In these ‘Vegas’ days you could be forgiven for thinking that nightclubs were all created fresh and unique in the grounds of 5 star hotels.
However there are numerous clubs around the planet that started out as something quite different – things that you may not expect.
Here are 5 of our favourites club history tales
Berghain has officially reopened its doors as an art gallery.
The plan for the venue to temporarily shift its focus to an art exhibition was initially revealed last month. Staff previously working at the club have been retrained as tour guides, while the front of the club has been draped with a banner that says "Morgen ist die frage" (meaning "tomorrow is the question").
Location: Berlin, Germany
Within the world of house and techno, very few clubs come with as much reverence as Berghain and Panorama Bar. Located between the districts of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain in Berlin and open since 2004, the legend of Ostgut (Berghain’s predecessor) began in 1998 with a club derived from the male-only fetish party Snax, that still takes place twice a year in Berghain and the notorious Lab.Oratory located in the same building.
Berghain itself has become famed for line-ups exhibiting the most exciting emerging and established artists in techno; recent bookings include the likes of Rødhåd, DVS1, Dr. Rubinstein and Dasha Rush. Panorama Bar offers more house-centric bookings, for example Eris Drew b2b Octo Octa, Massimiliano Pagliara or Gerd Janson for a Sunday afternoon fix. Säule, the newest floor, opens on Thursdays and is dedicated to more experimental acts and an open-minded music policy.
It’s an institution that has inspired many other scenes, clubs and movements all around the world; residents such as Ben Klock, Marcel Dettmann, Ryan Elliot, Nick Höppner, Steffi and Tama Sumo have become globally established artists in their own right.
The in-house record label Ostgut Ton, established in 2005, has not only defined the club’s sound, but outwardly that of Berlin for over a decade, releasing music by artists heavily associated with the club as well as being home to a well-respected mix series.
Another highly applauded aspect of Berghain is the extended set times; on average artists play between three-to-eight hours, with occasional happenings like a Ben Klock 12-hour marathon. It’s no wonder most DJs that have had the honour of playing there have a story or two to share.
Location: Berlin, Germany
It’s widely considered to be the epicentre for underground electronic dance music. A place where artists are discovered, careers are made, and the Saturday Klubnacht night parties often last until Monday morning. It’s also one of the hardest clubs to get into. But its infamous door policy (and no photo policy) ensure it remains a pinnacle for club culture, where people from nearly every walk of life feel free to be themselves and behave with respectful abandon. The vibe is like no other, and the DJs who are lucky enough to play there know it.
Those include world-famous residents like Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann, who regularly play the techno-centric Berghain floor; Steffi, Nick Höppner and Tama Sumo, who’ve resided over the upstairs house-heavy Panorama Bar floor for years; and a regular cast of guests that in 2018 included The Black Madonna, Ben UFO, DJ Nobu, Leon Vynehall, Craig Richards, Jennifer Cardini, Dasha Rush, and Dixon, along with exciting up-and-comers like Perel, Man Power, and Upsammy. Meanwhile, the newer Säule floor constantly brings boundary-pushing names in experimental music — including a takeover by Клуб, one of Russia’s wildest clubs — every Thursday.
As long as Berghain stands, it’s hard to imagine anything better.
Location: Berlin, Germany
It’s one of the most secretive places in the world, but Berghain is also one of the most globally respected nightclubs to open its doors in the past few decades. Formerly named Ostgut (the inspiration behind its label counterpart, Ostgut Ton) it was a home for notorious male fetish parties in the late ‘90s, and in 2004 found a permanent fixture in the former power plant now called Berghain located in the Friedrichshain district. Residents such as Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann have become names synonymous with the techno floor, learning their craft on the finely tuned Funktion One soundsystem that staggers the concrete walls. Above is Panorama Bar, the safe haven for the house heads and often at its finest hour on Sunday afternoons. The shutter moments have become legendary; the moment those blinds lift to let shards of sunlight across the dancefloor are unforgettable. With one of the strictest door policies we know — infamous doorman Sven Marquardt has even written a book of his memoirs — it’s become a privileged moment for those who walk through the graffiti covered doors. Once in amongst the open-minded, anything-goes crowd, be prepared to stay until Monday morning.
There's no club more ensconced in clubbing lore than Berlin’s Berghain. Even the head doorman is famous. And while the club’s hype is undeniable, anyone who’s partied there knows just how well-deserved its global reputation is. The Berghain floor is nothing but techno, pumped pure out of the room’s expertly tuned Funktion One system for 30-plus hours every Saturday by residents like Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann; DJs who preside over the concrete cathedral like techno demi-gods. The blacked out room is a notorious time vortex — once you’re sucked in, you forget anything else exists.
The upstairs Panorama Bar is a house lover’s dream, where mainstays like Nick Höppner, Stef and Virginia play three-hour or more sets to an adoring and knowledgeable crowd. On Sunday afternoons — the preferred time to party for regulars — shadows cast an ethereal glow on the white-tiled room as sunlight streams through the shuttered windows, opened usually once a weekend and always at the perfect moment. Some decry the club’s strict and subjective door policy, but it clearly works. The vibe is always diverse, hedonistic and welcoming once you’re inside. Ultimately, Berghain is not for everyone. But for those who love it, it’s the best club in the world.
The simple but effective two pronged attack of this underground dance music mecca continues to be like catnip to cool club kids all over the world. For techno, the dark and dusty, vast and industrial dungeon of Berghain offers a place to lose yourself, your mind and your fiends to the most cutting edge sounds of the day.
As well as globally renowned residents like Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann, on point guests pass through for marathon events on a weekly basis. For house lovers, the less intense but equally atmospheric Panorama Bar is where regulars like Cassy and Tama Sumo, plus guests from around the world, keep kids dancing from dusk til dawn (in fact, being in there when the sun begins to peak through the shutters is one of dance music’s most mythologised moments).
Berghain and Panorama Bar parties are hugely extended affairs, the door policy remains a much debated mystery and the in-house label continues to lavish us with house and techno from all the club’s closest friends, and with that it is easy to see why this remains one of the most important clubs of its era.