The Most Unforgettable Party Nights in 15 Years of Berlin

A couple of weeks ago we gave you our first official Club Guide for Berlin with some of our favorite clubs and parties that we like to recommend as part of the AXE BLACK NIGHT campaign. In continuation of this collaboration we have now been asked by AXE to share our most memorable experiences in the Berlin nightlife, those parties, that took us by surprise and will remain in our memory forever. Of course living in Berlin for 15 years and having been to all the notable clubs and a lot of amazing parties and places of this period I have quite a few stories to tell and it was a little hard to narrow it down to only a few. Flipping through my huge catalog of party photos (believe it or not I have an archive that exceeds 18.000 photos) I took a trip down memory lane and collected some of my most special nightlife experiences that go all the way back to my first year in Berlin.

The Palace of Tears and Kisses – Tränenpalast, Cockerparty (2000)

It was my first year in Berlin back in 2000. I didn’t know anyone in town and the amount of parties was already as overwhelming as it is today. Back than I consulted the city magazine 030 to find out where to go. So I stumbled about a party listing that I found quite intriguing. I was a bit shy and totally inexperienced with all the crazy going on in this town. So going to an event with the title “Cocker Party” was pretty outrages for me. It was one of the big and hugely successful gay parties at the time that moved from one location to the other. This time it was at a historically important place: The Tränenpalast (“palace of tears”), a location that got its name because it was one of the main stations between East and West where a lot of people had to say goodbye to their loved ones and shed some tears because of the separation. You could say it’s a bit outrages to make a party in a sad place like that, but that’s typical for Berlin. The city embraces its own history, but it’s not afraid of giving new purpose and life to old things.

“Tränenpalast” 1962, Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-A0706-0010-001 / Krueger / CC-BY-SA 3.0

When I entered the Tränenpalast I was a bit nervous. I felt very young in between all these grown-up men, well, I was only 18 then, and I was by myself. The party had a little helpful device going on: When you entered you got a sticker with a number and they had a half-naked cupid running around collecting messages that people could send to each other via the numbers. On stage there was a big mailbox with all the numbers so every once in a while you had to go check if someone left you a note. I didn’t really feel like sending a note to everyone, I was to overwhelmed by everything. But I did hang out near the stage, not because of the mailbox, but because I had the best view on the half-naked cupid from there. At some point I gathered all my courage and handed a note to the cupid after all. He first took off to the mailbox but when he checked the paper for the number he turned around and came back, bent over the side of the stage and gave me a big kiss.

A Skeleton of East Germany – Palast der Republik, Volkspalast (2004)

For the first couple of years the abandoned Palace of the Republic was like an ugly grey tombstone right in the middle of the city blocking the few to all the beautiful monuments and buildings around it. I knew about its glamorous past in the GDR, but also about its controversial history concerning its construction and its demolition that was already decided when I arrived in Berlin. In the year 2003 all of a sudden the city decided to open up the place for temporary use. Exhibitions, guided tours, theater performances and parties took place in here for the next 18 months. It was again a big party that the reason for my first visit of the place. I absolutely don’t remember the name or the type of party because my memory of this night is dominated by the feeling of stepping into the skeleton of East German history. The building’s interior was completely dismantled. Nothing was left from the socialist glamour and especially the numerous lamps and chandeliers that gave the building its nickname “Erich’s Lamp Shop” were missing. What was left was cold concrete columns, big empty halls and the huge staircase in the main entrance area. The electronic music echoed through the entire building and the bass shook the remaining dust of the past from its walls.  It was an impressive place to be in and I felt lucky that I had a chance before the place got shut off and torn down a few years later.

Palast der Republik 2005, photo: Omar Bárcena

Step into the Cathedral – Berghain, Klubnacht (2004)

I heard about this place from all my cool party friends that I had collected over the first 4 years of my Berlin time. In this period I was a real party kid going out about 2-3 times per weekend. There were so many amazing cool clubs and parties in town and it was impossible to stay home for me then. But one brand new place seemed to stand out back then because everyone all of a sudden talked about it like it was the most amazing place in the world. So one weekend I decided to check out the hype. In the early days of this club you would still go on a Saturday night and the line was not nearly as apocalyptic as it is nowadays. There was also not really the question of getting randomly bounced at the door. At the time only a certain crowd went there and it wasn’t in all the city guides and music magazines celebrated as the best club in the world.

Halle am Berghain

When you walk inside Berghain for the first time, and especially if you hadn’t heard any stories of the club before, you will pretty much get your mind blown. It is more than obvious that this is not a normal club, it’s a cathedral of techno and sin. I got shivers walking up the vibrating stairs to the first floor where music was playing that was harder and more intense than anything I had ever heard. The audience was mainly half-naked muscle guys with leather harnesses and other fetish gear. Even after 4 years in Berlin this was still pretty intimidating for me. Going up one more floor was a change of scene. The music was more easy to digest and the people more diverse. I saw some of the most eclectic and eccentric looking people here, a crowd that I had never seen before in Berlin (and that I would never see again in later years). Little did I know that some of these electrifying individuals would later become famous musicians, for instance a young Aerea Negrot who was only a cute small kitten at the time. This place was captivating, and it surely captured me for years to come and the only time this was ever topped by anything it was by Berghain itself when they opened their “Halle” a few years later that is on the other side of the building.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – KitKatClub, HustlaBall (2006)

When writing a story about memorable experiences in Berlin’s nightlife it is impossible not to mention the KitKat Club. This place gave Berlin a reputation for being sexually wild and ruthless like no other club ever did. It had many different iterations, the one that I was familiar with was in Tempelhof in an old factory for malt. I went there for the first time to a party called HustlaBall that happens there once a year during the erotic fair Venus. It wasn’t the kind of party or club that I would normally go to, but my company that I was working at was somehow involved and so I went with my colleagues to check it out. I had heard of the live sex shows and dark rooms. In the time of the internet it’s practically impossible to be presented with something that you hadn’t seen before. But seeing these things live, right in front of your face is indeed another story. I saw sexual practices that I didn’t even think were physically possible, people in various states of undress, bathtubs that were not for washing, swings that were not for swinging and cages that were not for animals. And this was just the harmless stuff! I was shocked, more than once, but I was also excited that something so liberal was even possible in a party. Everything that I’ve seen afterwards was peanuts.

The Naked Lady – Lab.oraty, Private Lady Gaga Aftershow Party (2010)

Speaking about sex clubs, I’m not done yet with this topic. In 2010 I ended up in yet another one, but this time in a significantly less sexual context. It was the private after show party of Lady Gaga during her Monsters Ball tour. Me and Suz, our party editor at the time, were invited to this exclusive party by POSH, a performer from New York who lived in Berlin and who was part of the Gaga tour. We had featured his shows in Berlin a couple of times and so we ended up on his list of selected individuals who would get the chance to celebrate with Gaga. I kind of didn’t really expect her to actually be there. I saw the show that night and I thought, wow, she must be so exhausted afterwards, how would she have the energy to actually go to a party afterwards. So I went to Lab, the sex club on the side of Berghain, without the expectation to see her. The place was actually kinda cute, a bit smelly and the strangest sex gear and creepy booths, but well, at this point in my life I had seen worse. I walked around in the cellar-like, intimate club checking out the cool party crowd when I noticed an almost naked ass sticking out of a hole in the wall. It was a funny sight, but I didn’t think much of it then. Only when I walked around later to the other side of the wall I realized this was actually Gaga speaking to someone on the other side. So my first encounter with this famous lady was actually with her naked behind.

Sheila Wolf with Lady Gaga at her private After Show Party at Lab, 2010, photo: Sheila Wolf

The party was really amazing though. POSH gave a little show and Gaga cheered for him. She danced around in the crowd and ordered her drinks at the bar like everyone else. It is hard to imagine this after seeing all her videos, her stage show and this huge public persona that she created for herself how she would integrate with so much ease into the Berlin party crowd as if she was just one of them. No attitude, no bodyguards, just her dressed in almost nothing in a smelly sex club in Berlin, surrounded by all these new friends.

The Club that won’t Die – Bar25, Closing Party (2010)

The Bar25 is probably the most legendary club of Berlin that I have witnessed. I am convinced that this place was a big part of the reasons why Berlin started to become such an internationally hyped city about 6 years ago. It’s a place that never wanted to die. It celebrated it’s official closing so many times, I don’t even remember how often we lamented its passing and then it rose from the ashes again the following Spring. But there was this one time, when the closing was actually final. It was more of a coincident that I was there that time, but I am so glad I was because after all these years of listening to the praises of my friends who loved this place so much I could for the first time really understand their compassion. It was a trance-like experience, so many different things going on at this improvised and chaotic little stretch of land along the river Spree. So many areas were open that I had never seen before. Everyone was there, and everyone celebrated like there was no tomorrow. You could feel that this was really the last time because after 8 years it actually felt like everyone was saying their goodbye to this special place.

The following week the Bar25 was actually being demolished. It was the end of an era. But as for many years before this place didn’t want to die. A few films and books about it were released. New clubs from the same people opened up (and closed down again). Currently a huge project is being built on the grounds of the former Bar25 that includes not only a club, but also a urban farming project, a theater, gallery and artist studios, restaurant and so much more. It seems like the spirit of the bar will never die.

A Nightmare to Remember – Mindpirates, Halloween Party (2011)

Of all the places in my selection of the most unforgettable parties the Mindpirates is pretty much the most underground and unknown one. In fact it was even unknown to me for a long time, until Claudio dragged me there for their annual Halloween party that he had heard of before. It was quite the surprise, not only for the unique and spooky looking location inside an old mill at the waterside, but also for the guests who had some of the most elaborate and original Halloween costumes that I had seen in a long time. I could tell this was a place for friends because it was a quite familiar and intimate atmosphere. We were happy to be warmly welcomed and I had a terrific time taking animated GIF party photos of the night. As I am a big fan of Halloween I have been to many costume parties before and after, but this one still remains the most unforgettable Halloween night of all…

Mindpirates Halloween 2011

Thinking back to all these awesome party nights really makes me a bit nostalgic. But how about you? What were your most memorable nights in Berlin? In their latest video clip AXE is showing not only their new limited Black Night edition but also their vision of how an unforgettable night could look like. Check it out and share your own little story with us below.

Thanks for the support by AXE

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<a href="" target="_self">Frank</a>



Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of iHeartBerlin. He takes photos, makes videos, and writes texts mostly about what's going on in Berlin. His vision and interests have shaped iHeartBerlin since its conception back in 2007 - and he hopes to continue bringing you the best of Berlin for many years to come.