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Love’s Lost Parade

DW staff (dsl)July 10, 2004

One of Europe’s biggest electronic music scenes lost its biggest event this year, but that didn’t stop techno loyalists from turning out on Saturday in Berlin for some radically scaled back versions of the Love Parade.

Gone but not forgotten: Berlin's Love ParadeImage: AP

Since it was first held in 1989, Berlin's Love Parade grew into a phenomenon that took clubland to the streets, drawing hundreds of thousands each year, and spawned a minor international movement.

But after it lost its status as a political demonstration in 2001 and had to pick up part of the tab previously paid by the city, the event's been in a slow downward spiral. This year it was abruptly cancelled after organizers failed to find enough sponsors. On Saturday, hundreds turned out at events across the city to mourn the parade's passing. But it went out with a whimper.

Hundreds of revelers converged on west Berlin’s grand Kurfürstendamm boulevard for a techno parade that included seven massive floats that made their way from Adenauerplatz to the Memorial Cathedral. They demostrated under the motto "Fight the Power – Club Culture versus Ignorance" for the return of the Love Parade next year.

Dr. Motte
Berlin disc jockey Dr. Motte led the Love Parade for 15 years before its demise this yearImage: AP

The Love Parade’s founder, Dr. Motte (photo), had expected as many as 5,000 partyers on Saturday. Despite the disappointing turnout, the demonstrators still managed to create an ear-splitting chorus of whistles and music that pulsed at an impressively high number of beats per minute. Dozens of DJs, including German stars like Westbam and Paul van Dyk, spun on the floats, filling the Kurfürstendamm with an aural haze of electric beats. The demo on one of Berlin’s main shopping streets was organized by the local music magazine "Partysan."

Copycat event goes ahead

A few kilometers away, in the Tiergarten Park, another event was being held under the name "Music Day." But Love Parade organizer Motte had sought to distance himself from the event, describing its organizers as "freeloaders." Local authorities also required that the organizers reduce the size of the event, downsizing it from five stages to three. Nor were the organizers able to sell any food or drinks. They first received their permit at the last minute and were unable to organize catering that met the city’s requirements under short notice.

Berlin authorities first ruled to issue a permit for "Music Day" on Friday, after organizers demonstrated that the event would have enough speeches to be deemed an actual demonstration under local law. Initially, authorities and the police had refused to issue a permit for the event, which they had deemed a techno party rather than a demonstration. In the end, it made little difference. According to the news agency DPA, police estimated only 200 to 300 attended the event on the grounds where hundreds of thousands reveled only a year ago.

Before sunset

There were also major differences between this year’s mini events and the mass Love Parade of the past: for one, both events had to end by 7 p.m., a full two hours before sunset.

The original Love Parade lost its status as a "political event" in 2001 after holding it for more than a decade. The move forced Motte and his organizers to pony up the costs for clean-up and other expenses related to the event that are normally covered by the city for major political rallies. In May, the event, which has drawn as many as a million ravers in past years, was cancelled because its organizers couldn’t find enough sponsors.