Discodromo: galvanising Berlin’s gay scene
Sonar By Day in 2012 provided the first physical exposure to their rich house/disco/ Italo mélange.
A scorching hot morning after the night before, through incredibly tired eyes, I watched a set that brought me back from the brink and coaxed every immediate friend in the vicinity out of their slumbers for a mojito-powered dance. The vibe was beautiful.
The second experience was a long Sunday afternoon spent on the Panorama Bar dancefloor the day after our interview. A six-hour set that soundtracked the majority of our time in the club, riiacomo Garavelloni and Giovanni Turco’s majestic wonderings in the aforementioned genres reaped a palpable sense of devotion and support from the club’s committed crowd.
Their success is in no small part due to the glistening reputation of Cocktail D’Amore, the event series which the duo runs with Berghain resident Boris. In five years of parties, Cocktail’s notoriety for freedom of expression has landed it a reputation, alongside events such as Homopatik, as one of the most renowned gay parties in the city. So much so that disco aficionado Daniel Wang wrote a love letter to the party for Electronic Beats, saying, among many other accolades, that “being at Cocktail feels like joining the United Lovers’ League of Europe – that is what keeps pulling me back.”
The party has moved through a number of locations, including a run-down supermarket, a circus tent, and the fourth floor of a warehouse. Though Cocktail’s locational instability has been part of its charm, it seems to have found a home for the summer in the wonderful adult playground that is Griessmühle. Situated on the banks of a canal, its tree-houses, underground passages, deserted cars and labyrinthine layout provide ample nooks and crannies for all manner of self-expression. It’s these features that will see the Cocktail parties last for 24 hours this summer, and are also the location for our photoshoot with the pair.
The wildly accelerating momentum of these nights might have put the brakes on the duo’s production output for now, which is in short supply but high on quality. They recently celebrated five years of events with their Nothing Matters When We’re Dancing compilation – the title a nod to the escapism that can be a salve in times of economic, political and social struggle – featuring their own Le bipolarisme n’est pas le cubism, a frantic Chicago house track with some nods to Italo and new wave.
Sitting down with the boys in their favourite Kreuzberg eatery MJs for a chicken dinner, their genuine surprise that we’re interested in their world is a refreshing dose of humbleness. This is, of course, intermingled with a real confidence in what they do and, ultimately, what they have created.
It must be an occasion for you guys to be playing such a big slot in Panorama Bar. That doesn’t happen all the time I guess?
Giovanni: Well it used to happen more often and then we had a little break, and now it seems like it’s happening more regularly. For me it is always like the first time. We have expectations and pressure in that room. It can be a little overwhelming.
The gay community in Berlin forms the crux of Cocktail D’Amore’s clientele, but you also have a big following away from Berlin – we saw your set at Sonar a number of years ago and you had huge support.
Giacomo: I was a little surprised because it’s so far away from home. We do have people following us in Berlin, we do see familiar faces. Playing in Berlin is like being at home, like being around family.
Giovanni: It’s all about Cocktail d’Amore though. When we started doing Cocktail five years ago, the gay scene wasn’t developed as much as it is now. It was really small and was mostly about pop music but with a little edge towards disco, that’s how it started. We got into that scene and tried to give it a different direction with more of a quality sound towards house and disco, but deeper … I hate that word, but it’s true.
Was this part of the inspiration for Cocktail D’Amore?
Giacomo: There was no other inspiration other than the fact we were sick of not having good parties to go to. There was Berghain, but you can’t go there every week. The first party was promoted from midnight until noon and the 80 people that came stayed all night. The second time we didn’t even open the coat check, because we thought no one was going to come, but then people just started coming. Then I had to ring my friend, saying, “you have to come and coat check for us!” We had a mountain of coats behind the DJ booth.
Your parties have gained a reputation for freedom of expression, where people can come and feel comfortable and have fun in all respects.
Giacomo: At one of the early parties one of the guys got naked and at that time the security told him to dress up! So people came up to us and said, “the bouncers are telling him to put his clothes on!” This is not acceptable at Cocktail, so we said to the bouncers, “please, people can do what they want here.” So from that moment on people were naked if they wanted to be. This is part of what creates the atmosphere at Cocktail. The music for us is obviously the most important thing, but the atmosphere is generated by the open- mindedness of the audience.
You started doing Cocktail in Lisbon, what are the differences between this party and the one in Berlin?
Giovanni: You cannot really export the party. You can’t say we are doing a Cocktail in Lisbon. There is only one Cocktail. We can bring our music to a different city but a party is made by its people. These people, along with the music, create a specific atmosphere and that’s not something you can package up and take to another city.
Why do it then?
Giovanni: Because we know have a following among the gay scenes in different cities outside of Berlin, but we also know the music in the gay scenes outside of Berlin can be bad. The intention is to bring the some of the Berlin vibe from a musical perspective to these new situations. Everywhere you go in different cities there are gay guys who are into different music, house, disco, Italo etc. It felt like people were craving this and that’s why we decided to move Cocktail.