In the wake of reinstated Covid-19 mitigation efforts, club culture in Berlin has once again taken a backseat to public health, much to the chagrin of the city’s techno and dance music community. This was especially difficult when the crown jewel of the city's nightclubs, Berghain, celebrated its 17th birthday without a customary throng of joyous revelers. In an homage to the weekend-plus-long party that would be happening under normal circumstances, bastions of the Berlin techno scene, nd_baumecker and Jenus, took to the Blast Radio airwaves for a special episode of Innen+Aussen Radio to rally the community in solidarity around its shuttered Mecca.
Situated on the border between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain in a former East German power plant, Berghain is both a physical space and a metaphysical concept. With multiple levels catering to different musical and sexual appetites, and a notoriously shrewd, if opaque, set of standards one must meet to gain entry, the club is synonymous with coolness and exclusivity, and notorious for maintaining an ecosystem of unchecked hedonism and absolute freedom of expression. While the main hall is typically reserved for the relentless pound of hard-hitting minimal techno, nd_baumecker and Jenus’ sets were more interested in commemorating the sound and setting of Panorama Bar, Berghain’s oasis for more house-centric and melodically-driven pop stylings.
Both sets saw the pair sharing 2+ hours of music inspired by Panorama Bar, and telling stories, reminiscing about the many nights, mornings, and early afternoons spent in Berghain’s cavernous rooms and circuitous passages. The high energy of both the selections and the hosts became kinetic when the pair surprised frequent Panorama Bar DJs Steffi and The Blessed Madonna with live, on-air phone calls to wax about their favorite moments in the club, and share musings from behind the decks.
“People would ask, ‘What is the Panorama Bar track?’ and then they would expect some very intelligent, Detroit house track,” Steffi recalled, joining the pair by phone from Warsaw, Poland, “And I’m like no! It's like Kylie [Minogue], Sandra, Robyn, Róisín Murphy; it’s just the royal flush of lady pop music.” This point was driven home when Jenus dropped Sandra’s “In The Heat Of The Night,” and gently goaded Steffi about a time that track once led to her crowd surfing across the room. As with so many of their shared recollections, every bout of conversation invariably led back to the music: how an arms race over collecting 7”s of Robyn’s collaboration with Kleerup kept their track “With Every Heartbeat” in heavy rotation at Panorama, or how watching Róisín Murphy dance to the KLF was a life-changing experience.
After a quick mix by nd_baumecker that ended with The Blessed Madonna’s remix of Dua Lipa’s track “Levitating,” the pair took that as a sign to give the holy one a ring. “Panorama was the very first club to invite me to leave America, on my very first tour,” she said, recalling a time back when her job description at Chicago’s Smart Bar still included postering in negative degree wind chills. After landing a gig at Panorama Bar, The Blessed Madonna stepped into another world. Between learning how to travel with records, and meeting her idol Kerri Chandler in the booth at Panorama, DJing professionally was suddenly no longer just a dream. “There’s no single place on the planet that changed me more in good ways,” she said, reflecting on the friends, music, and memories that made each trip to Panorama Bar feel like a fresh homecoming.
But just how every conversation between the far-flung friends filtered down to what’s next in the rotation, each track was a reminder that it could still be a while before they can all gather again on the dancefloor. It’s easy to be maudlin in the face of renewed lockdowns: after two years of exhaustive and discouraging outcomes, normalcy now seems somehow further down on the horizon. Much like taking refuge in a storm, gathering in digital spaces can offer some of the same comforts: a beat you can sync your heart to, or a friendly voice in the dark.
Closing out their second night with Modern Talking’s “Atlantis Is Calling (S.O.S. for Love),” the pair ended with a signal flare and a cliffhanger, promising a story related to the track on their next show. With deep roots in Berlin’s techno community, there’s no telling who could appear to help the pair preserve the culture. And for those longing to be back in Berghain, or belting it out in Panorama Bar, nd_baumecker and Jenus’ sets were a welcomed reminder that places live on in the people who help remember them.
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