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Berlin's most fun music venue is a Jamaican bar with a fake beach

November 27, 2013|By August Brown
  • A poster adorns a wall outside the Berlin nightclub YAAM.
A poster adorns a wall outside the Berlin nightclub YAAM. (YAAM / Facebook )

If any Pop & Hiss readers were wondering where your intrepid dance music writer was the last week, I'm thrilled to say that the short answer is this: a Jamaican vegan trap-music bar with a "Cool Runnings" theme and a fake beach that abuts the Berlin Wall in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.

Sure, Berghain's just down the street. But for what it's worth, I'm siding with YAAM as my favorite nightclub in Berlin, which is the best nightclub city on Earth right now. 

I was over there visiting an ex-patriated old friend and full-time Berliner musician. While making our nightlife plans, he admitted he had mixed emotions about techno-tourist spots such as Weekend and Berghain that, while essential to contemporary dance music, are kind of overwhelming and an emotional rollercoster to actually enter. Plus, it was roughly 25 degrees at night, and I was woefully underpacked to be standing in line for three hours outside a spot such as Tresor.

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Fortunately, there's also a whole world of Berliner weirdo spots, with all the upside of those classic places (excellent sound systems, an anything-goes ambience), but that don't require making it past the iron gates of Sven Marquardt. 

YAAM had absolutely everything a music-hunting, scene-averse tourist could want: German/Jamaican rastas fist-bumping you on the way in through a vast yard cordoned from the street by a graffiti-doused section of the Berlin Wall; an ad hoc shack called "Cool Runnings" slinging vegan food and mulled wine -- a perfect way to batter the cold wind off the Spree; a DJ playing spooky, soulful trap and dancehall mixes through a sound system that rivaled the bass at Low End Theory (even tin shack dives in Berlin have perfectly calibrated low ends). The bartender noted that the first drink is the most expensive because they donate an extra Euro to the volunteer DJ and the club's activist programs (which still rang up a pint of Berliner Kindl at around $3); fliers touting big shows for up-and-coming dancehaller Chronixx and classics such as the Skatalites; and a  giant sign hangs outside that homophobia -- long a scourge of Jamaican music -- will not be tolerated in the slightest. 

If you're in Berlin, it's totally valid to seek out the heavyweight clubs of dance music. But it's also refreshing to know that off the techno-tourist trail is a whole world of global-village blowup spots where instead of a steely-eyed gatekeeper, there's a double first-bump and a mug of hot wine waiting for you inside. (The experimental-noise space Madame Claude's was another). I can only image how much fun YAAM is in summer.

There were signs up all over the club imploring guests to "Save YAAM," something that made it seem like it was at risk of shutting down. I really hope it doesn't, because now I want to return to Berlin just to go back there.  


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