All out of loveThe Love Parade is in trouble
For the second year in a row, Berlin's annual Love Parade technofest is threatened with cancellation. We find out who's spoiling the party.
Every year when spring comes around, Berliners can look forward to the start of the annual street party season. The Carnival of Cultures, Christopher Street Day, the 1 May Kreuzberg riots--all good clean outdoor fun for the entire family. And on the second Saturday in July, the mother of all street events: the techno-tastic Love Parade.
Or maybe not. Last year, the annual ritual haggling between the Love Parade's organisers, sponsors and the Berlin senate ended in tears and the plug was pulled on the cash-strapped party.
This year's prospective parade-goers would also be advised to hold off buying their whistles and body glitter for the moment. Admittedly the grand lovefest hasn't been cancelled yet, but with the recent announcement that the proposed major sponsors have pulled out, and only three months to go before the turntables are due to spin, it looks like it may rain on the Parade.
Apparently the organisers have only themselves to blame. First, potential sponsor Samsung stormed huffily out of the party, accusing the Love Parade management of being unprofessional. (Clubbers lacking in business acumen? Who would have thought?)
Then Sony-Ericsson pulled out, claiming that the event "did not conform to their marketing plan". Presumably some sharp-witted marketing whiz had decided that drug-fuelled hedonism did not accurately reflect the mobile manufacturer's brand values after all.
The Love Parade would not be so strapped for cash these days if it hadn't lost its status as a demonstration in 2001. Despite the organisers' heartfelt claims to be politically committed, the Berlin senate had always been sceptical about the ravers' dedication to their cause.
For one thing, it was never quite clear what they were actually demonstrating about. The Love Parade apparatchiks did come up with a pithy slogan for the event every year, but the narrow-minded authorities were too blinkered to see the profound political message behind coinages such as 'Let The Sunshine In Your Heart' and 'Music Is The Key'. The suspicious authorities also felt that having a registered trademark, selling souvenirs, and charging floats for taking part were activities a tad unusual for a political protest march.
Those of a cynical bent have always suspected that the real motive behind the organisers wanting demo status was to get out of paying the six-figure cleaning and security bill. Once demo status was gone and the city stopped paying to clear up the partygoers' broken beer bottles and discarded condoms, the organisers found that love was not all you needed after all.
The Love Parade is undoubtedly a victim of its own success. Founder Dr Motte must look back with nostalgia on the simpler, groovier days of 1989, when a mere 150 clubbers cavorted their way along the Kurfürstendamm in West Berlin.
Berlin's techno massive hate to miss a party, and more and more revellers turned up each year. When the Ku'damm proved too small to handle the Day-Glo hordes, the Love Parade moved to the Tiergarten in 1996. The crowd hit the million mark the following year.
The re-route through the Tiergarten was not welcomed in all quarters. Party-pooping greens objected to the ravers' wholesale destruction of the forest lining the route, which took months to recover after being flooded with a million clubbers' chemically-enhanced bodily fluids. The wood's sensitive animal residents were similarly traumatised by having to listen to Moby for twelve hours at a time.
It was around this time, just when every clubber and their grandmother in the western hemisphere had heard of the Love Parade, that certain hardcore elements in the clubbing scene decided that perhaps the Love Parade wasn't quite underground enough for them any more.
This splinter group founded the charmingly-named Fuckparade, which strutted stroppily through the Berlin streets like the Love Parade's bratty little brother. Since then, the Fuckparade has managed to stay true to its radical roots, successfully staving off unwanted popularity by playing unlistenable techno genres like gabber and speedcore. Apparently being loud and annoying qualifies them as a demo, and the Fuckparade crew have so far managed to get out of their cleaning bills.
However the grumpy Fuckparaders may indeed have a point about the Love Parade selling out. One curious thing about the allegedly cool party has always been the mysterious absence of the mullet-sporting, Puma-clad hordes who hang listlessly around Berlin's clubs.
Such fashionistas are a rare species at the Love Parade, being vastly outnumbered by Brandenburg teenagers taking the day off from burning down Turkish snackbars to dye their hair green and pretend to be ravers. Perhaps the absent hipster contingent have realised that the best thing about clubs is that they--unlike the egalitarian Love Parade--do not let just anyone in.
However the Love Parade Berlin GmbH, like any good German company, has realised that the solution to falling domestic demand is to export. Love Parade franchises can now be found in Vienna, Santiago, Acapulco, Cape Town, San Francisco, and Tel Aviv (one town that certainly needs all the love it can get), showing that the party export business has not yet been affected by the strong euro.
Like any company seeking to market an exclusive product, the challenge will be for the firm to continue to expand without compromising its brand. The list of sexy world cities is only so long, and Love Parade Bolton just doesn't quite have the right ring to it.
Those excitable clubbers who have apparently already booked their easyJet flights to Berlin should not however be too worried if the 2005 Love Parade fails to materialise. Berlin's clubs will no doubt rally to the occasion and organise a Love Week series of parties as they did last year. Clubbers can then relax with a cocktail in comfortable venues, with no fear of skinheads and little chance of sunstroke. And the Tiergarten's flora and fauna will be spared their annual Ecstasy overdose.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Inside Track, Love Parade