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One World One Love Parade

A piece on universal friendship, through the spiritual medium of music and dance, as was witnessed among the mass in Berlin last year. Covering the parade itself and a couple of the bigger parties.

21 Jun 2001

Although the parade itself was awe-inspiring with its 12 or 13 hundred thousand participants, for me the real action, its zenith, was at the warm up, after and recovery parties.

Not counting the peripheral raves that sprung up down back streets, in secluded parks and even under the (now) symbolic Brandenburger Gates, and where the music was of unprecedented quality, there was an estimated 280 special Love Parade gigs to choose from.

Both local and international, known and unknown DJ's plied their trade with workman like efficiency as baseline after baseline was churned out relentlessly, for those fortune enough to have experienced Love Parade 2000.

From the moment we arrived at the techno lovers paradise of Berlin we sensed we were in for a real treat. It was the calm before the storm scenario that Thursday the 6th of July as the town was rife with anticipation and mouth watering expectation. To cast ones eye over the seemingly endless list of disc jockeys on offer, a veritable who's who of the techno world, was akin to the initial foreplay with a new lover after a lengthy courtship, spine-tinglingly exciting.

All the big names were there with the notable exception of local hero Antaro; Carl Cox, Laurent Garnier, Jeff Mills, Dave Angel, Tosh, Luke Slater, etc, but these made up only a small percentage of the 1500 or so beat technicians that descended on the city for the weekend of love.

We used the night wisely, with periodic bar-hopping to construct a plan of attack for the proceeding three nights, as much jockeying and manoeuvring took place in the search for the ultimate parties in town.

In reality any choice would have sufficed as you simply could not make a bad decision., and we celebrated this fact by getting rather drunk and warming a couple of East Berlin park benches.

I decided, after much deliberation, for the Friday night warm up event, no-UFO's, and the tried and tested tunes of Laurent Garnier. He was playing in a "dream team" line up that included DJ Hell, and Carl Craig, and coincided with the grand opening of the Gleisdreieck club. I had not previously seen the Frenchman but all reports I had heard were only good.

The entrance to the club was cloaked in grandeur. After going through 3 separate security stations, (at the last check point the guard muttered "no drugs, no fun", how wrong this prophecy proved) and meandering past the Second World War tank equipped with a metre wide spot light that pierced the heavens, we finally reached the 4 metre high double archway that allowed access to this immense industrial warehouse. Wow, was about the most expressive superlative we could mutter. A myriad of funksters littered the entrance dungeon as we strode and curved purposefully towards our objective, the floor.

First impressions of the club were visual, as the senses were titillated by psychedelic laser art that expounded through the eyes, what was to follow through the ears. We had stepped outside the realm of the real, into some kind of 4th dimension, the gutteral musical arena of homogeneous souls. We were Russel Crowe walking into the Coliseum in the film The Gladiator, armed not with weapons but water bottles, it would be a long night.

We found ourselves in a cave like area about 70 metres long and maybe 40 wide and perhaps 15 metres high. About two thirds along this distance on the right hand side was a double tiered DJ box, probably 5 metres cubed, and suspended 1 and a half or 2 metres off the floor, that housed both the DJ (Woody), and the visual animation artists, as already at 12:00 groovers were tearing up the dance floor in their hundreds, to the incessant, pacy beats of the host.

Experience has taught me not to go too hard too soon, as burn out and fatigue can deprive you of the pleasure of jiving to top names that generally play 3 hour sets starting at 2 or 3 in the morning, I sauntered through to investigate the chill-out area instead, that saviour of the hard-core floor tradesman.

Here the visual extravaganza simply increased, beautiful in its complexity, and aesthetic in its simplicity, the kaleidoscope of colours manifested in 3d form by laser technology.

Chill-out was situated directly in front of the dance floor, demarcated by a vast black curtain and maybe three quarters of the preceding rooms' size. Its extreme happy and relaxed vibe compensated somewhat for the lack of comfort that the boarding school like bench seating provided. Casual acquaintances and recondite discussion warmed the heart and soothed aching muscles.

Before arriving at the club, we had spent a pleasant evening soaking up the atmosphere of Zoo station, the main rail-station in Berlin, watching the arrival of technofiles in their hundreds of thousands. Tony and I reminisced as we were consumed by the glory of our current surroundings. It had of course been chaos with the sheer mass of people, astounding to the Love Parade virgin, taking to the streets in a vocal and exuberant fashion, geed up by the promise of Elysium, and the lure of total satisfaction.

The costumes of the electronic music junkies defined diversity while they cemented belonging and unification. Scantily clad , nubile females were exonerated from traditional societal constraints and the hormones were sent racing as men and women ogled these modern icons with open mouthed lust.

The weather was not as conducive to nudity as might have been the case (dry but grey and cold), but the masses soldiered on in their almost non-existent or see through apparel. Men too, not to be out done, embraced their sexuality with a kind of restraint usually reserved for an anarchist demonstration on the first of May. Any unaware tourist passing through the city must have thought they had landed on Mars rather than the German Capital, as previously unknown alien life forms pranced, shouted, jumped and hooted to the extreme mirth of those who looked on.

But I digress. Sitting or should I say slouching in the chill-out area, Tony and I became aware of an intrinsic vibration stemming from an undisclosed source. "Time to investigate" I said and set off in search of the potentially apocalyptic bedlam. Down the far end of the chill-out area was what we thought had been a wall indicating the end of the club, but turned out to be yet another huge black curtain and the gateway to the main dance arena.

It was truly an uplifting experience to discover this enormous area, easily 3 times the size of the previous floor, and what must have been 5 or 6000 hipsters ripping the floor to shreds as DJ Hell lived up to his name midway through his blistering set, and people continued to pour in.

The punters were euphoric in their appreciation for his tunes and this was manifested in the form of powerful, energetic dancing by all involved in the ritualistic display. Wow suddenly seemed supremely coherent compared to the open-mouthed stammer we were now both experiencing.

A time check revealed that Hell would continue for one hour more before giving way to the famed Laurent Garnier. I was at this point a little apprehensive. Big name DJ's often acquire huge followings by toning down their music to appeal to a broader audience, but I sensed that this crowd would accept nothing less than full throttle.

The wrath of a disgruntled club groupie that is subjected to a DJ that hints at delivering but does not in fact deliver is disconcertingly quiet. I hoped that Garnier was going to hit the ball out of the park. To a certain extent he did, and the by then 8000 strong ravers, enjoyed his set overall but consistency let him down with intermittent phases of drivel.

It clearly shows the quality of the music on offer when I state that he was long down on my list of favourites by the time we left, with heavy heart on Monday.

Knowing that we had the Parade itself to come, plus a lengthy after party to attend, Tony and I began our crusade back to the campsite about 5:30 am, entirely satisfied with our first venture into the Eastern Berlin underground.

On the Saturday we raised ourselves at the crack of afternoon and trod stoically towards the train station that would transport us to our initial destination, Zoo Station.

Never has a station been more aptly named as pandemonium reigned supreme, yet incredibly this was merely an appetiser for the scenes that followed. I had donned my rather loud Polynesian shirt, thick black rave goggles and lower calf length shorts for the occasion, stood out about as much as an ant from an aeroplane, and was thus suitably incognito. All of the senses were overloaded to the point of melt down as we navigated our way towards the 8 laned, 6 kilometre long mustering pen that for the rest of the year calls itself a street.

There were endless vans, campers, cars filled with bulky and impressive stereo equipment that blasted tunes from every quadrant, while their inhabitants danced, lounged, loved and really lived, in unison. Spontaneous parties erupted everywhere, but we would not be derailed

Our sights were firmly fixed on the mother of all parties and no matter what the temptation, by god we would get there.

Soon the Love Parade 2000 was almost upon us and we jostled for position for the next hour or so before the emergence of the first truck was greeted with a thunderous roar. The continuous flow of about 50 trucks over a 4 or 5 hour period, filled with festive people, flaming the festivities, ensured a distinct lack of boredom, as everyone really let go.

Music such as Chelsea's Plantastik-Familamiliy, from NZDJ01 belted out of the floats to the ecstasy of the colossal mass, and smiles were abound amidst the dancing frenzy that much more than a million people were participating in. Genuine happiness is a rarity in this day and age, so I wanted to savour every minute of it.

Maybe half of the crowd followed the floats while the other half remained still and sampled the variation of a mobile landscape. The trucks, like the people were united by their music, and I was delighted to be a part of the "demonstration."

As the parade eventually started to wind down, we were once again faced with the conundrum of which event, or after party to attend. In the mean time we took advantage of indescribable tunes being played by unknown DJ's under the Brendenburger Gates and around the corner, towards Potsdamer Platz in a discrete park that had led the musical beast to a full gallop.

These few hours spent carving under the open sky were simply great, as there was room to really strut your stuff and go hard. It was an amazing feeling of freedom and many devils were exorcised in this period.

By this stage it was approaching midnight and we had caught wind of a party called Fantasia that sounded perfect for our needs. It was located at Kulturbrauerei, an old brewery, and boasted 8 different floors, over 50 DJ's, including Richie Hawtin and Superfunk, in 14 hours of action, all enclosed within a 15000msq complex.

Rather wearily we headed off, determined to see the night through. They say that adrenaline can achieve miraculous things, and the subsequent surge we felt walking through the gates of Fantasia would testify to that. It was a buzz like no other I have felt, we had entered the lost city of Eden.

Tony and I immediately lost each other upon entry, and it would not be until about 5:00 in the morning when we would briefly catch sight of each other again, before quickly disappearing again into our own universes, this place was cosmologically friendly.

With every one of the 8 floors totally packed with hot, sweaty, throbbing bodies, the feeling was almost out of body. For me the highlights were threefold; (1) floor 5 (kantine) and the local techno heroes, which was almost evil with the rapid loops and stonking baselines that never, ever stopped, (2) the blithe groove area on top of the soda club, in this room the tempo was taken down slightly, but that fabulous base kept pounding through in conjunction with delicious funk and I would rate this music as the best I have ever heard, without question, the groove room's virtues didn't stop there as it was a genuine workhorse of an area that offered everything from a make out pit for couples only, to exotic interior decor and visual displays, and comfortable, oh so comfortable couches that caressed the bludgeoned body, moulding themselves around the aches and pains for as long as the DJ would allow you to take a breather; the final highlight for me was the open-air chill-out zone that although thriving all night, really came alive about 7:00 am, just as the Sun was appearing over the top of the surrounding buildings. Tony and I had found each other again by this stage and we soaked up the atmosphere while the corners of our mouths were stuck to the bottom of the ears, and we spent the next 3 and a half hours here drinking, smoking, chatting and just being.

For Tony, the main techno area had been the recipient of most of his time. Elevated, and over looking the chill-out zone, it held probably 4000 and was chocker from start to finish, as one punter would leave 3 more would cram in. For sheer stamina, Tony was beyond impressive and thrived on the iron man challenge of sustained dancing hour after hour.

Four more zones offered everything from drum'n'bass and house to ambient as there was indeed something for everyone, and all were jammed with frantic, delirious, hysterical ravers, ecstatically boogying to the beautiful sounds of post-modern music.

By 10:30 on the Sunday morning we were quite tired, and decided to embark once again on the long, tedious journey back to the camp ground. The clatter of the train, and even people walking past induced memories of the fabulous tunes we had been exposed to over the past couple of days, and I felt so at ease and unburdened, as I watched Tony sleep that I knew I had experienced something truly special.

Berlin had provided a blitzkrieg on the senses that was mirrored by the still evident destruction of World War Two. A festival of love has replaced one of hate, as the scars to East Berlin particularly are testament of, and serve as a constant reminder that such freedom will never be taken for granted by these people that endured worse things than we, today's youth culture, can perhaps imagine.

The World has seen the demolition of a wall that defies modern thinking, the Love Parade is working at demolishing those other walls that can't be seen, and each smile, laugh, beat and embrace is another brick, chipped away in the search for global understanding. One World One Love Parade.