Snoop Dogg dubbed it “Benztown”. With a Mercedes or Porsche at every stoplight this affluent city looks like it’s got it all figured out, but it has been a rough ten years for Stuttgart’s nightlife.
It goes without saying that Berlin is in the driver’s seat when it comes to the German club scene, flawlessly satisfying their hipster’s desire for sophisticated but cheap entertainment. They are very open minded which allows for innovative art projects that seamless integrate sounds with visuals, resulting in the capital city bringing in millions of tourists each year who are all craving a taste of the one of a kind nightlife scene.
Stuttgart was once an experimental playground for DJs and had a very similar approach to club life as Berlin does today. Artists like Marco Zaffarano and Jürgen Kreschel, aka Pascal Device, got their start in this city. Marco’s first performances allowed him to play around with new sounds, leading up to the release of his first album in 1987, a unique style of Acid House that is still revered to this day. Len Faki is one of the last holdovers from that generation, still performing regularly throughout the city. He has watched the German scene develop from a point of view few can claim, so his opinion is certainly a valuable one -- you can read his thoughts on the current state of the scene here.
Since it’s heyday in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Stuttgart struggled to create a cohesive identity for the club scene. This resulted in several sub-cultures developing throughout the city, giving each club a small, but dedicated, following. Over the course of the 90’s, however, these small groups of loyal clubbers outgrew the nightlife scene and their niché tastes so one by one clubs started to disappear, leaving only a few venues standing today. It is nearly impossible to find a location that hosts a party all weekend long like you would in other German cities due to the strict curfews that the city council has put in place -- not to mention the inconvenience of the newly approved mega-project that is the reconstruction of the entire fucking train station.
Stuttgart 21 (the appropriately ominous name for the construction site) is responsible for a good handful of nightclubs being forced to shut down, most of them being places with great history and prime locations for an all nighter; tucked away in tunnels or abandoned train halls from the 30’s, each spot had its own unique character. These venues were the home to Minimal, House, Dubstep and Drum & Bass, hosting talents of all kinds, legends in their own right such as: Nexus, Röhre, Zapata, Rocker33, Club Prag, Z, the list goes on…
But with every cloud there is a silver lining: there still are some lovely spots in the city! Venues that weren’t in Stuttgart 21’s radius of destruction. And more importantly, there are people who still care about curating a high quality, sophisticated yet inexpensive club scene; to them we say thank you.
It seems as though the recent trend in the electronic music world is the slow extinction of high profile super-clubs, so now more than ever we as a community need to stand up for the music and keep this world of wonder we have created going strong, weekend after weekend. To let go of the sorrows of day to day life and open one’s mind to a world of music by tapping into its energy and dancing into the early morning is a truly revitalizing experience. I was lucky enough to do just that this past Friday at a club called Kowalski.
The venue is tucked away, down a concrete staircase which leads to the inconspicuous smoking section. From there, you can enter the main room, with the stage placed in the middle of the dance floor allowing for a truly unique experience, or, you can head on over to the side room to take a breather without missing a beat from the mainroom thanks to the speakers pumping in the DJ's mix. Adding to the club’s one-of-a-kind nature is the fact that they boast the only Funktion One sound system in Stuttgart as well as the 21+ door policy. With the drinking age being 18 in Germany, Kowalski stands out as one of few venues dedicated to serving a more mature audience, worried more about the vibe than drink sales.
That night, I had the pleasure of seeing Falscher Hase throw down some of his favorite deep tech tracks off his label Hoerverstehen along with a hint of acid and some slumping tech house tunes that made up a truly diverse and banging set. Organized by Mono Events, he brought with him labelmates MoRi and A Profesional Dreamer to open and close for him respectively. MoRi’s set stood out to me as fulfilled his duties in spectacular fashion, flawlessly hyping up the crowd with smooth tech house vibes.
Friday night was proof that Stuttgart not only still feels the music, we live it; But we need to spread it. Volunteer organizations like Follow the White Rabbit have been fighting and trying to revive the nightlife scene around the area and are making slow progress. Other venues like Lehmann’s, Zollamt, Schräglage, Keller Klub and Romy S have been holding it down for years now and still host events of all kinds that promote the electronic music and art scenes.
Let’s keep it up, and party on! Be creative and don’t let anyone judge, if you have something to show be proud to present it and we can slowly build up on the strong foundation that these clubs have laid down.