Last July, Love Parade organisers in Berlin for weeks fought environmentalists, city authorities and allegations of commercialisation, mass-littering, rampant drug abuse and damage to the capital’s central Tiergarten park before they were allowed to hold the world’s largest techno party with over 800,000 ravers.
This year, there’s nothing to indicate that the biggest celebration of the computerised, bass-driven dance music known as techno is just a few days away.
Apart from rumours of a bomb threat which were squashed easily, there has hardly been a whimper of protest or opposition to the 14th Love Parade which traditionally kicks off on the second Saturday in July.
Love Parade turning commercial with the times?
Last year, Germany’s highest court ruled that the techno party could not be classified as a political demonstration, but rather a commercial event.
Many feel the parade has lost much of its appeal with the disappearance of its "demonstration" status. But Fabian Lenz, the head of the Love Parade Ltd., defended the commercialisation of the parade in an interview with the Tagesspiegel newspaper.
"There's no contradiction in organising the Love Parade in a private company. So many labels and galleries, who market themselves and at the same time need to communicate other content find themselves in this same dilemma. But we're clear that we don't want to make the Love Parade for the sponsors" he said.
At the same time, many large parties taking place on the fringes of the Love Parade have also fallen prey to commercialisation. Though several of the established clubs in Berlin will still host parties, the larger ones are now increasingly organised by highly commercial and professional event organisers and managers.
Gone are the times when the Love Parade was the domain of a underground techno-scene with fans dancing in airless hidden clubs and warehouses after the parade.
Today the venues comprise expensive trade fair grounds, a hangar at Tempelhof Airport or a subway station at the German Parliament. And it’s not just techno fans who are now attracted to the event, but just about anybody in the mood for a good, rowdy, deafening party.
Will it attract the hordes?
Even Berlin’s media has been surprisingly subdued about the upcoming Love Parade, and there are hardly any posters in the city pointing to the thousands who will descend upon Berlin over the weekend.
Parade organisers and tourism experts are divided over how many people will actually turn up for the event this year. Hanns Peter Nerger, head of Berlin's tourist office, said in an interview with the news agency DPA that the Love Parade is suffering from the general economic depression in Germany.
"People are saving money, travel expenses for the middle segment are being cut down", he said. Even a week before the techno parade, hotel rooms and hostels in all categories in Berlin are still available.
A Love Parade spokesman was more optimistic. "We expect over one million people to come", he told DW-WORLD, citing the magic numbers that have been attracted to the event in past years.
Love Parade in need of reinvention?
The Love Parade's promotors are eager to emphasise that strictly commercial floats are forbidden this time and that the "music will form the centre of the parade". A line-up of star DJs and labels such as "Love Nation", "Ministry of Sound" and the famed techno club "Tresor" will host an array of parties over the weekend.
In a sign that the Love Parade is now becoming routine and, the chief organiser of the parade, Ralf Regitz said in an interview with the Tagesspiegel that many people who observe the parade today miss its original flair. It was founded months before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 by DJ Dr Motte and his friends, with just two floats and a ghetto blaster.
The aim was to get techno out of the back rooms of obscure clubs and into the open while at the same time demonstrating for more love and understanding among nations.
"The Love Parade sprung up in an atmosphere of change, with new music in novel forms and with its own club culture. All that was needed that time was a strobe light and a fog machine and the club was ready. It can’t be the same today, the way it was then", Regitz said.