A rock and roll guide to Berlin by The Underground Youth
We’ve spent the last few years being told about the bustling beauty of Berlin. The German capital shook off it’s ‘stuffy’ label a long time ago but while there are more techno clubs than you could shake a stick at, we were left wondering where to find the dirty fuzz of rippling guitar amps. Luckily, we knew just the people to ask.
The Underground Youth have been living and working in Berlin for a few years now and, with their music hitting the sweet spot between post-punk grit and indie charm, we knew we had to listen to them. Their latest most recent album, Montage Images of Lust & Fear shared through Fuzz Club Records, marked yet another transitional creative period for a group who continues to expand their all-encompassing sound.
With ten years of evolving, a journey which began when The Underground released their first studio album Morally Parallel Bars back in 2009, the band has traversed numerous styles and genres while forging their own niche in between shoegaze, post-punk and psychedelia.
While the group were born out of lead singer Craig Dyer’s visions of home in Manchester, the musician has relocated to the German capital and, here, he guided us through the best places to experience a rock ‘n’ roll time in Berlin. Having often cited his willingness to take inspiration from numerous different mediums of expression, Dyer’s change of scenery and the emotions attached to a new way of living has, undeniably, impacted his output.
Here, the musician takes us through his new home.
The Underground Youth guide to Berlin:
We’ll start with our home away from home, 8MM Bar on Schönhauser Allee, pretty much the perfect dive bar. Cheap drinks, great music and a dark smoky atmosphere. Along with running the 8MM Musik record label and the yearly Synästhesie Festival the bar also hosts intimate live shows and guest DJ’s pretty much every night. With regulars made up of like-minded musicians, artists, filmmakers and more, it served to introduce us to the Berlin scene and the many friends we’ve made here since we moved.
In a way, little remains of the West Berlin of the mid-80s that I’d read about and grown to love through Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Einstürzende Neubauten. The scene of that time, which was captured perfectly by Mark Reeder in B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West Berlin, revolved around notorious bars like Risiko (The ‘last morning’ of which was captured in a short film by our good friend Uli M Schueppel back in 1986). One club that still exists from that time though is SO36, around the corner from where we now live in Kreuzberg. In days gone by, it was frequented by the likes of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and countless other iconic names, but the club still puts on regular shows and there’s no shortage of great bars and record stores on the surrounding streets.
Bowie’s own time in Berlin is fairly well documented, I’ve only inadvertently passed by where he lived in Schöneberg but for those fans who’d like to retread his steps, he lived at Hauptstraße 155. I believe the café next door where he and Iggy would spend time is still open, complete with something of a shrine to Bowie, it’s called Cafe Neues Ufer.
For some more musical history, you can pass by Hansa Studios on Köthener Str. 38. Once upon a time overlooking the wall, an impressive list of important records were recorded there. Regarding record stores, there’s almost too many to choose from… Depending on what you’re looking for. For a mixed variety and just to experience the store itself, I’d recommend Space Hall on Zossener Str. I also enjoy Wowsville on Ohlauer Str. It’s a bar with a record store in the back.
For other bars to recommend, I’m literally spoilt for choice so I’ll lay out an imagined pub crawl from Wowsville onwards. Just around the corner, you’ll find Wild At Heart, they play great music and also put on live shows, it has a pretty authentic punk atmosphere. On the other side of Görlitzer Park are two small and interesting bars, Madame Claude’s, featuring upside-down furniture and a basement live room and Konrad Tönz, expert cocktails and the soft crackle of jazz and blues records. Then, as you close in on the Spree River, there’re a few of our favourite venues in this area, Lido, Bi Nuu and Musik & Frieden. In Berlin there’s no shortage of live shows any night of the week, it’s worth checking out the concert listings at Koka 36, from small to big shows they’ll tell you where and when.
This really is a small taste of the area we live, there’s so much more north of the river in Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg and so much more to the South in Neukölln. We’ve been living here years and we’re still discovering.