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Reflections on the Love Parade (1995)

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What happened later that year ensured that Motte's little invention would be more successful than he ever could have imagined. When the Wall came down on 9 November, it did more than liberate East Germans from the communist GDR, it also liberated East Berlin's physical space. Suddenly there were new places to party in, new people to party with and a new sound to party to.

Techno had already found a place in the hearts of West German clubland's opinion formers, but when the Wall fell, the intense electronic abandon of the music somehow synergised with the atmosphere of the moment. Liberation! Techno! One nation under a groove! Mehr energie! Clubs occupied buildings left abandoned by the Communist regime and its collapsing industry –disused factories, bunkers and power stations – and the youth of East and West danced together for the first time.

“I don't really care who is from where,” a clubber at Tresor, held in a derelict bank vault, said at the time. “Here in the darkness, there are only happy, sweaty bodies.” “They will have to build a new Wall if they want to mess this up,” offered another.

By 1991, the Love Parade had grown to 5,000 people; in 1992 there were 15,000; in 1993, 60,000. Techno had become one of the dominant currents in German pop culture and techno records appeared in the charts with increasing regularity. Germany, for the first time since the post-punk bands of the Neue Deutsche Welle movement in the 1980s, had an indigenous music to be proud of.

Thomas Fehlmann, a key figure in Berlin's musical community since the early 1980s and currently co-producing Erasure's next album, says that its increasing size and diversity strengthened rather than diluted the scene. “You could say techno has become the establishment because little record labels from five or six years back are now big money-spinners. At the time of the Neue Welle, record companies were still important in terms of paying for studio time for people to make a record; now people are just banging it out in their homes, and that sustains it.” Changes in the Berlin techno scene seemed to reflect changes in the city as a whole: the endless construction, as some of the more bizarre party spaces were eradicated by property development; the establishment of order over lawless grey areas, as clubs like Tresor achieved legal status; and the arrival of multinational concerns in the city. German rave flyers started to look like Formula One cars, spattered with corporate sponsors' logos. This was no more apparent than at 1992's Love Parade, when Philip Morris saturated the party with promotional material and giveaway packets of fags. This year, Camel cigarettes set up booths along the Ku'damm offering free water alongside heightened brand awareness.

From a British perspective, this sponsorship appears incongruous and somewhat distasteful. Yet, conversely, the Germans are bemused at the British government's attitude to raves. The same weekend as the Love Parade, a collective of activists attempted to throw two free parties in the English countryside to demonstrate the unworkability of the Criminal Justice Act.* As we danced through the Berlin streets, a gun-toting uniform nodded his head to the groove with a smile on his face. Back in London, meanwhile, police were kicking down the doors of Advance Party organisers and charging them with conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.

* The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (CJA) was passed in Great Britain in 1994. It prohibited unlicensed open-air events where music “wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats” was played for 100 persons or more, and it gave police the power to break up gatherings of ten or more persons if those persons were believed to be waiting for a rave – eds.

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