What the Miami Club Scene Can Learn From Berlin

Wake up in Berlin, Germany, on any given Sunday to check your weather app and the forecast reads: dreary. You knew this, though. You taste it in your morning breath and smell it in the ashy air. Still, you get up and shower, put on your party pants, and stop by a kiosk for beer or Club-Mate. This afternoon you’re out dancing – no matter the weather. Bleak is as fashionable as black in Berlin.

Meanwhile, a dreary day in Miami is enough to break spirits and plans. South Florida gets nearly twice as much sunlight as Berlin each year, so it’s no surprise Miamians are accustomed to the sun like Berliners are accustomed to poetically dismal weather forecasts.

Despite this difference, Berlin and Miami have a lot in common. Both cities are defined by their mix of international residents and both tolerate a steady stream of tourists. And, most importantly to this piece, both cities are top-tier party towns on their respective sides of the Atlantic.

Still, the cities' club scenes are as different as their weather patterns. We wondered what Miami, oft regarded as the clubbing capitol of America, could learn from its bleak, black, Old World counterpart. Our Berlin-based correspondent weighed in.
Curate crowd with German engineering

Rank Berlin’s clubs by your chances of getting rejected and you’ll have an approximate list of the city’s best to worst venues. This might seem to halt fun, but the finicky door folk make damn sure the atmosphere inside is conducive to an all-round good time. Some call them selectors. Others call them door bitches. Berlin's bouncers make a living off of pretense, prejudice, and the disappointment of tourists. Ok, that’s also true of many Miami door people, but it’s different in Berlin.

Miami's bouncers look at facial features, high-fashion sense, and apparent finances to determine your worth. Berlin’s door bitches consider your passion to party and potential to fit like a cog in their club machine. In Miami, you want to stand out. In Berlin, you need to fit in to get in.

No one speaks in the limbo of the line. At Berghain — a club so infamous, the New Yorker ran a feature piece on it — the herd of wannabe attendees are dressed in funeral black with attitudes to match because nothing says, "I’m a cog in your club machine," like a pair of dark jeans, some Doc Martens, and a melancholy mien. Angst is everywhere, but apathy is key. Anyone who thinks they’ll get in probably won’t.

Wretched as the wait may be, everything inverts inside the club. Pretense and prejudice become taboo; what was fixed becomes flexible; conversations between strangers abound; differences are celebrated; and all that subdued fervor erupts as collective eargasming. This is the atmosphere of a compatible crowd.

Curating such a crowd is more of an art than a science, and it takes experience. Miami's bouncers refer to a list. Berlin’s turn to intuition, like sommeliers of clubbing cuisine.
No mirrors, no photos

Proper partying unites the ego with the other, and everyone kind of becomes one. There’s no party hierarchy. There's no bottle service at Berghain. There's no room for self-absorption, no mirrors, no cameras, or other devices that dissociate you from the moment.

A dance floor selfie is a flagrant foul. Spill your drink on us. Steal our lighter. Make long distance calls when you borrow our phone. Just please, please do not pose for a picture in front of the DJ booth, or the bar, or the bathroom, or anywhere.

On any given night in one of Miami's mega-clubs, you're liable to see more selfies than a Kardashian family reunion. 

Photos are verboten at Kater Blau, a quintessentially Berlin club, once an illegal squat, now tucked to the side of a metro line along the river Spree. To enforce the rule, they put little stickers over your cellphone camera lens as a deterrent and reminder. One strike and you’re out.

But Berliners still love to capture moments and we’re all suckers for nostalgia, so inside Kater you’ll find a retro photo booth where a two euro coin buys a strip of four, small, black-and-white photos – tangible reminders of times you won’t remember.
Less cover, provide reentry, and create a place where people want to stay

Even with some big-name DJ on the bill, Berlin clubs rarely charge more than $20 cover. Berghain’s €16 ($18) entry fee is seen by many as extreme. “Berlin ist arm, aber sexy,” mayor Klaus Wowereit quipped over a decade ago, and the “poor but sexy” slogan still applies. Few Berliners are willing to break the bank on cover charge. The average fee hovers between $10 to $15.

But these parties last for days, as James Murphy recalls on LCD Soundsystem’s “North American Scum.” It’s not uncommon for an event to start Saturday and finish Monday morning. Of course, only Übermensch can party without recess, so you’re almost always free to come and go as you please. Reentry is the rule rather than the exception. Door bitches even drop the attitude once you’ve been admitted, and they’ll welcome you back warmly, as long as your stamp hasn’t rubbed off in transit.

The 305 got a taste of this sort of party style last Miami Music Week with Damian Lazarus' 24-hour Get Lost party. Attendees enjoyed a lax reentry policy, and were able to go home and shower, eat, and refuel before coming back to finish the party. 

In Berlin, cirus-like clubs like Sisyphos make huge efforts to keep you around by supplying all domestic essentials and then some. A kiosk inside stocks everything from lollipops to cigarettes. A food truck sells goods from coffee and croissants to personal pizzas. There are plenty of cushions in private and quiet places if you ever need to rest. And from floor to floor, the music varies from techno to house and everything in between to suit your current groove.

Going out is an adventure in Berlin that may last days. In contrast to Miami’s 12-hour sprints, Berliners try to ride that high through the peaks and troughs of euphoria, as if leaving is defeat. Venues perpetuate that mentality and accommodate it by giving guests no reason leave.
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Dyllan Furness is Miami New Times' "foreign" correspondent. After earning a degree in philosophy from the University of Florida, he crossed the pond and dove into music, science, and technology from Berlin.
Contact: Dyllan Furness