Berlin, The Hipster Wonderland

‘I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking’

This is how Christopher Isherwood famously experienced Berlin in the 1930s. And as I entered Berlin’s thriving hipster scene tonight, I believe I knew how he felt.

It was raining torrentially. Walking up a muddy path to the club, we passed a group of dejected ravers already making their exit. A far cry from the rowdy and ostentatious crowds you come to know and love in London, these people were deadly silent, aloof, and ostensibly dressed as homeless people.

But we beat on, boats against the current. What we were approaching was akin to the deserted fairground of a horror movie. Music played eerily in the distance whilst coloured lights flickered on and off, illuminating unoccupied picnic benches. We had just entered Tresor, the most renown electronic music club in Germany. But where was the party?

We pursued the music to a small wooden shed, which boasted the only sign of life in this place. And what a life it was. Walking inside was like walking through the back of the wardrobe, down the rabbithole, and into a crack den. But this one had disco lights and a zombie dance mob. To supply an apt analogy, I was reminded of watching septuagenarian Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys perform live, attempting with his creaky old limbs the same outlandish choreography that he had practised in better years.

The people in this ‘club’, for want of a more candid term, danced like a past-it Brian Wilson. Their dress sense, on the other hand, took hipsterism to another level. Now, I have been to Shoreditch. I have watched women in head to toe orange lycra crawl out of leopard print Volkswagen Beetles. But never have I seen a group of people so self-consciously determined to prove that anything goes. A 4″5 woman in basketball kit grinded with another in Spanish flamenco costume, spectated by a couple of well-spoken chaps who channelled tramps in tartan pyjamas and long dirty beards. A coked-up, twirling schoolgirl weaved in and out of the unlikely friendship scene. All doing their Brian Wilson dance. This was seen through a suffocating haze of smoke, until the oppressive, accelerating beat of German dance music, a concept that can only have been formulated by Satan himself, pushed us out into the rainy mudslide outside.

For those of you who have seen the Disney cartoon of Alice in Wonderland, there’s a moment in the film when the forest closes in on her, she loses her way, and everything that once seemed like a wonderland becomes dark and oppressive. And so I felt tonight. The initial novelty of it all soon faded to a cold reality of a youth culture I have only ever watched passively, not quite understanding, with my shutter open.

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