Monday, June 29, 2009

And Thanks MUYB/Bootie Berlin Crew For an Awesome Time

Check out that picture -- with Party Ben's German heritage, you can't even pick me out of the lineup. Which black-shirted skimpily-facial-haired medium-blond dude might I be? Take your pick. Anyway, great hanging with these kids, and not just because we share 99.99999% of our genes. Andre/Morgoth is busting his butt to bring mashup culture to this techno-dominated city, not that I don't like techno but you know what I'm saying. His lady friend Steffie, co-DJ Dr. Waumiau and host at the "Mashup Hostel" Alex could not have been nicer, and everybody else hanging around and working at Silver Wings and U5 were great. Danke schon, and um, what was it, schon das du hier was?

Party Ben, European Tour Guide, Recommends: Intimes Cafe, Friedrichshain, Berlin

Two words: Sunday Brunch. Four words: Sunday Brunch Buffet 8E50 (approximately $12). 21 words: Holy schiesse I don't think I've ever seen so many varied and delicious plates of brunchy deliciousness in my life. Apparently brunch in Berlin is a big thing, and all the restaurants do it, but I went to Intimes, on Boxhagenerstrasse in the amazing, vibrant Friedrichshain neighborhood of the old East Berlin, and it was like dying and going to heaven. Because you know how I feel about brunch. This one featured about 100 different dishes including cheesy ravioli, stuffed mushrooms with spinach, vegetable medleys, bafflingly tasty couscous, like 17 various fried something or others, smoked salmon, creamy potato salads like heavenly starch clouds, a whole dessert area, and oh yeah, some scrambled eggs. Plus the outdoor table scene with scrabbly punk rockers and funky german families where dad's got bleached hair and mom's got goofy purple little round glasses. Best way to spend a Sunday morning and afternoon in Berlin. Plus my host Alex is like "this buffet is one of the small ones." How soon can I come back?!

I'm just sorry I forgot my camera, but this way, it will always live in my memory.

Tomorrow: off to Vienna for a day and then to the VOLT festival in Hungary, where I'm being treated, a little inappropriately, as a superstar: one of their largest news sites reported on my arrival in Europe on their main blog like I'm some sort of visiting dignitary, and I guess MTV Hungary wants to do an interview as soon as I arrive in Sopron for VOLT. What do they think I am, Girl Talk?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bootie Berlin Goes Well, and Berlin Snacks Continue to Be Awesome

I have to say I was a bit skeptical about the inaugural edition of Bootie Berlin last night; first, it was happening at the Silver Wings club, which is located, crazily, in the old Templehof airport building complex. Templehof, as anyone familiar with WWII will know, is the airport that kept kept Berlin alive when the Soviets closed off access to the city, and is also one of, or maybe the, largest, like, structure, in the world. But it's also a bit out of the way, meaning anybody coming to the club had to really be coming to the club, not just strolling by. But by about midnight, which is actually early for Berlin nightlife, a good crowd had assembled, and when I went on around 1 I had a nicely full dancefloor, who cheered for the new track I made, a mashup of German dancehall combo Seeed and a remix of Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy." (Perhaps in celebration of Gay Pride which the Berliners are also celebrating this weekend).

Sheer exhaustion after getting back from the gig around 6am led me to sleep until 3pm, something I never ever do back home, but thankfully, the Freidrichshain neighborhood I'm staying in has adjusted to the nocturnal habits of its inhabitants and most restaurants say "Frühstück: 10:00 - 16:00" ("Breakfast, 10am-4pm"). Which is how it SHOULD be, goddammit! And this isn't just any breakfast, this is, well, look:

Thick crumply bacon and fried eggs and side salad and multiple bread choices and glgaglgarrrrhghgh. And that was like 4€50, which is just over $6. Not bad, especially for the DJ on a budget.

Also I wanted to mention visiting the Holocaust Memorial near the Brandenberg Gate on Thursday, which was more interesting than I expected. The memorial opened in 2005, and I remember seeing pictures of it around magazines and whatever: a grid of variously-sized concrete blocks, only a few inches high at the perimeters but up to 15 feet high in the center. In pictures, it honestly seemed kind of... pedestrian, I hate to say, like, "okay, gravestones, I get it." But in person, I had a weird experienced that made me appreciate it more. My new Berlin friends had been giving me a tour of the city that day, so there was a group of five of us walking around. The memorial itself isn't separated from the sidewalk so you just can sort of walk in casually. I stopped near the edge, where the concrete slabs are just ankle- or knee-height, to fiddle with my camera and stuff, as my friends continued on, jabbering loudly as we'd been doing all day. I finish taking a picture, probably just a few seconds of distraction, and when I look up, my friends have disappeared. They've walked deeper into the taller slabs, obviously, but it was so sudden: one minute they were next to me, and the next, they were just gone, and I had no idea where they were, and even their voices were weirdly distant echoes that I wasn't even sure were coming from them. I had that brief, instinctual moment of fear, like when you think you've lost the group you're with in an unfamiliar city, which made me laugh for a second, because of course I knew right where they were, generally, but then it suddenly hit me that this might be part of the point of the memorial's structure. Walking into it with a group, you are inevitably separated from them, almost without warning, and left alone, with only fleeting glimpses of other people down the empty rows. It gives you the faintest clue what it must have been like, having people around you, friends and neighbors, suddenly just disappear. The uneven, hilly floor of the memorial is also surprising -- you're walking amongst ankle-height stones at the edge, thinking this is nothing much, and then before you know it you're plunged into darkness, lost between towering concrete slabs. I'm still not sure it's great art (nor am I exactly sure why they had to make clear it's only a memorial to Jewish victims) but it does prove that you have to see some stuff in person.

Anyway. Tonight was supposed to be a more mellow party at a small neighborhood club called the U5 (named for the subway line the space used to be an entrance for) but it turns out some big bar-hopping group thing has made it a stop on their tour and some big Germany TV station is coming by as well, so who knows. I've got to get over there and see if I can make my laptop plug in to their video system for Party Ben video fun times.

Oh and hey: thanks to Dr. Waumiau for playing a bunch of my stuff on his webcast, and to Andre Angenfeld for playing a Party Ben mini-mix on Fritz 102.6FM here in Berlin last night!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Berlin - Photo Highlights

Vee Lavv Berlinnn!

Anybody remember that old "Berlinnium" song? No? Well me and Disco Shawn do. Anyway, it keeps going through my head as I walk around the socialistically-wide streets of the fascinating, lovely East Berlin neighborhood of Friedrichshain. At the main subway station, Frankfurter Tor, you emerge onto an intersection straight out of Moscow: wide streets criss-crossed by streetcar tracks, surrounded by monumentalist post-war architecture. However, the massive buildings are now filled on their ground floors with funky restaurants and bars, and covered with graffiti, and the side streets are crowded with even more shops and bars, and lined with trees. All of this apparently wasn't here, you know, 20 or so years ago, when this was a different country separated from the rest of the city by a frickin wall, which, by the way, is just completely bonkers.

Rewind to my arrival yesterday. Direct flights to just about anywhere in Europe on my schedule of late June to early August were crazy expensive, and after much searching I found a super cheap (about $480) fare on Air Canada from New York, although it's via Toronto on the way out (and Montreal on the way back). So, on Tuesday afternoon, I went from La Guardia to Toronto, sat there for a few hours, then flew to Frankfurt, where I arrived Wednesday around noon, and then spent way too much money on a train ticket to Frankfurt (note to self or anyone else coming to Germany: buy your train tickets in advance even if you're worried about late flights causing you to miss the original train because prices will likely double if you're buying them that day). Round about the time I had to change trains in Hannover yesterday afternoon, I was starting to be in a real sleep-deprivation fog, and just stumbled onto whatever train seemed to be the right one, and somehow made it to Berlin on time, where I was met by the local DJs and Bootie/MUYB emprisarios Morgoth, Dr. Waumiau, and Pozzy, who proceeded to hand me a gigantic bottle of beer right there in the Berlin train station. Turns out drinking beer in, say, train stations, or on the metro train, is not a problem, although in my sleep-deprived state I couldn't help but get jumpy and hide the beer when we came in view of some police.

I'm staying with Pozzy and his apartment seems a typical old East Berlin style unit, beautiful tall ceilings and foot-thick walls with double-height windows. At the moment we're getting ready to head out to see some of the sights, although the cloudy, spitty weather means the big TV tower (that you see pictured above in a photo I did not take) is off the agenda.

First gigs are tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday, and we're not exactly sure how they'll be, with the weather iffy and various other events like the Berlin gay pride festivities going on at the same time, but the Friday event is at the old Templehof airport, which is kind of insane.

Also: Berlin does a phenomenal breakfast. We went out to just a regular old cafe and ordered the scrambled eggs for 4.50 euros, and I expected a little tiny plate of eggs and maybe a piece of bread; what showed up on the table was a gargantuan platter of eggs mixed with feta cheese, a huge tasty salad, and a giant basket of 5 different kinds of bread. Apparently Berlin's weekend brunch buffets are something to behold, another reason to love this city, which I already do, even though I speak like 4 words of the language.