Not since Studio54 and The Haçienda has a nightclub had the kind of mystique and infamy as Berghain, set in a former power station in Berlin. For 15 years the brutalist edifice has been the world’s de facto capital of techno and the subject of hundreds of articles, forum posts and social media discussions speculating about the best way to get inside.
Berghain’s head bouncer, Sven Marquardt, is a celebrity in his own right. He and his equally intimidating team have turned away hundreds of thousands of hopeful dancers, a huge proportion of which fly to Berlin specifically to visit its clubs (Berghain especially), leading to allegations of racism, among other things.
If you’re planning to visit Berghain post-corona or simply want to relive that awful time you waited in the snow for two hours only to be rejected, Berghain Trainer is here to help. Using a first-person perspective, the website drops you outside the club, walks you through its steel crowd-control barricades and brings you face to face with a bouncer. It’s not Sven, but this other guy’s impassive face and long pauses between his Deutsch-only questions are scary enough.
Berghain Trainer uses your camera and microphone to analyse your face and voice, “reading” your emotions in real time. To get in, you must answer three questions successfully. And therein lies the nerve-wracking challenge of IRL Berghain and VR Berghain both. Should you answer truthfully? Should you answer the questions in German or English? Should you look happy? Neutral? Defiant? Does it matter? Your own face is displayed in the top-left corner, making this an especially self-conscious exercise.
On an emotional level, it’s surprisingly similar to the real thing, even if the usual crowds are absent and there’s only one bouncer, rather than usual menacing team of five or six. And just like the real thing, you’re extremely unlikely to make it in on your first try. But hey, at least you can keep going until you finally crack it.