot,” stormed the German charts while Germany’s major popular media, including the teen magazine BRAVO, began reporting extensively on the Love Parade and the techno scene. These reports included a surprisingly well-informed dictionary entry, describing a tour of Berlin’s original “club mile.” (Click to view magazine images) The second stage lasted from 1996 to 2000, solidifying the parade’s reputation as an international phenomenon. 1996 can be described as the second fateful year of pop techno, when the Love Parade made the move to Die Straße des 17. Juni to forever stamp the impression of techno on Germany’s national symbol, the Brandenburg Gate.4 In this same period, the first Berlin “club mile” on Leipzigerstraße and Friedrichstraße dissolved with the closing of the Bunker and E-Werk clubs. The Love Parade replaced the club mile in this district and from then on played its crucial role as an event right on the former border of East and West Berlin. These years saw the parade’s size grow to its highest attendance at approximately 1.5 million in 1999.

    Video 2: Dr. Motte: “Live at Love Parade 1999”

    The acid techno mix by Dr. Motte here squarely falls with the style his usual DJ sets; however, they contrast starkly with the pop Love Parade anthems he produced with Westbam — targeted for a larger audience and tourists. The DJ track selection remains strikingly retro-underground and was probably a surprise for many of the visitors not connected to the techno scene.

    During its third stage from 2001 to 2006, the Love Parade changed rapidly. In that year it lost its legal status as a political demonstration, which exasperated the economic challenges of staging the parade. This status had guaranteed that the city of Berlin pay for the security and the cleanup of the enormous waste left by the attendants.
    Figure 1: A map of Germany, with the Ruhr Valley highlighted in red and Berlin in yellow.
    Without this status, the Love Parade had to finance these matters itself. Furthermore, it saw a decline in attendance and captured less of the media spotlight in Germany. The Love Parade came to be seen as merely another example in the phenomenon of the techno parade.5 These challenges ultimately resulted in the canceling of the Love Parade in 2004 and 2005. But at the same time, partnerships began with other cities around the world — since 2001, Love Parades have occurred in Cape Town, Vienna, Santiago de Chile, Mexico City, San Francisco, and most successfully, Tel Aviv (see Video 3). The fourth stage, still in development, began approximately in late 2006 with the takeover by McFit and the parade’s subsequent move away from Berlin (see Video 4). The official plan of the McFit organization is for the Love Parade to be held in the following cities of the Ruhr Valley: Essen (2007), Dortmund (2008), Bochum (2009), Duisburg (2010), and Gelsenkirchen (2011).6 This multiyear plan has ensured that the Love Parade’s identity will be further distanced from Berlin.

    Video 3: The Love Committee: “Access Peace” (2002)

    This 2002 anthem video shows images from various Love Parades around the world, demonstrating the parade organization’s new attempts to represent the Love Parade as an international movement. Berlin was to be represented as the birth city and host of the most important event, but the parade was no longer to be associated only with Berlin.

    Video 4: The Love Committee: “Love is Everywhere (New Location)” (2007, Ministry of Sound, Germany)

    This 2007 anthem video has a compilation of images from all three stages of the Berlin Love Parade, as well as images of international parades where “love is everywhere.” However, the new geographic “location” of the parade in the Ruhr Valley is clearly represented in the anthem lyrics and the motto of 2007. An advertisement from McFit plays at the end: “The Love Parade is brought to you by McFit: Simply look good.”

  4. However, the Love Parade’s 17-year-long history with the city of Berlin has clearly left a mark in Germany and Europe. Images from the second stage in particular dominate popular memory both in Germany and worldwide. It was during this time that the Love Parade became a place of pilgrimage, not only for ravers, but for people from all branches of society, urged on by the historically self-reflective demand: “you need to experience it at least once.” In that time of its greatest extravagance, it morphed into a combination of techno party and pop celebration. The enormity of this party, so soon after German reunification, provoked a wide and intense range of reactions.

  5. With these conflicts in mind, I want to revisit the Love Parade’s relationship to Berlin as a city with a specific political-cultural history. In the first section, I examine debates about the Love Parade as a particular form of techno-rave gathering, and further set the specific challenges that the urban geography and history of Berlin posed for the parade in its second historical stage. These conflicts will be set in the context of the Berlin techno scene(s) and their own quarrels regarding the parade. In the second section, I concretize issues of geographic place and space, visual representation, and mass concerts through visual-sonic examples from the film be.Angeled (2001), the only film drama to centrally address the Love Parade, and a collection of Berlin techno tracks that represent the city in conflicting ways. My conclusion traces the developments of Berlin techno in the post-Love Parade era.

  6. In dealing with the relation of techno music and Berlin, Adam Krims’ theorizations of the post-Fordist city, tourism, cultural industries, and the musical representation of cities in Music and Urban Geography form much of the theoretical backdrop for my project. My study will theorize and explain how post-unification Berlin has provided a special set of constructions of the “urban ethos.” Krims writes,
    It is the scope of that range of urban representations and their possible modalities, in any given time span, that I call the urban ethos. The urban ethos is thus not a particular representation but rather a distribution of possibilities, always having discernible limits as well as common practices. It is not a picture of how life is in any particular city. Instead, it distills publicly disseminated notion of how cities are generally, even though it may be disproportionately shaped by the fate of certain particular cities, especially New York City and Los Angeles. (Krims, 7)

  7. In this article, I hope to draw out the tension in Krims’ statement between the notion of urban life in general and the particularity of city histories and structures. First, I want to consider Berlin’s recent and arguably exceptional history as a divided city; second, I want to keep in mind the more general history of rebuilding bombed-out cities that has formed a central narrative thread in the German postwar urban ethos; this points to urban understandings that can differ from the primarily Anglophone histories that Krims examines. In this broader theoretical context, the history of Berlin and the Love Parade is a history that sets many of the late-modern tensions regarding the social place of electronic dance music (EDM) and urban life in relief, touching on questions of agency, rebellion, authenticity, and the future of the counterculture. Krims’ call for musicologists to engage with urban geography and vice versa falls on sympathetic ears; for if there is any European capital that, throughout the twentieth century, has seen popular music and urban representation so closely intertwined, then it is Berlin — from cabaret, to punk, to techno, and beyond.7

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1 Matthias Roeingh, aka Dr. Motte, is a Berlin DJ primarily connected to the punk and acid house movements of the eighties. He provided the original idea for a parade in 1989. From its inception, he has been the spiritual “Father of the Parade,” usually playing the final set at the Love Parade and giving the only parade speech each year.

Figure 2: Matthias Roeingh, aka Dr. Motte
Figure 3: Maximilian Lenz (Westbam)
Maximilian Lenz (Westbam) grew up in Münster but has been connected to the Berlin scene since the mid-Eighties; he has also been the main “star power” behind the parade. His Berlin label, Low Spirit Recordings, was the driving organizational and economic force in the parade organization: holding the rights to produce the Love Parade compilations and Love Parade anthem from 1996 until 2006. Dr. Motte and Westbam produced the annual Love Parade anthems for each year’s Love Parade from 1997 until 2000. From 2001 onward, the anthems were produced by Westbam and Klaus Jahnkuhn under the name “The Love Committee.” See also Video 5 (below) for an example of the centrality of Dr. Motte and Westbam.

Video 5: Dr. Motte and Westbam: “Love Parade 2000”

2 Read the entire speech at www.drmotte.de/wordpress/2006/07/29/rede-dr-motte-fuckparade-2006/. His presence was all the more surprising given that for years the Fuck Parade disparaged Dr. Motte as a reactionary New Age guru; it marks a significant shift, demonstrating that, like politics, techno can make strange bedfellows.

3 For traditional histories and visitor estimates of the Love Parade, see the “Love Parade” section of www.techno.de or de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loveparade. These sites relate the official stories about the parade as they are usually passed along within the techno scene and by the greater public.

4 This is the main thoroughfare running though Berlin’s western gardens known as the Tiergarten. The street stretches from Ernst-Reuter-Platz to the Platz des 18. März in front of the Brandenburg Gate; the Siegessäule (Victory Column) monument stands roughly midway. This thoroughfare continues through the Brandenburg Gate and into former East Berlin, the district now called Berlin Mitte (Downtown Berlin). However, from here on the street is known under a more famous name — Unter den Linden. Later in the paper, I will address the complicated history of this street.

5 Many writings suffer from obsessively focusing on the Love Parade as a singular event, rather than considering it in the larger context of the tradition of carnival parades (as is common in Germany with such events as the Cologne Carnival), techno parades, and pride parades. While the Love Parade retains the distinction of being the first techno parade, by this time it had already spawned numerous clones throughout Germany and Europe, including the Generation Move (Hamburg), Reincarnation (Hanover), the Heineken Dance Parade (Rotterdam), and, most notoriously, the Schlager Move (Hamburg), a parade of Schlager music. See www.schlagermove.de. The greatest clone of the Love Parade, the Street Parade in Zürich, rivaled and often exceeded the size of the Love Parade, thanks to its focus on a range of hard dance styles (hard trance, hardstyle, and hard house, among others). See www.streetparade.ch and Gabriela Muri’s Aufbruch ins Wunderland?: Ethnographische Recherchen in Zürcher Technoszenen 1988–1998 (1999). Berlin’s annual pride parade, the Christopher Street Day (CSD) Parade, also has many techno trucks and a similar route — beginning on the Kurfürstendamm and ending on die Straße des 17. Juni. The research on pride parades is surprisingly thin; most recently, Lynda Johnston published Queering Tourism: Paradoxical Performances of Gay Pride Parades.

6 On August 25, 2007, the Love Parade took place in Essen. This “test year” of the Ruhr Valley plan exceeded all expectations in terms of attendance, with over one million visitors. The success was repeated the following year when the Love Parade took place in Dortmund. However, this surprising success did not mean that the Love Parade’s tradition of organizational crisis had been overcome. The parade has been cancelled in 2009 because of the lack of facilities in Bochum, a city considerably smaller than Dortmund and Essen. Currently, the Love Parade organization is in negotiations with the two cities planned for 2010 and 2011: Duisburg and Gelsenkirchen.

7 “The contours of musical culture and overall urban development draw together most conspicuously in such processes, suggesting that understanding both the sounds and the social significance of music — not two different tasks, but rather two ways of conceiving the same thing — requires a theoretical knowledge of urban geography, and (perhaps more surprisingly) vice versa” (Krims, XL).

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