In August, the Resident Advisor film on Detroit gave us a chance to reflect on that city’s cultural response to economic catastrophe. To talk about a city that has seen sweeping change and challenge, it’s difficult to beat Berlin. Resident Advisor released the third installment of this series in September, but I missed it as I was traveling … somewhere … and it’s no less relevant today, least of all on a gorgeous, sunny day in the German capital on the eve of the coming winter.

The creators describe it thusly:

For the third edition of Real Scenes, RA and Bench go to one of the most special places for electronic music in the world: Berlin. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, techno became the underground soundtrack to the reunion between East and West. In recent years, it’s become an international destination for ravers—a cheap place to party with clubs that are renowned throughout the world.

Techno has become a business in the meantime. Yet Berlin still maintains a credibility that other cities lack. To understand why, RA and Bench went to the German capital eager to find out about its unique history and the reasons behind its continued relevance.

Like my long-time home of New York, Berlin has to answer regularly whether its place as a hub is all hype, whether its best days are behind it. I’d say some of Berlin’s unimaginably worst days are behind it, so this seems an odd question. In a place that served, more than once, as a backdrop against which humanity itself seemed as though it might tear itself apart, no degree of optimism and hope seems naive. Perhaps the same can be said of the planet. The wonderful thing about the Web age is the proliferation of all kinds of hubs and interconnects, some better-known and denser than others, but all vital and potentially growing. New York has had an ongoing run since the 17th Century; Berlin, longer. I suspect all of these places have more than a bit of life left, because of the generations of people who come through them that make it happen. Don’t believe the hype, true, but it’s our job to cut through that.

And yes, for those who haven’t worked this out yet, Berlin is at the moment my personal home base. So hello to those of you here.

  • Ha! Welcome to Berlin then 🙂

    Was thinking something was up when you suddenly wrote about Modersohnbruecke & Steve Jobs.

    I tend to agree – there's plenty of great days to come

    though.. Winter here can be tough! 😉

  • James

    So Peter, you are here now? I'm moving to Berlin next month. Ever since visiting the place in June, I've wanted to live there. The vibe I felt straight away is nothing to do with hype or other, the place has a vibe… It may be different now to what it is, but the place has a vibe and that's undeniable.

  • I was told, when i moved here to Berlin, that berlin is a city that is in a constant state of "becoming".  you feel it here.  there is always the feeling that something is about to happen.  whether it does or not is irrelevant.  that energy propels you.  I plan to be here for a long time. 

  • DEB

    And of course the famous quote from a Berlin mayor (I think it may be the current one): "We are poor but sexy".

  • Peter Kirn

    @DEB: I thought it was "cheap but sexy," which for me sounds like a watchcry worth backing!

  • heinrichz

    i lived and worked there from 03-07..this video captures the mood nicely ! i hear rumors that the city is trying to tax the clubs more though, so let's hope they are not making the same mistakes like nyc, even though here it was mainly the real estate that killed the music and club scene..that's why the wall street protests could be a glimmer of hope at last. we have to start occupying spaces instead of sweating the rent and getting evicted.

  • N. Tufnel

    What's wrong with being sexy?

  • Well written Peter… I can only agree with James and I'm looking forward to moving there as well, though it's got to be another 9 months from now due to other personal/university-related stuff going on here..

  • "Lets all move to berlin and write music software"

  • Arthur

    @DEB&Peter: Actually it's: "Arm aber sexy", meaning "poor but sexy". Personally, I'm rather poor than cheap…

    If any of you moving-to-the-B-guys has any questions about Berlin, drop me a short line and I'll try and answer them. Been living here since 30+ years…

  • oblix

    Wasn't Berlin always the 'hot spot' for creativity and freedom (Nazi time excluded). In the 20s it was probably the most famous, creative, socially, politically and sexually free, industrial and international city in the world.

    Think Fritz Lang, the Bauhaus, Carl Jung.

  • Whats with their whole door picking policies – surely clubbing is about letting *everybody* in ? 

  • alex

    You, the people who think that Berlin is cool after seeing this video, will be the ones to turn Berlin in to a hyped up boring and predictable city as NY or London. So, please don´t move here after seeing this video. Is without the "I´m so cool, I live in Berlin" people that Berlin is interesting!

    Very cool video though!