Friday, 26 June 2015

Last Days of Friedrichshain

Antje Øklesund is tucked away in a street running parallel to Frankfurter Allee. Or at least, it was. After 10 years of serving independent musicians and artists, the old location is being torn down to make way for the Am Friedrichshainer Møbelturm, a general recreation space. Apparently, nobody wants this to happen, apart from rich investors. The small consolation is that the new development will have a concert space, but it won’t be the same.
On the event page of Last Days of Friedrichshain, her final voyage, Antje acknowledges her fate but still encourages everyone to keep their chin up: "Everything has an end; only a sausage has two." And so the last night promises to be an explosive mix of bands and DJs.

It begins with Schnipo Schranke from Hamburg. They are two ladies who play charming, upbeat piano songs about the realities of oral sex and even Harry Potter. Although they don't seem to have any places online where you can purchase their music, they do have a strong fanbase; there are many people in the crowd singing along.

I'd previously been to a set from What Difference Does It Make? there, which was the main attraction of the evening. WDDIM is a DJ collective playing pop music ranging from the 1950s to 1980s, as well as some twee and indie pop from the modern day. I had attended one of their sets once before. Although, to be honest, I actually prefer dancing to Rihanna, it was still fun.

It’s about 4:00am when we finally decide to leave. People are sitting on moulting sofas outside, trying to make the night last as long as possible, although it’s already getting light and the birds are beginning to chirp. As I take in the crumbling brick courtyard for the last time, glassless windows draped in fairy lights, I am reminded of one of my earliest impressions of Berlin. In the film Goodbye Lenin!, two main characters are at a party at the time of the Wall coming down, sitting on the edge of this abandoned warehouse, fireworks going off in the sky. It’s an environment that heralds something special about to happen and it captures the spirit that Berlin seduced me with.

It also brings to mind of some sort of modern version of castle ruins in my native England. Maybe this is Berlin’s heritage, in the same way castles of legendary kings are Cornwall's heritage. Just as those old, romantic ideas of England are long gone, it could be time to also accept that this a time of contemporary takeover in Berlin. I consider how many of these sorts of places still exist in the city; if they still do, how long they are going to last?

Antje Øklesund’s Happy End may not be as edgy as certain circles in Berlin might like it to be, but we can always hold onto the memories. Where Friedrichshain is developing at a rapid place, there are speakeasies and tiny venues popping up in Neukölln and Wedding, for example. I believe that Berlin's just experiencing a switcharound; the creativity's not going to disappear, just the mask it wears and the company it keeps.