REFUGE 2017 IN BERLIN
Berlin's Griessmühle has all the characteristics of a great dance club. Best resembling a suburban paintball ground with turntables, the former grain mill sits on the edge of a hidden tree-lined canal in Neukölln, a ten-minute walk down a sparsely populated and relatively unmarked service road in the city's southeast. It's the perfect place for a fundraiser—if that means hosting a daylong rave.
Following editions at ://about blank, Glasgow's Sub Club and Prince Charles, Refuge took over all three rooms for 24 hours in benefit of five Berlin-based charities. But on Sunday evening, shortly after he had begun his set, Nick Höppner played to an empty dance floor. While his DJing was technically flawless, his selection of predictably drum-driven house cuts went largely ignored. Instead, the main and basement rooms filled up with locals eager to hear their friends Maggie G and Sarah Farina, who had been dancing in the crowd all afternoon.
The whole environment felt more like a Christmas party than a rave. Generally, the less well-known acts received more attention than their more established contemporaries. On a bill that included SoundStream, Jennifer Cardini and Jus-Ed, all the artists played for free and helped organizer George Patrick raise more than €4,400.
As Max Graef segued from Miles Davis's "Stuff" into Ton Steine Scherben's "Samstag Nachmittag," it felt like things may never get into fifth gear. It was obvious, though, that no one really minded. During the afternoon in the Wintergarten, a dance floor adorned with tinted windows, a disco ball and lots of driftwood, classics were afforded the most room to breathe. Andy Hart took his time playing extended 12-inch versions of Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" and The Bucketheads' "The Bomb," which may have sounded cheesy on other dance floors, but here were received with smiles and singing.
The positivity and strong attendance continued into the night. When I left sometime after 7 AM on Monday morning, many familiar faces remained, including some of the Syrian caterers. Their Aleppo food project, Bab al-Jinan, began two years ago in Berlin. "It means 'Gateway To Paradise,'" cofounder Saeed Helani told me. While it may seem idealistic to suggest food as a portal to paradise, it can—like clubbing—be exactly that.