E   Love Parade, Please Not AgainBerlin ImagesA Berlin Cultural History

    IV. What remains, or the Comeback

  1. … in fact, only a year after the federal government was fully settled in Berlin and the Reichstag was inaugurated, the Love Parade lost its status as a demonstration. The Love Parade remains a pop icon of the Berliner Republik’s beginnings; but by the time the capital completed its move from Bonn to Berlin, the major part of the Love Parade’s history with the city had run its course. Its place in the now fully established Berliner Republik is, at least for now, elsewhere than Berlin.

  2. In the post-Love Parade era, Berlin retains EDM as a major attraction and remains in many respects a key city for techno culture. Tobias Rapp’s recent book, Lost and Sound: Berlin, Techno, und der Easyjetset (2009) explores the new club mile that has arisen since 2004 and the new economy of youth hostels and cheap airline club tourists, or “Easyjet-ravers,” in Berlin. Rapp writes, “The Easyjet-raver is the decisive subject of European nightlife of the zero years. He quietly arrived on the scene but has developed into the most important subcultural figure of the present” (78–9). The continued importance of Berlin as a city of techno-tourism was underscored in 2009 with the crowning of the Berlin club Berghain as “Best Club in the World” by the British journal DJ Mag. DJ Mag captures Berlin’s typical promise of unbridled (or bridled, depending on your preference) hedonism through its writings on Berghain: “It is always the forbidden pleasures that satisfy the very deepest urges, and the journey into Berghain’s abyss is laced with deviant exploration from the start. Lying like a dark secret at the end of dusty, fence-enclosed road, its huge looming face is as foreboding as the militant rhythms that have become associated with peak-time Berghain.”36 Urban exploration and hedonistic experimentation merge in the figure of Berghain as underground, industrial labyrinth.

  3. The major clubs of the new club mile, including Berghain, demonstrate, however, a new spirit in Berlin techno. The clubs are “design-intensive” (Krims, xxix) in ways that carefully evoke the industrial underground of former times. Legal structures, long rental contracts, and a set clubbing routine now exist, but the aura of illegal parties is maintained through design. Their location in the former East — especially the symbol of industrial otherness that the Friedrichshain district still offers as compared to Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg — allows for a carefully constructed experience of clubbing as Ostalgie (nostalgia for the East), the pleasure of Eastern socialism as a failed system that, precisely in its failure of urban renewal, left open and public places and the potential for imagining new social formations. This well-financed club scene, however, continues to be confronted with new challenges. Four major clubs in the Friedrichshain district — Ostgut, Casino, Maria, and Notrox — were closed in one fell swoop in 2003 to make way for investors of various types, especially the 02-World that looms like a massive pop-capital sore over the Friedrichshain district. Tresor, one of the world’s most influential techno clubs and Berlin’s longest lasting club, was forced to move in 2005. The “urban renewal” project called Media-Spree is a further threat. While many of these clubs have found new locations, the challenge of maintaining affordable spaces proves daunting every year.

  4. Figure 17: The cover of an issue of de:Bug magazine.
    Amidst these local woes, the excitement of change in Berlin, with its iconic skyline of cranes, is now largely past. The city has more generally morphed into a place marked by lounge entertainment and relaxation, as indicated by the current dominance of the slower and reserved minimal/electro styles of EDM and the Prenzlauer Berg scene. With the rapid, design intensive development of Prenzlauer Berg, the notion of techno as a lifestyle is represented in the magazine De:Bug — itself a “design intensive” magazine based in this district. Its subtitle is indicative: “Magazine for Electronic Aspects of Life: Music, Media, Culture, Self-Control.” With the move of minimal and electro stars to Berlin since the turn of the millennium — including Ricardo Villalobos, DJ Hell, and Ritchie Hawtin — this scene has been given an enormous push. Since the departure of the Love Parade, minimal/electro can arguably be called the most definitive “Berlin sound”; though since much of minimal and electro was originally pushed by the Kompakt label of Cologne, one might claim this yet another media import from Cologne to Berlin — joining VIVA, popcomm, and many others. This time the import takes literal musical form. Cologne was the center for German pop media and music until 2000, when many of its major companies moved to Berlin. However, the transfer of pop media to Berlin has not signaled a corresponding rebirth in pop techno. In fact, the dissolving of the Low Spirit label has meant that the traditions of pop techno and megaraves have been further distanced from Berlin, now taking place primarily in western Germany and dominated by the organization I-Motion.

  5. Nevertheless, the Berlin techno scene remains active and in some ways just as international, if not more so. Electronic music artists have flocked to Berlin because of its cheap rents and music/media networks. The woes of Berlin businesses have meant benefits for the global underground. However, much of the anticipation of what Berlin could become has now subsided. 2007 seems to have been the fateful year for the end of the era of change and anticipation; the move of the Love Parade that year coincided with both DaimlerChrysler and Sony announcing plans to sell their centers at another symbol of reunified Berlin, Potsdamer Platz, an ominous sign that Berlin will not become the world metropolis and financial center of Europe as was once imagined. To be sure, the fascination of Berlin hype often clouds the fact that Berlin is not quite the metropolis it is made out to be. Greater Berlin makes up only 4% of Germany’s population, versus greater London and Paris, which make up 14% and 19% of their countries’ populations, respectively. Its current status as a metropolis remains severely limited by Germany’s established tradition of federalism and dispersed, regional city centers: the port center is in Hamburg; the fashion and industrial centers are in Düsseldorf and the Ruhr Valley; the travel and financial centers are in Frankfurt am Main; and so on. How the city will cope with these challenges remains to be seen. However, its state as the perpetually broke anti-metropolis will continue to allow for new cultural possibilities that properly financed metropolises do not yield.

  6. Indeed, in this anti-metropolis, pockets of dissonance and rebellion continue to emerge. Most interestingly, since the Love Parade has now left, the Fuck Parade is the only techno parade that remains. One might say it has even bizarrely achieved a sort of victory as the only parade left standing. As a symbol of the Berlin hardcore scene, the parade continues to protest annually, while Berlin cleans up and makes room for global capital. The Fuck Parade has even had its share of media successes; for example, it was the setting for one of the biggest YouTube sensations of recent times: The Techno Viking. A man who looked like a Viking with big pecs, firm abs, a paramilitary outfit, and a commanding attitude, and who just happened to love dancing to techno, was filmed at the 2000 Fuck Parade. The various postings on YouTube that followed have received more than 8,000,000 hits to date, with numerous spin-offs and a resulting fan page — www.technoviking.tv. In another context, the riots that occurred during Atari Teenage Riot’s performance at the 1999 Berlin May Day protests have achieved a degree of YouTube celebrity, with over 500,000 hits. The YouTube celebrity of these hardcore scene events reflects the enormous draw that Berlin city life and EDM can have.

  7. Internationally, the effects of the Berlin history of the Love Parade continue to reverberate. The parade pioneered a new form of postmodern carnival with a science fiction inflection — a site where dance, technology, futurism, hedonism, and urban, military, national, and world histories collide. In addition, the parade could be viewed as a late manifestation (or culmination) of repetitive music culture since the genre’s popular rise, beginning with disco. Indeed, 1999 most likely saw the biggest party of repetitive music the world will ever see. Its name and its party form have spread throughout the world and inspired numerous similar events within the media circuits of urban life.

  8. Within Germany, the Love Parade has embarked on a new era as a traveling carnival. This new dynamism and future have been paid for with a solidifying of power in the hands of McFit. Though still titled the “Love Parade,” this is only in name; its tacit title, like a stadium renamed for corporate sponsorship, is the McFit Parade. But despite these changes and despite the annual predictions of demise, the Love Parade continues to forge on and remain a formidable event, drawing music stars and tourists from Germany and around the world. This year the Love Parade celebrates its twentieth anniversary. Where it will go from here, and if it will ever return to Berlin to mark another phase of the capital’s development, is left for the future to decide.


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Works Cited


36 “1: Berghain” from DJ Mag’s Top 100 Clubs of 2009