July 06, 2020
Today I saw from afar, scattered crowds trying to find an underground of hope in a weird era, where anything hopeful is particularly scarce.
Corona times have changed social life as we know it - if an understatement can be used as a cliché start to a reflection.
The thing is: the world is moving in a pace that's impossible to understand or make sense of. While my friends and family back in Mexico follow on an extra prolonged isolation, Berlin is adapting to a new status quo full of hope, desperation and cravings.
If I'm learning something about the spirit of Berlin - which probably varies slightly from the German spirit, mainly because of the number of immigrants like me who are both adapting and not compromising to create a very unique atmosphere. This spirit craves for different types of freedom. Financial, artistic, romantic. But I've noticed a very particular one in the last few days: as the Corona regulations ease enough to be able to meet outside with as many humans as you want - as long as there's responsibility and optionally, the Corona tracing app - but still, there's a limitation: no dancing or singing in crowds for amusement. The government knows its culture so well, that raving regulations are a constant in the news.
Berlin, as we know it today, was built on top of a unified energy between those who were young in the 90s: electronic music and raving as a form of unification. East and West Berlin come together in the now legendary Wauscherstrasse and the part of river Spree's shore that divides Kreuzberg and Friedercshain. When Berghain was more than the interactive museum of techno and Watergate was establishing the part that atmosphere would play, those post-reunification sweet spots would be the entry for a young generation of Berliners, thirsty for the word and recognizing itself.
It's not a surprise to me that the craving for live raves is an uncontainable, constant roar within the news and the legal regulations.
Even though DJ set livestreams have been a constant, but they only serve as the background for personal parties, techno and house are only as good as the energy they inject on their audience. It's never only about the DJ (if they tell you it is, they are not telling you the entire story). Its magic comes to life mostly when music becomes the common channel for self-exploration in a shared context guided by the beats.
COVID-19 closed the clubs first, and probably, will open them last. They're a hell of a hotspot for Corona replication. But people are still looking for it, as the right to express and share music with others is a fight for a right that a lot of people need to find meaning.
The parks of Kreuzberg are filled with groups of friends (or sometimes, strangers in a meetup that probably met on Reddit or Twitter first), the Facebook events are sprouting more and more social dis-dancing events (conglomerations of people, dancing responsibly o a live DJ, ensuring that their space is at least 1.5 square meters away from any other humans, using FM radio and personal Bluetooth speakers to create a dance floor in a universe of other multiple floating dance floors.
Then there is the Corona unicorn: actual, full, blown-up illegal raves: you won't be likely to find out about their existance in any public FB event or Resident Advisor listings. They're based on a personal trust system: a close circle is invited, that then get the mission of spreading the news among their inner circle. These usually happen in the middle of a huge natural area - big parks of woods in the greater Berlin area. Facemasks are recommended in the case of a polizei raid, but not enforced in the dance floor.
A couple of weeks ago, a "rave area" I had been hearing about in Telegram groups, made it to the news: the spot for underground weekend raves was found in Volkspark Haseinheide in the triangle where the localities of Neukolln, Kreuzberg and Tempelhof meet, very close to the actual geographical center of the city.
My personal love for live music and the connection it represents is a subject for a different post, but for now I'll say that this passion is a very convenient complement to my curiosity for understanding human behavior.
So I had to go to Haseinheide and see it with my own eyes.
I grabbed my bike at 2am under the full moon of the 4th of July under a light rain and hot weather, crossed the Landwehrcanal to find the endless and dark roads of Haseinheide full of humans, walking nowhere, hoping for music, looking for a crowd to lose themselves and gain anonymity in.
There was some faint music in a couple of spots: even the most powerful big speakers do not compare to the quality of blasting audio this city is used to. The groups were scattered, the fear for the police arriving combined with the trembling adrenaline provided for daring to find others looking for the same thing provided a peculiar combination.
The reality is: there was no underground rave to be found - if we understand rave as the social phenomenon where electronic music becomes a shared guided meditation - most of those crowds would leave the park in disappointment and settle for sharing a beer with their friends in the stairs of a nearby church.
I found a new type of anonymity tonight, probably the most honest one I've ever embodied: a silent voyeur who's rooting for them, not trying to take part, but excited for what the challenges to be found in connecting to other humans in these times will mean for our growth as a generation that has been jaded by the fake promise of digital connection.
This is what the music is about: you, and us. And we'll find it again. We just have to be patient.