There’s more to Berlin than countless galleries, museums, incredible architecture, fierce winters, and Christmas markets. Across the German capital a club scene flourishes, while many elsewhere flounder. An old power station houses the legendary Berghain techno nights, you’ll find huge music festivals in an old dog biscuit factory, or how about Weekend? Situated in a communist-era tower, here you can watch the dawn sweep across the city on a rooftop terrace. Post-millennium Berlin deserves its reputation as the true party capital of Europe, but it’s not just fabulous venues which enable a rocking party. The music and the crowd are equally important. Now DJ Markus Saarländer is bringing a little bit of this ethos to Britain, with his Berlin Brighton events. He recalls when one of the city’s bigger promoters came to his night for the first time. “He said, ‘You’ve got everybody here. Every demographic we’ve been trying to get to our night are all at yours. It’s a whole spread.’ That’s a beautiful thing.” Held once a month at Green Door Store, with other special nights popping up all over town, these are a journey through the real Berlin underground. They draw together many different musical genres and have built a huge and loyal local following.
When the night first started, it drew attention for its quirky Berlin-centric visuals. They would display images David Hasselhoff posed with puppies, or scenery and graffiti from Berlin. But the aim was not just to embrace certain Germanic memes, but to demonstrate that the nation offered more than pure techno. “It’s not about being bashed about the face with a cowbell,” Saarländer tells me. “It’s actually saying Berlin is a diverse and beautiful city.” This desire brings together nu-disco and house through to techno and trance, and so the image of Teutonic music being tough and insular is robustly challenged.
Born to a German father and an English mother, Saarländer grew up just south of Manchester. Occasional notes of Mancunian do drift into a nearly imperceptible accent. He moved down to Brighton six years ago, and the relocation brought a yearning to create something special. “At the turn of the century, particularly around the World Cup, being German started becoming quite cool. Growing up in the ‘90s, there was still a bit of a stigma, with the football and the war, particularly at school… So, I hid it a little bit. I came to Brighton, and started to go over to Berlin, Cologne and Munich, when I thought: ‘now is the time to do something for the Fatherland in this country…’” Drawing on his own skills and connections as a DJ, he’s gone on to develop one of Brighton’s most funky, friendly and colourful parties.
Over the last few months they’ve attracted Swiss electronic music superstar Kellerkind, Dave Seaman and his Selador imprint, and held a show with Mother Recordings’ stars Nhan Solo, Superlover and Nolan. There’s a host of established artists willing to squeeze a slot at Berlin Brighton into their busy touring schedule. “These DJs play all over the world. I was looking at Kellerkind’s schedule and he’s playing festivals everywhere. So, I was thinking: ‘Is he going to like the Green Door? It’s a little bit… little.’ But he just came in and loved it. That crowd and that vibe we draw in just emanates. Everyone says it’s such a great party.” It’s not only massive names that keep this dancefloor moving. There’s also a big focus on local talent, with many fresh-faced hopefuls given a shot. Redressing the gender imbalance in dance music is also addressed. On every line-up you’ll find at least one female DJ, including Sami Kubu, Lady Lola, Suze Rosser, Milk, Just Her, Claire Spooner, and Maria Machtdieweltbunt. Even the traditionally lowly and ignored resident DJs are given the same amount of promotion as the Berlin Brighton headliners. These are pushed through the club’s regular shows on Trickstar Radio and given equal space in promotional material.
The rest of 2017 year also sees summer beach parties at The Tempest, and the cementing of plans to take Berlin parts to quirky venues in other cities, including London, Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds, and Southampton. They’re even taking the ‘Brighton vibe’ over to Berlin, as well as more hook-ups with major labels and like-minded individuals.
The Green Door Store is in many ways the perfect venue for what he’s trying to do with his night. Located under the arches of Brighton Station, it’s got an unpretentious quality. This returns to the golden age of dance music when you’d head somewhere knowing you’d find reasonable door tax, good drinks, and great music. Saarländer keeps the atmosphere lively with plenty of party-starting freebies such as confetti cannons, glow-sticks and stickers handed out on the door, not to mention a crowd-warming soundtrack. ”A large proportion of people that come to our events are Spanish, South American or Italian. They’ve been a huge pillar of what we’re doing. They love to party. Especially the Spanish – they always go hard. It adds to the vibe when there’s such a big mix of people.” It’s all about the records that are played. There’s no time for egos, fashion statements or pretension. Representing and including everybody, regardless of gender, orientation, or age, has been part of Berlin Brighton from the start. A little personality and heart is being thrust back into the clubbing experience.
Berlin Brighton, featuring Markus Saarländer, Timo Garcia and Just Her, comes to Concorde 2 for a Pride party with Trickstar Radio on Sat 5 Aug (daytime show). You’ll also find them once a month at Brighton’s Green Door Store.