Just over a month ago I was standing in a queue for Berghain. It was 35 degrees, and I was rubbing on sunscreen shared by a kind and tall guy with a magnificent fluorescent dress. Seemed like the queue was never going to end… but it also seemed that the summer was also not ever going away. Just over a week ago I found myself in a queue outside Blå back in Oslo, and although the end of the line was visible and believable, so was the end of summer. Cold wind and rain on my face.
I was doing my best to hold in my complaints and not to share bad energy with my company for the night, because after all it was me who lured them into this cold and dark night – all because of Monument. Nightlife in Oslo has stopped exciting me a long time ago, and I try to save my already expiring Air Maxes for special occasions. And this night was such, with a great booking by the Monument team – the Russian techno gem Yuka, releasing on labels like FullPanda, Semantica, to name a few, was to appear behind the decks.
Although I had no doubt that Yuka would not disappoint, it was hard to ignite my enthusiasm these days, and I was feeling sluggish after getting way too little sleep the last few days. After spending the second half of August in Berlin, Oslo seemed more dull than ever. Most of my sentences for the last couple of weeks have been starting with ‘In Berlin..’ and I knew that it has to stop soon, as I am becoming too predictable and even I am getting tired of myself.
However, reassuring 4 to the floor started tickling my eardrums when approaching the end of the line and interrupted my snobbish ‘In Berlin..’ mental chatter. I took a deep breath, and decided to open-heartedly give this night a chance. It was probably the first time I arrived on the dance floor so early (it wasn’t even 11), but the floor was far from empty.
The warm up act for the night – Sri Lankan born, but brewed in Sweden, Kalawila, was running his show. And boy, it was warm in there! I have almost forgotten the special way Oslo’s clubbers cheer – it’s a kind of Native American calling achieved by covering and uncovering one’s mouth while cheering. I don’t think I have ever heard this so early on in the night, but it really complimented, and added wilderness, to the already wild soundscape, which escapes description, but I cannot refrain from calling it a techno jungle. Kalawila really deserved the praise he was receiving. There was something really naughty about the sounds which were pumping from the speakers. The music was groovy, yet deep, dark, yet playful. And the crowd really did pick up on this naughtiness. The man himself was surely having his naughty fun, and his smile and funky moves were visible even from the back of the dance floor. Both his smile and the wilderness of the sounds were infectious, and I soon came to understand that it is damn hard to dance, smile and talk at the same time.
Now there is something to be said about the social aspect of this event. I am one of the least chatty clubbers ever and often almost literally push away attempting conversation instigators. Can they not just text me what they have to say and I read it when the music is over? Friday in Blå was different. So many familiar faces! These are the faces that know where the techno is at. Seeing them in such abundance speaks for itself. It was a great crowd. I decided to take a cigarette break and to do a quick concentrated chatting session in the backyard by the river.
It was hard to keep track of time, and by the time I came back from a long cigarette break, Yuka was already on the stage and the atmosphere had slightly changed. There was something less naughty and almost a bit sacral about the vibe. Most people were in a trance-like state, their eyes closed and their feet stomping and arms swaying involuntarily. A great techno experience is quite special, it is like some sort of communal, yet individualistic ritual. We are all together, yet we are all on our own. I remembered how beautifully Ricardo Villalobos described this in the recent documentary on the German techno scene ‘If I think of Germany by night’: this grounding, yet not too heavy, bass is like the smallest common denominator which connects all the dancers, the people who might otherwise not have much else in common. The techno community is built on this denominator, and that in itself is beautiful as it allows people to be their true selves, there is no space for discrimination and that is what makes the techno community so special – it is very inclusive. If your feet are stomping to the same beat, you are part of us.
The space felt vast, it felt..monumental! A Monument logo just flashed on the wall as a spotlight past it, and it was the first time the name of the Monument team really fell into place in my head. A friend handed me a glass of beer and I exclaimed that this (I was not referring to the beer) is monumental. Reassuring and somewhat patronising smile followed their initial confusion, and I understood that there is no time for the explanatory chatter, especially as the feet started doing their thing again..
The music was almost atonal and had quite some layers, so it took a few minutes to take in all the small sounds which this soundscape was comprised of. Always a clear bass in the background, but also a bunch of small sounds, some entering and some leaving. It was hypnotic. Although continuous and flowing, there was nothing monotonous about the sound. The music was very atmospheric and the small sounds seemed to be crawling like little critters from all the corners. It also felt like there were more corners than before..It felt like the space had more dimensions and every cell of my body was dancing in whichever way it knew. This space was alive! And it was then, when it occurred to me how well suited the club Blå was for the nights hosted by Monument. If I attempted comparison, it felt like a small Bassiani. The space was big enough, but compact enough for the sounds to pierce the space and to slightly echo back, obscuring the source of the sound and creating a special aesthetic. The feet won’t stop, the smile won’t stop. A friend asked me if I wanted anything, and now I understand that he probably inquired if I had desire for an alcoholic beverage, yet I asked if he could pee for me if he goes to the toilet. God bless my bladder, because I could not exit the trance just to pee, neither could I spend time explaining this to my baffled friend.
A few minutes later someone else handed me a drink, but my arms were too busy making zigzags in the air, and I had to refuse the beverages – arms are doing their thing all right? If I had a third one for holding beer, would be a different story. Someone came up to me and said that I have Berghain moves. I got what they meant and I just smilingly nodded, but it also made me realise that I have to express my gratitude on behalf of.. my arms, as weird as it sounds. There was enough space to dance! There is nothing worse than a great techno night with no space for swinging your tentacles (well, worse is a bad techno night of course).
I must also say that the music was not too loud, and although a seemingly lame comment, I think it has value. In small venues it is often the case that the sound does not have enough space to bloom in its’ fullest but also it is simply too loud to not wear earplugs. As an auditory hedonist, I am very afraid to damage my ears and to lose the capacity to enjoy music to its’ fullest potential. Earplugs are ok, and I have good ones, but wearing them still retracts from the experience and makes interactions on the dance floor much less smooth. Taking earplugs out, putting them back in..that kind of diminishes the very trance-like state, which us techno-lovers chase. A few times wearing ear plugs when partying has even given me a fright, as I forgot I was wearing them and thought I fell into some other dimension and could not process human speech any longer, am I having a stroke?! There was no need for such frights this night, as the sound was perfect.The visuals provided by Henrik Nordahl, were also haunting and really complemented the soundscape. Perception is multimodal. That simply means that our reality is integrated from different sensory modalities into one unified percept. Why would we not want to enrich our techno experience with visuals? And yet this is a rare occasion in Oslo. Obscure colourful shapes were moving in unpredictable ways and it somehow felt like we were taking a peek into some inner workings of..the cells? Was it my mitochondria interacting with the music and mirroring the effects of my dancing body? The frustration was, that I wanted to keep my eyes both closed (which is my default for enjoying the music) and open to enjoy the visuals at the same time. Same as I wanted to tear myself in two earlier when it came to dancing and socialising. I also felt that the visuals could have been projected on a larger screen and with greater definition in order to induce the full sensory orgasm.
But really, all this says it that the experience was so nice that we want more, more, more and we want it as soon as possible! As the set was drawing to an end and Kalawila took over for the last tune and reminded us of his naughty techno jungle aesthetic, the crowd was ecstatic and the atmosphere was that of pure joy and gratitude. The desire that the fun don’t stop was hard to shake off, and when taking, what was supposed to be the last cigarette for the night, some faces familiar from other techno gatherings were rather persistent that me and my friend join the afterparty. My default answer to after-parties in Oslo is ‘thanks but no, cos I’d rather have a cheese toastie in my bed’. I also needed to be awake in 5 hours and go do the job thing (the concept of jobs is hard to grasp after such hypnotic and healing techno experience). But something strange happened. Inspired by my Berlin experience, where I partied for 20 hours and more at a time, and having remembered that the only time I refused an after party in Berlin, I really regretted it, and also lost my bank card on the way home (that must be a sign that I shouldn’t refuse invitations for afters, right?), I looked at my companion for the night and nodded. We are doing the afters. After all, I promised myself to full-heartedly give this night a chance.
We started following the group of new friends. It was hard to keep this group together as someone would disappear into a shop to buy something to drink, and by the time that person was back someone else would go to pee, and get lost on their way back. It has already been almost an hour..to walk the distance which is doable in 15 minutes. Now, that could be all fine and well, if it was still summer, which evidently from my freezing toes was not the case. Just as I thought that my private after-party with a toastie in bed, might have been a better call, it turned out that no one is exactly sure where we’re heading. The friend of our new friends, who was hosting this gathering is not picking up the phone. We sat on the curb for a few minutes, and just as the imagery of the cheese toastie started becoming very vivid in my mind’s eye the host of the gathering provided directions, and since we were very close by, I convinced myself my friend to tag along. After all, we have been on the way for an hour.
The excited and clearly very bewildered host came down the staircase to greet us and everyone looked around and smiled to one another in relief that we are saved from the cold. But it turned out that, despite being just outside of his house, we will still have to overcome some obstacles to actually arrive in the promised land of after-party… The apparent bewilderment of the host was not only apparent. He could not remember… which was the door to his own apartment! The laughter broke out and it was fun… at first. But after 5 minutes of checking quite a few doors, and one angry neighbour in pyjamas later, the laughter started to have some desperate undertones. There were 4 floors in the staircase, 3 doors on each floor. Once you entered one of the three doors you entered… a corridor with more doors. To be fair to the host, all the freaking doors did look the same – plain white, and there were no names at the doors leading to the corridors, and the guy did move into the apartment just a couple of weeks ago. So it was a true door labyrinth, but still… I am pretty sure I would have been better at this. 15 minutes later it felt like we checked everything, which might have looked like an entrance to an apartment and doing this led to encounter with another not-so-happy neighbour. Finally, the friends of the host came out into the staircase to look for him, since it’s been 20 minutes since he went down to pick us up.
The atmosphere was strange as his guests could not believe the story and now it was their turn to have an uncontrollable laughter attack. While our group was well past this stage. We were cold, thirsty and tired. And the after party mostly involved a few folk sitting and making cheese sandwiches. Now I burst out in laughter as the cheese toasty fantasy seemed too ironic. I should have let that fantasy lure me home. And so after everyone taking their turn to fill up and down a glass of water, most of us left into the cold night again. After all, a toastie is better than a sandwich…
Me and my friend walked fast and did not really talk. There was not much more we could say, and the giggles were exhausted. We were only 20 minutes from home and while normally getting transport would not cross my mind, this time I was just too tired and my toes and fingers were frozen to the point that was worried walking home by foot would mean we had to stop by the emergency room, which fortunately was on the way. The lightboard in the bus stop announced that the saviour bus will arrive in 3 minutes and relief again light up on our faces. The bus was warm and we sat down, still not really talking and blowing our runny noses as the fingers finally got warm enough to find the pack of tissues in my bum bag. And then… the bus stopped abruptly and police got on. Their intense conversation with the driver followed instructions that everyone needs to get off the bus and walk home, because there is a big leakage from the sewage and the bus cannot cross the street. All transport is stopped and we have to walk a few districts back in order to reach home! I could not believe this. The good news was that these news stirred the somewhat stale vibe me and my friend were sinking in. Instead now we were sinking in… a river of shit! The laughter broke out again and we started (again) our journey home. Not being locals to Oslo, and not knowing the city inside out and being exhausted, we ended up taking many wrong turns and again and again ending up at the the flowing with sewage street that we had to cross. It was literally just this street that we had to cross and we would be home! We would walk a few streets back and police greeted us at every corner we tried to take and instructed to go yet a few streets back. Eventually we arrived at the source of the leakage which was spraying this gloriously brown water from the cracked asphalt in one of the roads. We were able to walk around it and finally after almost an hour of wandering we reached home. So this whole after-party, took us almost 3 hours. The thing is, Blå, where monument hosted Yuka’s set is actually 5 minutes away from my house… I could have had that cheese toastie 3 hours ago! But, needless to say, my appetite has dissipated and I needed to wake up for work in just over an hour.
Two hours later I was taking a tram to work and the streets were completely dry. I was looking around confused at the fellow passengers and they clearly seemed intimidated by my bafflement. Do they have any idea?! It was rivers, and the police and..the labyrinth of doors. If I hadn’t taken the picture of the river, I would have thought it was all just a dream (and in fact this was the question in the text message I received from my friend a few hours later). I decided to contemplate the weirdness of yesterday’s events no more, as my confused face was causing confusion to those around me. I put on the headphones and started listening to the set Yuka prepared for her interview with Monument a few weeks back. The grounding beat and all the intricate sounds dancing around it, reminded me of the first part of the night and I started smiling to myself feeling gratitude to the Monument team for the truly monumental party (even if the attempted after-party was nothing more than a monumental fiasco).Do you have a story to share? Send us your writing! Anonymity is optional, but know we’ll never censor what we publish. Please send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org – we look forward to hear from you!
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