Afterthoughts: Berghain Silvester

For me, the last hour of 2014 was one of the most stressful points of the year. As friends got ready for the countdown at the Kreuzberg apartment I was supposed to be celebrating in, I looked at my party partner in crime for the ‘night’ nervously as the clock ebbed ever closer to midnight.

Only one of us had procured a presale ticket for the club we would be celebrating at, which meant queuing for as long as three hours in the freezing temperatures to make sure we both made it in while our friends carried on the party. Even then, there was no guarantee of entry.

At 23:30, we said our goodbyes to everyone, ready for the prospect of seeing in the New Year in a cold line along with many other hopefuls. Just as we opened the door to leave, a friend from earlier in the night reappeared. It turned out he had a spare ticket, meaning both of us could stay at the party and leave without having to queue, or face the bouncers.

The room greeted him with applause and open arms, and I breathed a sigh of relief. In Berlin at least, a presale ticket for an event like this is treated as gold dust. No surprises, then, that they sold out within 20 minutes each night of going on sale. The club, of course, was Berghain.

As I made my way along the dusty walkway to the entrance, projections of trees and blackbirds adorned the daunting space, which used to be a power plant. They’d clearly thought this party through.

I’d planned on leaving straight away and returning in the morning, though quickly abandoned this idea once I’d arrived in Panorama Bar for nd_baumecker. He plays some of the most unpretentious and party-friendly music on the roster, so watching him spin stuff like Maceo Plex’s remix of Royksopp was one of the best ways to start the night.

I headed downstairs to Berghain for Ben Klock just after at around 5am. At this point, it seems redundant to talk about the sound he has forged and his status both within the club and across the world. So with this in mind, I was left disappointed with what I felt was, at best, a pedestrian couple of hours.

Klock finished around 7, and I reached the second predicament of the night. DVS1 would be playing soon in Berghain, but my favourite Panorama Bar resident was also on later in the afternoon. Torn between the two, I decided to leave, miss DVS1 and get some rest.

By the time I had returned at 5:30pm, Margaret Dygas already had the upstairs floor in the palm of her hand. Margaret’s collection of deep, dubby Techno is always a joy to hear, but it’s the perplexing way she weaves these tracks together, not to mention her adorable dance moves, that make her the most entertaining resident at the club for me. I recognised Luciano’s remix of Los Update’s ‘Getting Late’, which felt apt as the drugged-out ‘it’s getting late’ vocal spilled across the room some 18 hours into the party.

As evening turned to night, I made my way down to the newest part of the club, Halle am Berghain, where Gonsher vs Barker were finishing their Ambient set off. This new area practically completes the building, where the beatless soundscapes and visual projections made it the perfect place to take some time away from the dancefloors above. It’s a testament to the club’s tendency for pushing boundaries that this section has been introduced (at a cost of thousands of euros), and it perfects what was already a remarkable use of space and sound.

Having rested with a drink, I headed down to the Lab.oratory, which is usually only open via a separate entrance, where Tama Sumo was spinning Disco to a packed and joyous floor. The attention to detail in the Lab is stunning, and the vibe in here on New Year seemed to be on a high for the whole party. Most peculiarly, whenever I visited, there’d be someone dancing above the rest of the floor on a kind of elevated leather seat next to the bar which I presume is normally reserved for decidedly more illicit pursuits.

I opted to miss the end of Tama Sumo to head back up to Panorama Bar for Nick Höppner at around midnight, which, for me at least, is the period Silvester always reaches its climax. The atmosphere for this set was palpable, with people going for it as if this was the last party of their lives. I remember him playing ‘Overcome’, one of Soul Capsule’s best, at the end, which got one of the best reactions of the set.

As Höppner ended, I caught some of Answer Code Request in the Halle, who was generously providing me with a sedate leeway between the club and sleep. It proved to be my downfall, though, and it wasn’t long until I pondered the idea of leaving for a few hours. Making a rookie error in judgement, I disregarded the fact that Ryan Elliott was playing, instead thinking ahead to another of my favourites, Zip, later that night.

I made it back for the final stretch later than planned, where Discodromo were coming to the end of a 12 hour set in the Lab. Dettmann was taking care of things in the main space, while Panorama Bar was closed until midnight, where it would re-open for Perlon’s monthly showcase.

By the time I made it back upstairs at 12:30, Zip was already in control, playing to a handful of people as the dancefloor gradually filled. Unlike most others, Zip has an incredible talent for playing tracks that get inside people’s hearts as well as their heads (which is, for the most part, why they return to Get Perlonized! every month).

His music makes most sense at a jaded hour of the morning, though it’s always engaging to see how he develops a dancefloor at the start of the night too. Scrupulous in his approach, where every mix is flawless, Zip warming up Panorama Bar is one of the finest displays of Minimal House that exists.

For me, though, the session had been going for days, so I decided to quit whilst I was ahead soon after. I’d disappointed myself in missing some of the highlights on the line-up ( Ryan Elliott, Kobosil, DVS1), though some of those I did see were exceptional (Margaret Dygas, Nick Höppner, Zip). New Years at Berghain isn’t just about isolated DJ sets, though, and to imply it is would be to miss an inherent part of what makes it so special.

More than just a party, year on year Berghain’s Silvester makes a statement on art, decadence and hedonism pushed to the extremes. It’s an event that knows no boundaries, which is obvious from the enduring length (it was still going when I left on Saturday morning) as much as any DJ set or outlandish display from members of the crowd. Put simply, New Years at Berghain takes art in one of its highest forms and excels it in every aspect imaginable, and this is why it remains one of the best parties in the world.

Chris Williams