It’s Always Nice to Make a Wee Friend (Saturday, February 5, 2011)

Official Kantine stamp: CHERYL: BERLIN @ Kantine am Berghain

Official Berghain/Ostgut Ton Fünf stamp: Stroboscopic Artefacts label night/ Nôze album release @ Berghain

How do I begin to tell the epic story of this, one of my favorite nights out of all time? And how can I explain my experience at Berghain better than Tobias Rapp in his illuminating essay about the queue there (which is also featured in his book which I highly recommend called “Lost and Sound: Berlin, Techno, and the EasyJet Set”)?

At about 5pm I suppose, with our visit to Kaiser’s, Berlin’s supermarket chain that Morgan and I hit up in search of costumes for the evening’s CHERYL festivities. Wandering its hallowed halls, he turned to me and simply said the words: “Meat Bra?”. “Meat Bra,” I affirmed, and we gathered the appropriate supplies—a selection of bizarre-looking German deli meats, cling wrap, and red heart-shaped balloons aka red luftballons. We then headed back to the hotel and assembled said structure, using an existing bra I sacrificed as a base. I had to ask the skeptical man at reception to borrow his stapler, and felt a bit bad knowing what we were using it for. The getup came out as more of a Meat Corset (with balloon power shoulders), but looked pretty serious, so I was pleased.

After a really good Korean dinner at Kimchi Princess in Kreuzberg (check the tandem food review here!), we changed, and got in a cab to the Berghain complex, arriving just before 1 a.m. The CHERYL event was to go down in the Kantine, a smaller building off to the left behind some bushes. At first we didn’t notice the big CHERYL sign plastered to the left of the main facade, and then looked over to figure out who to ask. On the left was the VIP/artist door, and they beckoned us over, asked if we were on the list, realized we were—but at the Kantine, and pointed us in the right direction.

Before walking over though, I looked at the main door to the club, where a small line had formed. At the front of it was the one man I had been thinking about, dreaming about, and completely fearing in the weeks preceding our trip: Sven Marquardt, Berghain’s notorious bouncer, who sports slicked back hair, black clothes, many lip rings, and barbed wire tattooed on the SIDE of his FACE (you may recall that I dressed as ol’ Sven for EUROCHERYL). Standing there, in the rain, outside Berghain, wearing a Meat Bra, and looking at Sven, I had a wonderful moment of perspective. I swooned internally, much like a teenage girl would upon sighting Justin Bieber, and we headed ‘round the side.

We entered, and were greeted by many friendly faces from NYC. The venue was really cool—there was a stage on one side, DJ booth on the other, and a wooden outdoor-ish smoking patio. The CHERYLs were wearing wonderful disco ball inspired outfits, with lots of silver garnish atop black bodysuits. People were starting to trickle in (it’s Berlin—shit starts LATE). Soon enough, the dancefloor was pleasantly packed with German revelers wearing all manner of appropriately colorful garments: a trio of guys draped in huge gold sequined tops, a girl with a whistle on roller skates, a dude whose head was creepily covered in a black mesh mask, a sailor chick who got to shakin’ it atop the bar, and a nicely sized pack of bears who, of course, ended up taking their shirts off. Oh, and at one point, SVB came out wearing the incredible Michael Jackson mask that was acquired in Lisbon, and did awesome dances. Nick was DJing, and played a spastically fun set which included Sonique, Crystal Castles’ “Baptism”, Boney M.’s “Felicidad”, and Odyssey’s “Use It Up and Wear It Out”. We all lost our shit very immensely.

Around 4 a.m., the crowd began to die down, and the Meat Bra started to get saggy. I placed it in a plastic bag, which I discarded in the bin in the bathroom (more on that later). The energies were right, the time was nigh, and we made the decision to cross over into the second part of our evening and attempt to gain entry to Berghain—no easy feat, especially for non-gay American females and the highly masculine English gays who love them. I happened to be covered in fake blood though, and I figured that would help.

We followed a couple of other CHERYL friends, whom I didn’t know, over to the main building. Now, Sven was king of his domain, as a huge line had formed in front of him. I overheard him calmly say to two shivering girls “I already told you no.” Apparently the folks we followed were on the list for the evening, and it just sort of happened that we lined up right behind them at the VIP/artist door. They went through, and then Morgan stepped up. Now, he is the king of blagging some highly impressive stuff to get into exclusive events (democracy, by will or by force!). However, we’d discussed the gravity of this particular situation, and knew we’d need to keep it beyond cool lest we be denied. The guy looked at him, looked at his stamp (which, in hindsight, I realized was from the night before, so not sure they took that into account), and let him right on through. I was next, and after a thorough search of my pockets and questioning to be sure I had no camera, I was given the phenomenal stamp pictured above and waved inside (the stamp denotes the recent celebration of the fifth year of Berghain’s label Ostgut Ton, and its concurrent album Fünf, comprised of tracks that sample field recordings made inside the club).

While there were so many people waiting outside, inside, things felt pleasantly crowded. Drinks were not overpriced. And of course, nobody was taking stupid drunken photos of their friends, or harassing the men with their shirts off making out (or more) in corners or on the dance floor itself. I realized that one of the things that makes this place so special is its proprietors’ attention to detail; they go to every length to make sure the clubbing experience there is top-notch, and that people are comfortable to take things as far as they choose, whether it be with, drinking, drugs, sex, music, dancing, or some combination of these elements.

Normally, on a night out like this, I’d be able to tell you what DJs I saw, what they played, etc. etc. ad nauseam. In this particular instance though, I was just so happy to be there soaking up the environment, I wasn’t even really paying attention to who was on (and I certainly don’t have the honed skills with house and techno yet to know many of the tunes myself). In hindsight looking at the lineup though, it would seem that we saw Perc, Xhin, and Peter Van Hoesen (who I saw once in NYC) downstairs, and Nôze and Marc Schneider upstairs at Panoramabar. While we were up there, a good number of the CHERYL crowd came over, and thus our unstoppable group formed. This included Jackee Word, who told me he had found the Meat Bra in the trash back in the Kantine and thrown it as his friend because he “thought it was a dead fetus!” Amazing.

The beats were huge, and the system was truly on point. It. Sounded. Amazing. This was exactly what I’d come to experience, and I probably looked like a giddy maniac simply because I was so stoked to be there.

We took a break from dancing, and retired to one of many small side rooms off of the main dancefloor. A giant metal bed-like platform hung from the ceiling, and we joined the 10 or so people sitting on it. This bed was very social, and we got to chatting to an Irish guy (who told me I won the Blade Award, what with my fake blood), and an awesome group of gay Scotsmen, one of whom is the genesis of the title of this very blog post.

Back to the dancefloor, where CHERYLs DP and Stina had extended a fitted sheet they brought over all of us. We each took corners and danced underneath, in a tiny bubble of wonderful. Some people around us gleefully joined in and jumped in too, while others seemed slightly annoyed that we were interrupting their very intense appreciation of techno with our frivolity. For both parties, I have maximum respect.

I wish I’d been on top of things to realize that, if we only went back upstairs, we could catch a set from Margaret Dygas. However, it was almost 10 a.m., and we were spent. We put on our coats and sunglasses and headed towards the door. The sunlight streamed in behind the clear plastic shades that covered the hallway to the outside world. Just before we exited, we walked right past Sven. He was still there, at that hour. I had half a mind to stop and say hi, or say thank you, or show him the photo of myself dressed as him, or, most simply, give him a hug, but realized I didn’t need to. Because we will meet again.

Outside, morning was everywhere, and we trekked along the wet gravel towards a taxi. People were actually walking past us, into the club to start their partying. One guy even rode up on his bike. Morgan stood in front of one girl rushing past us, looked her in the eyes, and said, “Really?”

I turned around to face the building once more before we drove off. I took off my sunglasses, bowed, and said “Bless.”