So as said in the previous post, I try to live the Berlin life to its fullest, and sometimes that means check out its alternative scene (I’m trying to make this sound as fashionably laid back as possible). Alternatively, you could also say, one of my friends here, a lovely Dutch young woman who also studies German though she hardly needs to, asked me if I wanted to join her for a night out, because the boyfriend of one of her friends played in a club in Kreuzberg, Berlin’s alternative, multicultural neighbourhood (or Kiez, to be local). So I said why not.
We tried to decipher what the bands would be like from the description on the club’s website, but failed, as it is common practice now, I think, to write those descriptions in the most generic way possible, something like “an alternative-techno-dumbbeat-indie-rock-blues-session that is both sleek, melodious and groovy, a real discovery”. If with that you manage to have an idea of what the band might sound like, you’re welcome to tell me. That might be code for something, for all I know.
So we went, at the hour announced on the website, because we know something of the German Pünktlichkeit, and were afraid not to get tickets if we were too late. The doors were in fact still closed, and we felt, for the first time of the night, very “uncool”. To work on this traumatising experience (and to pass the time) we went to a bar on the same street, observing the Kreuzberg night life, between small fights exploding on the streets and dying as fast as they came to life, old hippies and young hipster mixed with eastern European immigrants in small kebab shops, and a general feeling of constant movement.
Then we went to the club, for the second time, which turned out to be a lot less diversified than the streets: a huge majority of young men (mostly) wearing the hipster uniform (nicely trimmed beard, rather long, but not too long hair, old glasses from their parents – probably, or some thrift shop, plaited shirts). The band was no exception, the singer even leading the way in hipsterishness with old broken glasses put back together with scotch tape. Cooler than that, you can’t do, my friend. The first band, whose drummer was the boyfriend of my friend’s friend (following? I’ve lost myself some while ago), was indeed a mix of long, melancholic indie rock songs (about what we still don’t know, couldn’t understand a world of it) and violent, angry drum and guitar sudden explosions (where there was also some singing, although not much clearer than the quiet ones). We are no music critics. We mostly enjoyed the musicians facial expressions, going from “is this the right note” to “I’m totally in the zone right now”, all with a slightly open mouth, lost gaze, and all other facial features scrunched in some way (furrowed brow, squinting eyelids,…). The only lyrics we managed to understand was – in one of the angry songs- “I’m stuck in a box between genitals“. To be honest, it might have been “gender”, but I think the first version is much better, and accounts for at least some of the anger. I wouldn’t want to be stuck there either.
All of this provided us two with much laughter material, and we really didn’t refrain, until we realized it wasn’t the cool attitude:all those nice hipsters around us were indeed so serious. Irony is no hipster feeling, as we discovered. And we felt old, and sarcastic, and wondered why we often put a critical distance between us and the performance. I’ve rarely been able to listen to some music without some degree of irony. Apart from Led Zeppelin, and Grigori Sokolov playing Schubert, and crazy dancing on “Die Antwoord” around 6 a.m. at the end of some party at my house, where exhaustion renders any self-consciousness impossible. Otherwise, I snicker, I analyse.
When you’re listening to frankly not-so-good-alternative bands in Berlin, it might be a gift, because at least you can laugh about it. But in general, I have to admire the utter seriousness of the hipster public. Predictable, yes, but sincere.
Anyway, what is so nice about Berlin’s night life is that, even if we looked vastly out of place, no one seemed to think so. And the fact that in this particular alternative club there was only really one type of person, we figured, was probably a good sign for the health of Berlin’s alternative scene: In Geneva, there is really only one alternative cultural scene (if you don’t want to go to a nightclub with loud hip-hop/techno, girls of barely 18 and older, creepier guys paying for champagne), where every single person who is not a fan of those nightclubs is forced to congregate. The result is more diverse, sure, but also very overcrowded. Here in Berlin, you can probably find a club which only feature your very specific kind of music, maybe even one which only plays songs about boxes of genitals (what songs are not about that, you might ask). Anyway, I can certainly vouch to continue the exploration until I find such a place, so I will let you know!