It has been noted that the three of us have had neon Berocca wee all week. Vitamin fortification is required though, especially as today is festival day! BerlinFestival is held at the deserted airport at Tempelhof, it’s one of the biggest buildings on the planet, a vast arc of a place, all concrete and corrugations and sans serif typeface. The stages are positioned inside old hangars with the crowds spilling out across the disused runways. The atmosphere is ghostly at first but as it warms up, and especially later when it gets dark, it feels inspired and utterly Berlin.
James Blake is the first act of the weekend, a 2pm slot which is odd for someone who’s a Mercury nominee back home, great for us though, we get to the front with just a short amble. My ideal venue for James Blake would be a very tiny musical theatre or concert hall but he’s still wonderful outdoors, him and his two geeky sidekicks. They don’t move much. ‘They make Kraftwerk look like Bucks Fizz,’ says Geordie. It doesn’t matter, the magical space station soul comes out of the speakers like radiation. Honestly, it makes your hair move. It might sound a bit obvious, but wouldn’t it be amazing if he covered Imogen Heap’s ‘Hide and Seek’? ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ is riding high on my songs of the year and he finishes his set with it. The lump in my throat is partly the song and partly the crippling bass which makes me sneeze at one point and also makes my Adam’s apple feel compressed. Turn it down just a notch James.
There’s time for a wander as the site begins to fill up. It’s easy as pie to spot English hipsters, they're the ones dressed like German tourists. Irony. There are no queues, food and drink isn’t ludicrously overpriced, there are no police on site and nobody telling you where to sit or smoke or anything. In the crowd I see the man I'm going to marry. And his girlfriend. We watch a bit of Yelle, manic and shrieking in a cat suit. The Rapture play a decent set but mostly we’re in it for the ‘hits’. They put us in proper dancing mode though. The drinks flow a little faster. My on-the-night review for the next couple of hours reads: ‘The Drums: Meh. CSS: Yeh!’
At some point we decide to start a band called Flamingo Cheese. This is later changed to Post Modern Cow. Then Hercules and Love Affair play an amazing set. ‘Dance Energy’ vibes all the way. I think the reason I don’t get on with the albums so much at home is I just want to be on the dancefloor when I hear them. Vogueing in Hangar 5 is just as good tonight.
After a couple of mango margaritas, Primal Scream performing the whole of ‘Screamadelica’ suddenly seems like the greatest idea ever. On our way to the main stage a crazy hippie asks for a light. He more or less says, ‘I had that Primal Scream in the back of my cab last night,’ in broken English. He seems to think the Primals are Mancunian and since he’s so excited that we are too we don’t bother to correct him. By the sounds of it he picked up the band at the side of the road in the small hours and was ordered to drive them to Hitler’s bunker. In gratitude they put the cabbie on the guest list for the festival. He’s the most exuberant man on site.
The main stage is predictably rammed, though many people don’t seem to know the album all that well. It’s a set text, surely? We have to dance like crazies so we hang back, and this is where the sound system comes into its own. You must be able to hear this in Hamburg. Amazing. Typical me I’m at the bar when ‘Higher Than The Sun’ kicks in but I have a little barfly dance anyway.
Then it’s all over and the fun bus drives across the tarmac and delivers us to Arena Berlin for the after party. My friend Craig, occasional resident in Berlin, comes to meet us and we sneak a drink at Barbie’s first. The next few hours at Arena are a mess of chain smoking, ex-pats from Leeds, drinks in the Glashaus, a DJ set from Boy George, and dancing; dancing on sand and concrete and cobbles. Techno techno techno techno.
It’s impossible to stop of course so Craig and I see in the dawn and beyond at Roses Bar, which is basically an explosion in your little sister’s jewellery box. Craig lights a fag at the wrong end, and persists with it. It’s that kind of night. I fall in love with Eleazar from Cologne. I get on the U-Bahn somewhere and get off somewhere else and I finish Friday, or rather begin Saturday, by walking in circles and thinking what a great name for a film ‘Lost In Alexanderplatz’ would be …