"Love und Peace"
Berlin, 8th june 1995. The time is 11 AM and it's already hot. Very hot. You can see people slowly flocking together along the Wittenbergplatz and the Kurfurstendamm. Young people all in colors, contrasting somewhat with the grayness inherent to the streets of Berlin. The scattered flocks of people become noticeably thicker and larger. Soon, they will merge in one huge crowd, for today is the seventh edition of the Love Parade.
A big event. You can smell it in the air. The scent of a coming thrill, a hidden euphoria preparing to build itself up and explode in the open. You know there will be dancing and cheering, waving and fussing. You can feel the magnitude shaping beyond the horizon, a huge ever-growing pulsating turmoil coming from nowhere. Smells like teen spirit. On acid.
This year, like in the past, the figures will outgrow themselves. Strange to know this beforehand. The parade hasn't begun yet, and still you know for sure that this year it will be bigger, crazier and trippier. In 1989, there were 150 love paraders. The next year, attendants reached the number of 2000. Last year, 120.000 people were reported present, and this year, the statistics will double at least. Yes, the '95 edition of the Love Parade will be more momentous and memorable than ever. Besides, isn't this the way these sort of things always go?
The crowd has finished uniting. It's one long human chain extending several kilometres into the heart of Berlin. Everybody is here. The party can begin. The floats won't be long to pull in, we'd like to believe, but as strange as it may seem, we can't detect the slightest note above the roar of the gathering.
So what you get is this: hundred thousands of people waiting in silence for a celebration under a burning sun. A startling sight. Officially, the Love Parade is a demonstration, exactly like, say, a union march. The application to demonstrate submitted to the local authorities on march 13th contained the following statement: "With this Love Parade we wish to demonstrate for peace in the world. Specifically, we demand a cease-fire in Bosnia, Tschetscheny and Mexico".
Note: there are no banners, no barricades, no slogans. Second note: They aren't really missing, not inasmuch as there never have been any in the past neither.
This is also the reason why the police weren't too cheerful about the permits. As a matter of fact, earlier this year, police has refused to license the event. When the promoters asked for clearance, they just got a plain 'no' as repartee. The police standpoint was this: "Our experience from the past showed us that the Love Parade is absolutely deprived of any collective or politically relevant statement." In other words, the Love Parade is nothing but a loud techno party disturbing the public peace of the municipality. A "Schnickschnack".
They are right, of course. The Love Parade really is nothing
but a loud techno party.
The floats are nearing. You can hear the beat. The crowd is stirring up, excited by the upcoming rhythms. People are running in opposite directions - you can hear the beat, but you can't tell where it's coming from. Conflicting streams of human motion are wrenching the previously homogeneous mass. But the atmosphere is positive. There isn't any turbulence, just currents and waves and a hint of techno. The heat is at its peak. People are throwing water at each other. Others carry water-guns. Can't hold back an eerie vision about Germans carrying guns. But there is more: futuristic designed water-shooting devices. Supply bottles mounted on the back, flexible tubes reaching in and surfacing back into shooting gloves or headsets (!). Where the hell do you get these from? Anyway, the resulting sprays are powerful and target-reaching. People get wet by the snipers and laugh.
In 1989, the first Paraders danced around a clapped out VW bus for "Peace, Love and Pancakes". The initiator of the Love Parade, DJ Dr.Motte aka Matthias Roenigh, explained the statement as such, "Peace stands for disarmament, Love stands for better understanding between people through music and Pancakes for the fair distribution of food throughout the world."
It's easy to be cynical about the Love Parade, and at the same time, it's hard not to be.
A major kick-ass party is going on in the streets of Berlin. Tens of different colourful floats are parading along the Kudamm. People follow the trucks while dancing to the sounds dispatched by mighty boxes mounted on the back of the vehicles. Dancing while you're walking is a difficult exercise. Besides the swing and the bodily beat-claps, one has to hop along to catch up with the procession. An alternative is to jump on one of the passing floats and party on the driven platform.
Note: jumping on the bandwagon never got such a literal meaning. The floats are varied and they all play different music. Depending on your taste, you can choose to stick to one of them, or else, if you don't care, just stay where you are, and you'll get to see the floats passing one by one. All the floats represent a label, club or party promoter. The Belgian Bonza label, very popular in Germany, broadcasts their jumpy hardcore while the prestigious E-werk club is exposing a wide selection of quality dance music. There is also a deep/happy house cart, a jungle lorry (very good), and lots of German trance vans. The one we like the most is the Relief wagon, with live DJ's working it out on the front of the car. If dancing while parading is difficult, how fastidious must their task be - beatmatching tunes on a riding vessel?!
Relief is a label operating in Chicago, established and maintained by black artists. Like most experimental house labels from the US, they are mainly appreciated and acknowledged in Europe. The recent hype that has emerged around the label has convinced the artist members to go out on a European tour. And so they were hosted by E-werk in Berlin, by Crammed Discs in Brussels and by the Ministry Of Sound in the UK.
Black musicians getting almost exclusive recognition across the ocean is a paradox contained in the so-called house movement. There are many others.
The sun is declining. The party isn't, though. German youth is celebrating a new music that has produced its own fashion, attitude and consciousness. It's an adapted version of the Peace and Love thang. A variation on the theme of universal harmony. People of all nations uniting under one groove. There is nothing more to that. No ideology, no strategy, no leadership. Nothing more, but nothing less. How does a four hundred thousand meter square dancefloor sound to you as a political argument?
The particularity of the house movement relies in its portability. House can replicate itself everywhere. It doesn't need to sustain itself. A sound system, a DJ and people in a certain state of mind - whether chemically enhanced or not - and let there be House. You can find raves and ravers on the most remote places on earth. But in Europe, the phenomenon has been brought one step further: techno has become a market-place. A trade with its own blend of shareholders, stocks and exchange rates. A trade modulated and defined by financial, social and - no matter how shallow they might appear - political forces. A trade targeted by major corporations.
One of the biggest rave organisation in Germany is Low Spirit. Besides
supporting one of the most popular raves in Europe, Mayday, they
manage their own label and sub-labels with signings like Raver's
Nature, Hard Sequencer, Marusha and Westbam. Low Spirit is a branch
of Urban, which in turn relies on Polydor's management. From here,
you might trace the connection further to Polygram's head-office, and,
ultimately, you'll land in the middle of a Phillips' board of trustees
This is not to say they'll be discussing the latest Black Dog remixes.
The party is officially over. But of course, people are still filling up the streets and, although scarcer, floats continue to draw enthusiasts. Soon, 330 trash terminators will start their duty: cleaning up the mess. For six hours, they will gather thousands of cans, flyers and miscellaneous trash. The heaps of waste left behind last year was, after all, the main issue in the public debate on the Love Parade. The cleaning-up action would normally have had to be paid for from tax money. But tonight, two competing waste disposal companies, ALBA and BSR, are joining forces to get the job done for free.
The Camel people, who have provided to public cigarettes and water in returnable beakers, are joining their booths in order to pack the remaining merchandise.
Senator Dieter Heckelman on the Love Parade: "The opinion of the Senate is that the Love Parade creates a very good picture of Berlin as a modern city, open-minded towards the young and happy to receive all the tourists that the event attracts. Definitely, a positive media image."
Just wondering: did the same apply for the folding of the Reichstag?
The Love Parade has ended. The boulevard is cleaned up at light-speed. Now is the time for the parties, after-parties and after-after parties. Special leaflets enlighten the occasional tourist about tonight's program: more than 60 gigs to pick up from. You can go dancing at clubs (E-werk, Bunker, Tresor), festivals (Interference festival), boats (Kiss99's Love party, non-stop from Friday till Sunday) or raving in seas of foam at the park. All the famous DJ's and artists are here, somewhere: Sven Vath, DJ Pierre, Armand van Helden, George Morel, Laurent Garnier, Ritchie Hawtin, Josh Wink, Joey Beltram, Christian Vogel, Dan Curtin....
It's dark now. Neon lights illuminate central skyscrapers and malls. Party people, latecomers and citizens hang out on the avenues. On some corner, a man unfolds his knapsack: a gas mask, aerosol and white paper. He wears the mask, hides a part of his canvas with an old paper, and starts atomising with the spray. In one minute time, he finishes the first drawing. Then he starts the next one. And the next. He's a street artist. A small group of curious people circle around, warily. They look at the drawings. Starscapes.
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