Chrome Sparks, Bearcubs and Free Love at Berghain

If you listen to Berlin’s seasoned club-goers, there’s never a bad time to Berghain.

Walking into the swirling smoke and sonic pulsations during the after-work slot on a Tuesday might feel peculiar in any other setting. But here, it works fine.

Certain People, jointly hosted by the club itself and Melt! Booking has been a regular fixture in the Berlin calendar for years, showcasing the best in live electronic music, from Wild Beasts to Forest Swords to Machinedrum. The crowd tonight is an eclectic mix: 50% tourists and students, 30% regulars and 20% old-timers who’ve probably never really left. 0.2% gig reviewers make up the numbers.

Certain People, jointly hosted by the club itself and Melt! Booking has been a regular fixture in the Berlin calendar for years, showcasing the best in live electronic music.

It’s Bearcubs who gets things rolling tonight. The man from the UK starts the place moving with his atmospheric post-dubstep, his set-up accompanied only by a drummer and his own voice. Having first caught attention with a series of club-friendly remixes, it’s clear that Bearcubs’ own productions are seeking a more intricate, darker sound. His most recent single ‘Haunts’, is the stand-out of the bunch.  James Blake, watch your back.

Chrome Sparks, hailing from NYC, is a more seasoned performer, and it’s obvious from the get-go that this is a man with extensive experience in getting-the-fucking-party-started. Paired with a live drummer and creating impressive effects on his live vocals, the set starts with an arpeggiated synth and drum intro, shaking the crowd into action for the first time. Opener ‘The Meaning of Love’ is clearly a favoured hit, being emotional and epic in equal weight and setting the tone for what’s to come. There are few breaks between tracks over what is almost an hour’s journey through strands of house, ambient, and straight-up, balls-out electro.

It’s obvious from the get-go that this is a man with extensive experience in getting-the-fucking-party-started.

At times there is subtlety akin to Gold Panda’s mesmeric style; at others, we’re closer to Moderat territory. Halfway through, the sound system and strobes are really put to work. The crowd responds, and you have to step out of the moment to remember it’s 22:30 on a Tuesday, not early hours on Saturday.

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As a parting gift, Chrome Sparks slowly brings in ‘Marijuana‘, which six years after release, still gets the biggest welcome of the night. Given that several among the audience had been preparing for the track by indulging in its namesake throughout the night, the energy levels are surprisingly… well, high.

You have to step out of the moment to remember it’s 22:30 on a Tuesday, not early hours on Saturday.

It’s left to Free Love to close out the event. The Scottish duo provide a lighter, 80s disco-influenced sound, even performing some of their songs in French to boot. Suzi Rodden, assuming lead vocal duties, deserts the stage regularly to wander in and out of the crowd, glass of red wine carefully balanced in hand, increasing the slightly unnerving feeling that we’ve time-warped into a New Order show afterparty hosted by someone’s dad.

Remembering that it’s a work night, and that IB don’t pay me enough to give up the day job (cough – editor), I make my way home in the October chill. Certain People will be back at the end of November, and based on the sheer frenetic fun of this evening, so will we.

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