Thursday, November 20, 2014

Music in Berlin 2014

This year's entertainment was nearly identical to last year's -- no techno clubs, but there was salsa, a stack of new CD's from Spacehall, and a Depeche Mode memento.

Landing on the date of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (an unintentionally well-timed bit of travel planning), I half-heartedly considered making an afternoon visit to the Berghain to catch the remnants of Saturday night's mindblowingly sick lineup.  Some semblance of level-headedness prevailed though, and I decided to join the huge crowds at the balloon ceremonies near the East Side Gallery.  The crowds extended as far as the eye could see, and this was but one location out of many spread throughout the city.  There was no music however, and as far as I know, only the Brandenburg Gate ceremony featured any live performances.  I caught Peter Gabriel's stately but forgettable performance of "Heroes" on TV before I went out (Bowie had something better to do??) and word is that security stopped letting people into the area around the Brandenburg Gate before the official ceremonies even started, so I wouldn't have had the time to get down there to hear Barenboim conduct the final movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony anyhow.

A visit to Spacehall on Zossener Strasse in Kreuzberg was essential as always.  Shopping there was a somewhat painful experience because I was suffering from a second hand smoke hangover from the bar hopping the night before in Friedrichshain.  How much time would I have spent there if I wasn't feeling so shitty?

At a Media Markt I picked up the 5CD box of Depeche Mode's "Live In Berlin", which to the best of my knowledge was not supposed to be released until the following week.  Was there a Berlin-only early release date?  My first impression is that the filming of the concert itself isn't in the same league, visually or creatively, as Corbijn's "One Night In Paris".  It feels like it could have been shot by almost anybody, many of Corbijn's typical touches (long shots focused on a single band member, close attention paid to body movements, playing of instruments, or interactions between the musicians on stage) weren't immediately evident.

The week ended with a Saturday night at the Havanna Club, which might be the salsa club of my dreams.  There was a healthy mix of people of all ages dancing to salsa on the main floor, but that's just one dance party out of four you can find at this place!  In addition to salsa, they have reggaeton upstairs, and two dancefloors of contemporary pop and 80's music downstairs.  The salsa crowd was the first to arrive, but by 2 AM the downstairs parties were hitting their stride.  As someone who likes the atmosphere of a salsa party but doesn't usually join in the dancing, I approve of the variety of dance scenes all mashed together under one roof.

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