BERLIN The Love Parade made its 13th run through this kinetic city's streets Saturday, leaving in its thunderous wake evidence that techno complete with all the trimmings (and trappings) is the music for the masses here.
More urban Woodstock than rave with its sprawling outdoor environs and daytime setting, the annual paean to all things techno attracted electronic music lovers from all over the world who partied non-stop for the purest purpose: the love of a dope beat. Free from political undertones or social obligation, or, seemingly, any unifying theme whatsoever, the Love Parade has emerged as the largest musical gathering in the world today.
Beginning in mid-afternoon, Love Parade's 50-plus flat-bed floats, overflowing with young men and women in various states of undress moving and shaking to thumps and squelches of every variation, started down June 17th Street in Berlin's central Tiergarten park. After several months of uncertainty about the Parade's date and location (caused by a group concerned for the park's environmental health that stole the planned date of July 14), its existence alone was cause for celebration.
Not that anyone needed help getting into the groove. A different DJ helmed each lavishly decorated float, most of which welcomed attendees into the "Love Republic," including one covered in red fur and hearts, several with innovative air-powered "dancing" balloon figures and enough bare skin to put everyone in the mood for love.
Berliner Paul van Dyk's annual crowd-pleaser emitted crisp, perpetually climaxing trance nuggets, while another featured Detroit techno veterans Alan Oldham (a.k.a. DJ T-1000) and Lawrence Burden on the decks, though musical subtlety was by no means the order of the day the beat was the thing, and it literally never stopped.
Although access to the floats themselves was restricted, the parade route was open to all, and it was thick with people of all ages marching to the sound of the drums. The crowd, which was dominated by teenagers and people in their early 20s, spilled over into the surrounding park paths, with some choosing to walk alongside the procession and others simply plotzing on the lawn. By sunset, the annual ritual was in full swing, as the caravans of funk encircled more than a million people (for the third consecutive year) at the Siegeshalle victory statue at Brandenburg Gate, ushering them into the rhythms of the night.
Despite being an undeniable symbol of the raw power of music, as well as a massive financial boon for Berlin,
Love Parade also put on display the techno scene's equally untamed underbelly. Having evolved from a tiny community gathering in 1989 into an overstuffed spectacle of global proportions, the unity that once fueled the parade and the electronic music underground as a whole was elusive, if present at all. Almost as common a sight as people hugging or dancing was teenagers defecating and vomiting in plain view or passed out and
shivering in the dirt. The police siren became as common in the musical mix as the hi-hat.
More in the Parade's founding spirit were the renegade generator-powered sound systems that dotted the
Tiergarten Saturday, each one attracting a periodic spontaneous dance party to its park bench set-up. Much
maligned by Berlin locals in recent years for diverting from its original intentions, Love Parade has actually begun inspiring protests of its own. Last weekend, a march calling itself the F--- Parade attempted its second annual event in opposition to the rampant commercialism of Love Parade, but city authorities quashed it for lacking a permit. A number of similar smaller events took place throughout the week, including the spirited Sex Parade, with all remaining peaceful.
As the sound died down around the Siegeshalle, Paraders flowed into Berlin's myriad nightclubs, where the vibe was decidedly less intense, though no less celebratory. Love Parade is now the centerpiece of a week-long festival of dance music, with options ranging from van Dyk spinning to a stadium of fans to John Acquaviva, Marshall Jefferson and Josh Wink frothing the crowd at the legendary Tresor club which stayed open straight through from Friday night to Monday morning to a deluge of underground sounds, including a party by the trailblazing Cologne experimental label Kompakt, and sets around town by DJ Hell, Claude Young and hundreds of others.