I travelled by train to Paris from a cute city on the border of France and Germany called Saarbrücken. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was booked to play that evening at a BPitch event at Showcase Club, alongside Ellen Allien and Aérea Negrot. Just a few hours earlier I had finished up a performance at Unsicht Bar and, thanks to a mini-bar in the DJ booth, I had a few too many vodka shots with the promoter. I was still feeling a bit loopy, but I'm off to the next destination.
The train ride into Paris was nice and short, but slightly thwarted by a Russian man trying to make small talk. I foolishly mentioned my profession and ended up in the hot seat. Rule #1 for touring DJs: Don't tell anyone that you're a DJ. If you do, you inevitably end up with a barrage of questions that lead to more questions, leaving less time for essential beauty sleep. It usually starts with queries like, "Which radio station do you play on?", "How do you travel with all of that equipment?" or, one of my favorites, "My friend has a wedding coming up, do you have a business card?" I'm always too nice and eventually the inquisitor wins, so I usually end up explaining the whole darn shebang to them.
Thankfully, two young girls who were sitting across from us came to my rescue. They were fans of Ellen and were excited to hear her name mentioned. The focus of the conversation shifted, and I seized my first escape route by popping in my headphones and facing the window for a nap. Unfortunately, my plans were foiled as the boy behind me turned my seat into his imaginary drum set.
When I got off the train I was pleased to see a well-dressed promoter named Guillaume waiting for me. He drove me to the K Hotel, a popular spot for DJs and only a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower. I am a sucker for boutique hotels, and K's modern décor and minimalist design had me at "Bonjour." I was immediately comfortable in my room, watching CNN while blissfully testing the hotel's aromatic bathroom products and making a mental note to pocket them when I leave. (Classy!)
About 30 minutes later Ellen arrived with the designer of her fashion line, Marcus Stich, and we had a nice afternoon of appetizers and white wine. Afterwards, we had a brief break until dinner. Guillaume and the promoter, Lorenzo, arrived on time and were accompanied by Aérea Negrot and her DJ, Fata. I was instantly intrigued with her shiny, elegant disco look and soft-spoken demeanor. We went to dinner at La Villa, an upscale fusion joint with an excellent menu and a hip atmosphere. This is Paris, and I can't help it that my inner romantic was squealing with excitement. Eventually the laughter and wine went to our heads, and we were soon dancing in our seats to the in-house DJ playing disco tunes, a predictable ending for an artist dinner (at least if I'm there!). Sadly our meal was over quickly after that and we headed back to the hotel. I took a short nap and got to the club early for Aérea and Ellen's performances.
Showcase Club is beautiful. I had not heard of it as I usually play at Rex, but I quickly saw its appeal. It's located on the river, fits about 2500 guests, and is beautifully designed with avant-garde adornment, colorful lighting and decent acoustics. I made my way to the VIP area where the DJs were playing minimal house and classic hits. Scenesters and fashionistas were all around. I sneaked off to the bathroom, ditched my gum and freshened up a bit.
I returned to the main room and Aérea and DJ Fata were killing it. Aérea was singing over Fata's live funk and house beats; it was psychedelic and captivating (I am now a fan). Next up was Ellen; she amazed me again, by spending the next two hours mashing up every genre from trendy techno to Berlin minimal, classic rave hits to vocal house and even a breakbeat track. She has style and charisma and pulled things off with finesse. The crowd was going crazy.
I was up next. I got on stage to find that the right turntable didn't work with my Traktor because there was too much vibration, a common occurrence in the new CDJ era. Luckily, this happens so often now that I am also set up to play on 4 channels with my laptop and two X1s. That's been my preference lately, as it's creatively liberating with its looping and FX options. I ditched the decks and started my set, opening with some driving tech house to pull the crowd in after Ellen's exhilarating performance. It took about ten minutes to switch gears but I felt good and developed my relationship with the dance floor. Luckily I received great feedback and we kept the vibes going past closing time. I finished up at about 6:30 AM. Success!
The next morning I again had to deal with a slight hangover and skipped the group breakfast for a relaxing bath. We all took a taxi to Charles De Gaulle and waited for boarding time while keeping entertained with magazines, snacks in the lounge, and €2 massage chairs. Finally we were in the air and arrived at Tegel airport. As we exited we ran into Function and Silent Servant, which is a common occurrence for Berlin DJs on Sundays. After a few nostalgic pictures together outside we all taxi home with only one word on our minds: couch.
I was happy to have just one show on my schedule after last weekend's hectic trip to from Saarbrucken to Paris. It was Easter and I was set to play the Kommt Zusammen Festival in … Rostock, Germany? Huh? All I knew was that it is a quaint, costal city on the Baltic Sea. I had no idea what to expect. Alongside me on the line-up are artists like Johnny D, The Glitz, Dapayk, Stimming and The Hacker. The festival layout seems similar to Miami's WMC, with a number of event venues along the water that feature parties at night and music clinics by day. I was scheduled to perform at the Waterkant Souvenirs Showcase that Saturday evening.
I left my apartment, hopped on the subway and headed to Hauptbahnhof (Berlin's main train station) to meet the driver at Starbucks at 7 PM. When I arrived we waited for Johnny D, who was running a bit late. He finally showed up and we were joined by Oliver Goldt from Freude Am Tanzen and Douglas Greed, a free-spirited artist who dabbles in several genres of music. We walked to the van and the promoters gave us each a tote bag containing a beer, lighter, cigarettes, gum, an event guide and some snacks. We were all speechless as it's very rare to receive something like this, and we opened up our care packages like it was Christmas. Beers crack open, gum starts popping and we are off to Rostock!
After a 1.5-hour drive we finally arrived at the Radisson Hotel and made plans to meet later. I headed upstairs to my room and ordered a chicken Caesar salad, which is sadly not worth discussing. I had already spent many hours that week preparing the playlists for my set, so I felt relaxed and took a disco nap. This is normal for me, as I usually try to get my set ideas together at my studio in Berlin. I find that listening to tracks in my headphones at the hotel doesn't yield the same result. I need to hear the music on good speakers and incorporate it into my other tracks to know if something is usable. I also believe it's really important to know what you are playing. A prepared DJ is a happy DJ!
I woke up from my nap and arrived at the waterfront at about 2 AM, where the scene was vibrant as masses of young people hopped from venue to venue along brightly lit piers. Once inside the Orange Lounge I was met by a sweaty room and a few hundred people dancing. The club was small, and although the acoustics weren't perfect the vibe was infectious. I threaded my way up to the DJ booth where Oliver (Goldt) was playing quality house tunes and setting the mood nicely. I took a brief moment to enjoy a ceremonial "let's get this party started" shot of vodka with the promoters, and then quickly set my gear up for a fast start.
The party was super fun and I was able to immediately immerse myself into the vibe of the room. I totally felt the atmosphere and played a two-hour set of my favorite funky tracks over-laced with deeper techno interludes, everything from chic Crosstown Rebels jams to ethereal Jerome Syndenham hits. It was sunny that day so I kept the mood light. The time went by way too quickly and after my set a DJ duo named German Lachs took over, turning the room into a full-on disco party.
I danced for an hour or so and then I texted Douglas (Greed) to meet me at the club so we could catch Johnny D's set at a different venue. We embarked on a casual walk along the pier underneath the orange and pink sunrise, passing smiling party vagabonds and Easter stragglers. We finally made it down to Johnny's venue to find him playing for the "last men standing," which were only about 10 to 15 enthusiastic people. Johnny wasn't discouraged, though, and he continued to play his massive tech house sound. Douglas and I offered up some support and got busy dancing on stage beside him.
Well, maybe "dancing" isn't the right word for what we were doing. I would say Douglas was doing "The Carlton," while I decided to break out my interpretive yoga meets Janet Jackson meets Steve Martin in The Jerk moves. This is a regular occurrence if I'm still out at 6 AM.
After about an hour the party ended and I returned to the hotel. Five hours later my alarm went off and it was time to meet everyone in the lobby. Being the stereotypical American that I am, I convinced the group to get some comfort food at a McDonald's drive thru, and we blissfully rode back to Berlin with the smell of McNuggets, barbeque sauce and Big Mac's on our breath. At this point we had all become friends so we filled our tired brains with semi-productive discussions on culture, politics and love. We also talked a little bit about music, but none of us were up for the "who's on RA this week" gossip, so we stuck to simpler things, like world hunger (and stuff).
May Day, one of Germany's biggest holiday weekends, is a great time for music. I was booked to play on Saturday in Hannover and on Sunday in the early evening at the Tanzen Statt Steine Festival in Berlin at Gorlitzer Park. I had been looking forward to this date for months! My weekend started off on Friday when I went to Watergate for the Items and Things label night. I usually don't go out if I have shows scheduled, but I wanted to support my friends and, also, to say goodbye to Heidi, who was moving back to London that weekend. Once again social appeal trumped logic—a battle that I lose regularly.
The night was great but flew by way too quickly and I stayed way too long. Consequently I woke up in a panic late Saturday afternoon and discovered that I had misread the train schedule to Hannover. I only had one hour to take a shower, go by my studio in Mitte and grab my DJ bag and then get to Hauptbahnhof to catch the last train. The next sixty minutes were a sad, sad sight. I was running at full speed, with my gear in tow, almost in tears. I actually made it…but I made one big error: I went to the wrong platform. My heart sank.
In a sweaty panic I phoned my European agent. She said that the only way to get to Hannover was to rent a car and drive. I gulped some water, gave myself a pep talk and walked into the first rental car place that I saw inside the train station. I anticipated that there was no way that I would get a vehicle in my condition, as I looked like a hot mess at that point. Luckily they said OK, though, and began the paperwork. During the process I noticed that my US driver's license had expired (!!), and I remembered that the valid extension document was at my parent's house in Seattle. Crap!
Luckily, they didn't notice and ten minutes later I had the keys to a compact Mercedes Benz in my hands. I was in total disbelief. Predictably, I had forgotten my artist rider and had no address for my destination, so I just typed "Hannover" into the GPS and hit the road. I spent the next four hours listening to my new best friend, "Helga" (yes, I named her), the monotone German woman directing me through my GPS system. Completely paranoid that I was going to get arrested without the proper driving documents, I was hunched over the wheel like a grandma, going exactly the speed limit on every street with a line of cars behind me. I had the window down, a bad radio station blasting to keep me alert and I was probably also talking to myself. I was all in.
I finally made it to the club in Hannover and I had a good set, but the event was average. Sometimes it's just like that. Not every gig is great; you just have to move on. Afterwards, I went to the hotel and collapsed like a wet noodle. In the morning I returned my car rental and hopped on the train back to Berlin, excited for the next show. I arrived back at my apartment in the afternoon with about 45 minutes before the next taxi arrived. I took a quick shower, ate some food and waited for Tony Rohr to arrive from Berghain to go with me to the festival.
As we arrived, Gorlitzer Park was rocking. I was ecstatic as I arrived on stage to see thousands of happy people dancing. The weather was perfect and I was finally able to decompress. I was so happy to be there. I never take these moments for granted; this is what I live for. The show was invigorating. I responded to the energy in the crowd and started playing some sunny, psychedelic house tunes and gradually moved into techno by the end. I pulled things back for the next artist by closing with "Walk and Talk" by Benoit & Sergio, which beautifully echoed over the park as the sun set. After I was finished, Franco Bianco creatively opened with a Pink Floyd interlude and captivated the audience. The event was fantastic and felt a lot like Fusion, one of my favorite underground festivals to play in Germany.
The remainder of the evening passed as one happy, swirling blur. My friends and I danced for hours until finally the exhaustion set in. Tony and I then met up with our friends Alexi Delano and Cari Lekebusch, who had also been playing at Berghain. We ate Vietnamese food for dinner and then went back to my apartment for a nightcap. I drifted off to sleep on the couch while listening to their boy techno talk, and woke up on Monday morning feeling refreshed in an empty and clean apartment. (Thanks guys!)