It’s been two years since Tresor has had a fixed address, and three years since Sven Väth, apparently unwilling to appear anywhere but the hallowed Tresor, has played in Berlin. By headlining the first night of the Tresor re-opening weekend on Thursday, Väth ensured that his much-vaunted return was spectacular.
Not surprisingly there’s been a lot of hype about the re-opening: Berliners have been waiting impatiently for the return of the seminal, influential club that helped define early techno in Germany. Tresor had its beginnings as the UFO Club back in the late eighties, but it found its true home in the vaults of the old Wertheim department store in 1991. Its two floors – techno and industrial downstairs, friendlier sounds in ‘Globus’ upstairs – were, for many, the centre of techno and early house in former East Berlin.
Located on the Mitte/Kreuzberg border in the centre of Berlin, the new Tresor is in an old steam power plant belonging to Vattenfall – the same company that owns the Berghain site. The enormous building is now called ‘Modem’, and it is being developed into a gallery and arts space by Tresor founders. Inside, the cavernous dimensions are humbling, as are instigator Dimitri Hegeman’s intentions for the development: “The New Tate Modern” has been his oft-repeated sound bite in the lead-up to the opening. The new Tresor club itself has three sections – the Batterieraum, Tresor and the +4Bar.
After getting a sneak preview of the new space at lunchtime on Wednesday, it was hard to believe it would be alive and kicking for Thursday night: outside was still a construction site with cement mixers and piles of bricks and concrete lying around; inside was full of workman and wood. The installation of bars and other facilities was barely underway and the lounge area was full of bricks with no signs of plumbing, refrigeration or sound equipment.
And, indeed, the opening was delayed by about two hours as the organisers scrambled to get everything in place. The gates to the power plant finally opened about one and a half hours after they were supposed to, making the 1000 plus people waiting outside more than a little edgy and excitable (and pushy). The restless crowd was finally let in - at a trickle, only to find they had to queue again at the entrance to the building. The poorly managed entry was unpleasant, but not enough to dampen the excitement of the waiting masses.
Inside at around 2:30, Väth was at the decks in Batterieraum. Batterieraum is billed as the successor to Globus, though it’s about three times the size of the old space, with a capacity of at least 1500. It’s a black walled, featureless box, which doesn’t really have a ‘Tresor’ feeling, or a power plant feeling – especially with that ‘new-wood’ smell. In keeping with the old site, the lighting was basic with a projection on one wall and kitschy lasers. Inside, you could be anywhere in the world. The throng were there to party though, lifting the atmosphere of the room into a friendly, jubilant celebration.
Väth played up to the crowd – a strange mix of people old enough to have been at Tresor’s first parties a quarter of a century ago and kids born years after them– with his usual antics. From early on, Väth spun a rolling Best of Cocoon compendium, from tracks off the new compilation like Chaim’s ‘Genesis’, to old standbys, including the eminently recognisable Väth and Rother collaboration, ‘Komm’. Väth controlled the room masterfully with long breaks and pantomime theatrics, and didn’t wind-down until after the sun was well and truly up.
Downstairs, through a bunker-like concrete tunnel is the basement room, the new Tresor in spirit and atmosphere. Of the three sections, it’s the closest to the vault room of the old Postdamerplatz location, in look, sound and feel. It’s a rough concrete room with a basic bar, a low ceiling and simple strobes. The DJs, barely visible inside a smoke-filled cage, pounded high BPM hard-core beats to a screamingly appreciative crowd; the shiny silver ventilation system the most obvious reminder that we are in a new location, and era.
On the way back up to the +4Bar, we found wet cement on the walls, already covered with scrawl, and piles of old concrete that people had been tripping over all night.
The +4Bar, on Wednesday a corridor-like room with a viewing platform, is now a wide and comfortable lounge space with a long bar. Huge, newly installed doors open onto a balcony that overlooks the bowels of the power plant, a view almost as spectacular as the sound of bottle after empty beer bottle crashing on the concrete floor below after sailing down from the ledge.
Though it doesn’t feel like a huge venue when you are inside each room, the three spaces – joined by a labyrinth of corridors, passageways and stairwells - together have a capacity of around three thousand people. It’s much bigger than the old Tresor and has left some people wondering about the future of such a large venue in a city already so saturated with clubs. But the opening night was packed, and for now, and despite long, long waits to get inside, revellers are unconcerned. The first of four hedonistic days, Thursday night had a wild and celebratory feeling that seemed to herald the start of a fresh and boisterous Berlin summer.
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