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04/21/2005: "goodbye, tresor."

Tresor, the legendary techno club in Berlin, shut its doors for good last weekend. The lease on its Leipziger Strasse location near Potsdamer Platz has officially run out, and the building will soon be razed to make way for office buildings. I got the chance to visit the place in February. This is what Tresor looked like:

Note the orange banner on the side, advertising several days of amazing goodbye parties featuring many of the DJs who rocked Tresor over the years. Here's a close-up of the banner. Note the hilarious spelling of "Suburban Knight":

Here's the rest of the sign:

One thing that impressed me about Tresor was how tough it seemed. The techno being played inside was pulse-poundingly hard, hard, hard (and I had gone on a night that billed itself as house music!) There were two different dancefloors that I saw, one upstairs, one downstairs. Neither of them were terribly big, and they were decorated with the barest of blue lights and strobes. It was very dark and smoky in there, a bit of a goth-club vibe almost. Here's the entryway to the club:

As clubs go, it's the best-known, so it attracts more of an out-of-town crowd than the rest. Everyone knows Tresor. Thing is, though, that the commuter crowd that goes to Tresor is unlike any overly-makeupped, glitzy-looking bridge-and-tunnelers you'd see in New York, at Avalon or whatever. Both the boys and the girls I saw on the dancefloor at Tresor projected a real hardcore East German, don't-fuck-with-me vibe. Here are some random dudes standing in front of me on the floor:

Over and over again in Berlin, I was struck by how differently people seem to process 4/4 dance music over there, as opposed to here in New York. House and techno feel tougher and rougher, and the crowds feel tougher and rougher too. It's hardly music for the few who are clued-in and fashion-conscious. A place like APT, a teensy lounge in New York's tony Meatpacking District with expensive drinks and a mannered, stylish vibe, has hosted several top house and techno DJs within its claustrophobic confines. The scene there is the total opposite of what you'd see at a club in Berlin. Take, for instance, Michael Mayer, who spun a few weeks ago at Berlin's Berghain/Panoramabar (a.k.a. Ostgut, the crumbling power station turned massive club that I've enthused about on this blog before.) Mayer was spinning as part of Snax, a gay-men-only night that's no-holds-barred (use your imagination here.) Apparently, the scene there gets so hardcore that it takes nearly a week just to clean the place up (think in terms of fluid dynamics) before the club can open its doors again. What I'm getting at is that I'm sort of bewildered by the folks who criticize this music for being too epicurean, too smoothed-over, with no rough edges to chew on. Okay, I thought that way once too--and the crowds at places like APT and the Canal Room certainly wouldn't make me think any differently--before I checked out how this music was being played in other countries. Once I saw what the crowds in Berlin were like in the big clubs, it altered my entire mindset. The tunes, even if they were the same exact tunes I heard in New York, felt darker and harder over there. The records were the same, but the crowds and the setting and the sound system were totally different, and the way that the DJs DJed was different, too. More explanation later, when I'm not so exhausted...

Replies: 9 Comments

I've heard Kompakt records in the upstairs Globius room before. But never in the vault, no.

Mika said @ 05/02/2005 12:36 AM EST

oh ok i see...yeah i know what you mean about the sets alright, they have more time for the less attention grabbing tracks, and if theres less of the poppy stuff then they jump out at you more . . good point...we dont get 6 hour dj sets here in ireland either, just two or three.

Fintan said @ 04/26/2005 12:23 PM EST

haha 'fluid dynamics'

dan said @ 04/25/2005 07:51 PM EST

All the more reason I wish you'd been able to see U.S.E. with me and the EMP crew! Jess's comments on the voib and crowd jibe nicely with these--different locales, different voib, different styles, but similar "This stuff is SO not cocktail-hour bizniz" conclusions.

Matos W.K. said @ 04/21/2005 06:45 PM EST

"It went on", was what I wanted to say. I went on working, not raving.

Tobias said @ 04/21/2005 10:57 AM EST

Hey Geeta,
did you see that posting in the Forum of the Berghain-Homepage, where this guy is looking for the person responsible for all this shit on the toilet wall and this other guy responds: hey don't try to take your lines up the wall, do it horizontal like every other reasonable human being and you have no problems?
I was at Tresor on Sunday afternoon - it was beautiful and sad. It wasn't as crowded as I expected it to be, after all what people told me about the days before where they had to close the Leipziger Straße for hours at night because so many people wanted to get in. I had so much work to do so I didn't go. But in a way I was too late to really get into it on Sunday afternoon. I listened to Richie Hawtin for two and a half hours which was wonderfully def early 90ies Tresor-Berlin-Detroit-A-Techno-Alliance-Techno, sat in the sun for a while, the Tresor garden was open, and then I went home. I went on until Monday at 1 pm, the last record was "Heroes" from David Bowie (at least that's what a friend told me, but who knows, he'd been there and was pretty much wasted).

Tobias said @ 04/21/2005 10:55 AM EST

Agreed that dancing in the Tresor vault is a singular experience ...

The crowds in Berlin *are* rougher and tougher, certainly. Dancing to hard techno in Berlin brings moshpit levels of intensity. People don't slam into each other, but there's a grittiness that you don't get with North American crowds. It's more like dancing for exercise than it is dancing for fun (of course, exercise can also be fun!).

barry said @ 04/21/2005 10:53 AM EST

hey fintan! yeah i just changed it around a bit--i'm a little tired (it's almost 5 am here). yeah tresor is much harder of a scene, more detroit-oriented, i didn't mean to imply they were playing kompakt stuff when i was in there. really it's two separate blog posts in one...which is why it seemed confusing.

the kompakt stuff, though, when it's played over there, sounds really different. part of it is because, i think, the dj sets there stretch out for 6-8 hours, plenty of time to subtly build, whereas when i hear a kompakt dj set in america it's compressed into 2-3 hours, and it sounds way more poppy, more 'hits'-oriented. that's more what i was trying to get at...

geeta said @ 04/21/2005 04:54 AM EST

shame Tresor had to close...down in the vault is probably the best club experience i've ever had.
dont really get your point about kompakt, kompakt records ARE poppy and glossy. Of course the tunes played in tresor are harder and darker - they play hard dark techno music there? I've never heard a kompakt pop record in tresor, but I've heard plenty of Surgeon and Adam Beyer records, get my drift?

Fintan said @ 04/21/2005 04:40 AM EST

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