iHeartBerlin lifted the curtain of some of Berlin’s most mysterious nights—to meet the people who stand behind it.
Dance floors are a place of liberation. A space that enables us to forget about the limitations of our everyday lives, to be whoever we want to be—if only for one night. But the liberation, we experience, also needs our understanding of the work behind it; behind the lights, beats and sweat that move our weekends.
Meet seven Berliners who have dedicated their lives to creating a space for others—for liberation, community, and creativity.
Linnéa – No Shade & Trade
The Swedish-born DJ and promoter is pioneering the Berlin scene in various ways, pushing nonconformity into the sound, look, and DJ-booths of the city. As resident-DJ of the Trade party series at underground stronghold OHM, the soon-to-be 28-year-old helps a fresh, non-techno take on club music establishing itself. As co-founder of the No Shade events and mentoring program, she offers aspiring DJs a space to experiment and grow as artists, and—with a strong focus on female, trans and non-binary-identifying members—the project fights a prevailing gender imbalance within the DJ world.
“I got motivated by my own limitations as a beginner DJ”
“A big motivation for me personally was the frustration of my own limitations as a beginner DJ,” Linnéa says, “with no access to new equipment for regular practicing and no real mentor to further develop my skills. When I started in 2014, I used Spotify offline playlists on my iPad connected to the DJ mixer and tried to mix.” Supported by ACUD MACHT NEU, a mix-use venue for art, music and underground culture in Berlin Mitte, the No Shade collective now counts 18 active members, supporting each other in mentoring new talents and producing events.
“I think the kind of mentoring we have been able to give with No Shade is something quite unique,” Linnéa tells us. “Our last event had such an amazing crowd. It’s really heartwarming to see people coming together, enjoying and supporting what we are doing.”
photo: Rebecca Eskilsson, facefilter: iHeartBerlin
Fabio – Gegen
Born in Padua Italy, Fabio moved to Berlin in early 2002. The promoter of Gegen, an infamous debauchery at legendary sex club KitKat, has seen a face of Berlin that most people only fantasize about these days. “I came here when I was just 22, ‘cause I wanted to find similar freaks like me,” he tells us. “The city wasn’t yet eaten by capitalist urbanization. Berlin was still punk.” But against common belief, it wasn’t all gloriously better ‘in the old days’, he states in our interview: “If your background wasn’t gay circuit parties in Schöneberg, there wasn’t much to choose from in Berlin’s queer party scene. That’s why our first party called Sabotage Berlin was born.”
In collaboration with his partner Francesco aka Warbear, Fabio has worked on events that—be it Sabotage or its successor Gegen—have kept their initial premise throughout the years: Creating a safe and playful space where respect and happiness bring folks from all walks of life together. “It’s amazing to see punks, ravers, queers, lesbians and all possible non-binary or gender-fuck creatures dancing together to rough techno into the early morning lights,” Fabio describes with the most genuine excitement. “Seeing these creatures’ smiles is the priceless thing that gives me the strength to keep on going.”
“Berlin’s nightlife is just mutating”
Berlin might be changing, but that doesn’t discourage the nightlife veteran: “I’ve been promoting parties here for 13 years, Berlin nightlife isn’t over. It’s just mutating. In the past, Berlin was more raw and honest—no GHB crisis, no party tourism or fashion ravers; on the other side, the Berlin of today represents the epicenter of electronic music where artists are able to sustain themselves without being exploited.”
photo: Ema Discordant, facefilter: iHeartBerlin
Dominik – Berries
“I believe that Berlin’s nightlife is changing, as nothing remains as it once was. It’s important to stay open to the beauty of these developments,” says Dominik aka Tchuani, DJ, and co-founder of the Berries party series, that has been adding a new rhythm to the city’s soundscape for the last five years. Sheering off the expected four-to-the-floor of House and Techno, Berries is a place where thick Hip Hop beats crack the dance floor of scene-beloved club OHM in half. Yet, it’s more than just the beats surrounding you that make the bi-monthly party a unique dancing experience.
“Since my childhood, I’ve been interested in Hip Hop. As an Afro-German, I was looking for identification mainly in American Hip Hop culture, but I never had the ambition to party to Hip Hop music,” the 32-year-old explains in our interview. “As a homosexual teenager, I felt uncomfortable and even excluded in these spaces because of their testosterone-driven and toxic masculine atmosphere. At the aftershow party of a Cakes da Killa concert in the old Festsaal Kreuzberg, one night before it burned down, my friends and I noticed that there are so many queer, open-minded folks who love Hip Hop in our city, but there was just no regular event offered for this crowd. It was that night, that my co-founders myshkyn, Hanno, Colin and I first thought about what would later become Berries.”
“Nothing remains as it once was.
It’s important to stay open to the beauty of these developments”
A success story—as trailblazers of a Zeitgeist in Berlin’s underground, Berries has inspired several other event series to offer a fresh, and multifaceted version of Hip Hop to a diverse crowd of people. Additionally, the collective has been asked to host their own stage at SPLASH!, Germany’s biggest Hip Hop Festival—a true milestone, not only for the team but the whole of the aspiring, young scene. Dominik’s queer take on male-dominated spaces has not gone unnoticed. For two years, famous gay club SCHwuZ in Neukölln has given him the opportunity to curate the monthly Tasty party—a polyrhythmic Middle-Eastern-Hip Hop-Pop fusion.
Understandably, Dominik is proud of the small Hip Hop oasis, he created: “Racism, homophobia, and misogyny are part of everyday life. But our events are a beautiful example of how wonderful, enriching and inclusive our society can be.”
photo: Lucia Lu, facefilter: iHeartBerlin
Raquel & Chris – Pornceptual
It took two Brazilians to revive nudity as the new normal in the German capital. In the last 6 years, the Pornceptual events have outgrown the underground and shaped into a bi-monthly, scene-spanning happening, pushing sex and body-positivity into a new mainstream culture. “Berlin is the perfect city for a project that is based on freedom of expression,” organizer Raquel tells us. “Running such a big event series can be difficult at times. But in the end, it allows us to create independently and make our own decisions.”
“If it ain’t here, let’s make it happen”—a post-wall Berlin mindset that, gladly, has not been lost yet. And inspired expats Chris and Raquel to start an interdisciplinary collaborative platform, focusing on the liberation of our bodies through art, sex, discourse and lived experiences—whether dark room or dance floor. An unusual and unique fusion that went from inspired idea to contemporary phenomenon. Just imagine 2000 sweaty, half to fully naked bodies moving through the maze of a former coin factory in Berlin Mitte, from art installations, into film screenings, performance spaces, and four dance floors.
“It’s our deep love for art, nightlife, and freedom of expression that brings us together”
“What puts Pornceptual to work are our very different career backgrounds,” Raquel explains. “We run the project collaboratively. Chris is a photographer and handles the creative and artistic side of Pornceptual. I have a management background. So, I handle all organizational parts, such as DJ-bookings, as well as all business-related aspects of the project. It’s our deep love for art, nightlife, and freedom of expression that brings us together.”
photo: Lure, facefilter: iHeartBerlin
Jacob & Danilo – Buttons
Behind one of Berlin’s most notorious, weekend-long raves stands a quirky Italo-American power couple. Jacob and Danilo are the main organizers of Buttons, a monthly party marathon with up to 30 performers at ://about blank—a former GDR-Kindergarten turned techno bunker. The Buttons events are a place for the queers; the fabulous weirdos, extravagant misfits, and eccentric nightlife queens. “I’m very proud of our crowd. I think it is one of the most mixed, fun, warm, and sexy ones in Berlin,” Jacob tells us. “Buttons is all about sexual liberation and celebrating diversity,” Danilo adds, “seeing how diverse and different the mix of people is, always puts a smile on my face and makes me grateful.”
Both of them were already deeply invested in creating queer nightlife spaces in Chicago, Bologna, and Berlin, when they met each other at Cocktail d’Amore—one of the biggest gay parties in town. What better place for two lovers of the night to find their counterpart. Together, they were able to take their love for nightlife to the next level. “We have a great supporting team, but organizationally, it is just the two of us,” Jacob, who is also one of the party’s resident DJs, explains. “I try to set things up thoroughly beforehand, so that everything runs smoothly, while Danilo is an expert at orchestrating the show once we go live.” Danilo smiles: “I’ve been in Berlin for more than 10. So, I know the people, and the scene we’re in. I like to see myself as a catalyst and talented scout who is able to bring people together.”
“Berlin’s nightlife is far from over. There are so many new collectives starting incredible nights”
Both are contributing to a queer Berlin nightlife culture that—despite common nostalgia about ‘better days’—is livelier, more experimental and progressive than ever. “Just look at what we’re accomplishing with WHOLE Festival, where all of Berlin’s queer nightlife comes together for one weekend,” Jacob points out. “I’m from Chicago and its nightlife was past its prime, overly nostalgic, and lackluster before I moved. Things are changing, but in Berlin, I still witness fresh attitudes.” And Danilo weighs in: ”There are so many new collectives starting incredible nights in Berlin. The new party Lecken, for example, is worth mentioning. And the older generation of promoters isn’t stopping anytime soon; from Cocktail d’Amore to Pornceptual, Room4Resistance to Herrensauna. Berlin’s nightlife is far from over.”
photo: Ema Discordant, facefilter: iHeartBerlin