After a two year hiatus the world famous Loveparade was resurrected in Berlin on July 15, 2006. Much debate about the financials eventually saw the ousting of the Loveparade's father Dr. Motte, but with the arrival of a new main sponsor (a large fitness studio chain) the "new" Loveparade could finally go ahead. The float and musical concepts were changed slightly: floats were no longer the responsibility (organizational and financially) of the "promoters of club culture", but were provided free of charge by the Loveparade. Musically, it was opened somewhat from just "techno" (which had always been a rather broad term) to other sub-genres of EDM, such as house and D'n'B. Also, the route was shortened slightly, and the part of the old route that now wasn't covered by the parade itself was used to set up stationary stages for underground talent. What remained, of course, was the big closing rally around the victory column which has always been a highlight of the Loveparade.
After all the debate in the past three years since the last Loveparade in 2003, it was rather unclear what success this one would have. Would it draw crowds of up to a million again? And what would it feel like, would "the spirit" still be there? Well, with attendance of approximately half a million people, the new Loveparade was clearly a success. Hopes (and subsequent estimates by the organizers) of 1.2 million people were clearly wishful thinking, but half a million is no small number. The Parade went smoothly, people had a good time, the final rally appeared unchanged, and last but not least the weather was perfect. And yet, to me the Parade was not the same.
I immediately had the feeling that there was something amiss when I arrived in Berlin at Bahnhof Zoo on Friday night at about 10:30 pm. It was the utter silence that struck me first. Unlike in past years, the city wasn't in the firm grip of the techno scene with techno music blasting from every direction, hoards of party people flooding the streets, makeshift parties with portable DJ gear everywhere, shops and vendors selling party accessories. Nothing of the sort, just another regular weekend in Berlin.
Then the selection of parties on both Friday and Saturday night was much smaller than it used to be. The 'Loveweek', introduced by the Berlin club scene in 2004 to celebrate electronic music without the Parade (see 2004 review) and also held in 2005, was notably absent. The line-ups at the parties that did take place were by far not as stellar as they used to be.
At the Parade, the crowds seemed different. For one, there were people that looked like they didn't belong there. There had always been the odd grandma, but on the whole it was an affair of "party people". Now, there were many more non-party people. Many (those?) people apparently had too strong a preference for alcohol, which led to a somewhat less relaxed atmosphere and more aggression than in the past. Police was busier than usual ending fights.
Then there was the music. These days, minimal and tech-house are the fashionable styles, rather than banging techno or trance. This is fine, yet these genres just don't lend themselves to large mass events such as this. They just don't get crowds large as this moving as the music a few years back did. It is way more appropriate and actually rocks in small clubs (such as Robert Johnson in Frankfurt/Offenbach or Watergate in Berlin).
Maybe as a result of this, party-wise the general mood seemed more passive. But there was something else. Rather than this being the united party people actively celebrating their very own Loveparade, it appeared that people had come there to consume the Parade, like they would consume a TV show. The rather appropriate opening song of the closing rally, 'Be Angeled' by the late Mark Spoon, performed live in his honor wasn't greeted by the deafening cheers of the masses which could have turned this into a rather moving moment of serious goose bumps. My personal anti-climax was that Paul van Dyk didn't close his final set of the closing rally with 'For an Angel', but that was just my own disappointed expectation, though others agreed.
Provided the financials can be sorted out again I'm sure the Loveparade will take place again next year. Clearly, official perception of the Loveparade has changed too, from near-hostility to embracing it as a boon for the city. Even the Berlin tourist office now has cooperated with the organizers and actually claims it's attempts to do so in the past had been rejected by the team around Dr. Motte. Who knows.
All in all, of course I had a good time at both the Parade and the pre- and after parties Friday and Saturday night. It was just that I missed that "sprit", or dare I even say, that "PLUR spirit"....
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