It’s wonderful to take in some cultural events while visiting the creative capital of Europe, but wouldn’t it be even more exciting to push past the fear and hop on stage yourself? Berlin begs us to live a little more on the edge, and a visit here might be just the perfect opportunity to do as only a bold Berliner would.
There are lots of smaller places in the city to whip out a hidden talent, or at least discover underground artists to follow. From beginners hoping for some feedback to experienced performers down for a good crowd, there’s something cool to see or do in almost every corner of the city. Depending on how much pressure you can handle, these places span widely – from incredibly popular to super low-key, it’s all here and easy to access.
For the fearless, the most well-trodden locale is probably the weekly summer karaoke session at Mauerpark. It’s famous for the uproarious crowd, which is a mix of international tourists and loving locals who loudly cheer on the random people who perform on stage every sunny Sunday. The dude who started it, Joe Hatchiban, has kept the event going strong since its informal beginnings in 2009, despite his pretty basic equipment – a DIY setup using what looks like an old bike parts. He draws a big crowd, for sure, though it’s also clear people come here more for the chance to sip beers in the afternoon sun and sing along to rowsing eighties hits. It lowers the stakes considerably, and explains the sometimes wide range of talents on display (from the bad, to the bizarre and wonderful).
If you can’t wait until Sunday (or in the off-season), sing with your friends at another popular karaoke bar across the street from the Warschauerstrasse bahn stop, Monster Ronson’s. It’s considered just as much of a Berlin institution for karaoke fans. There’s a common room and private spaces to jam with friends, even a drag-day every second Saturday of the month.
An even cozier vibe might be at Lagari, which is a local kneipe, or pub, that plays host to a weekly open mic at its unassuming home in a Neukolln neighborhood every Sunday evening. This might be the perfect crowd for acoustic music or maybe a bit of stand-up comedy – beginner comics sometimes make the rounds here. For proper spoken word events, du Beast is another favorite on Thursday evenings. They’ll usually showcase a featured poet along with a generally diverse lineup. It means the poetry is in a mix of languages (not just German) and often draws a young, international crowd. Du beast is also open on other nights of the week for concerts or other events.
Maybe it’s easier to spit rhymes to a beat: in that case, the place to be late on a Tuesday is at Badehaus, a club and concert hall that just oozes good vibes and great music. They open the floor to anyone to step on the mic after the weekly SWAG Jam, a hip hop and R&B show with various talented local acts. The post-show open mic lasts a solid two hours every Tuesday; anyone can join in to showcase their skills on the beat.
For anyone looking to jam with other jazz and funk enthusiasts from South America and beyond, the Tuesday jazz night at the upstairs bar at Gorlitzer Park is where it’s at. Go past the first-floor crowds and head to the top floor to find it. Jump into the session if you’ve got your instrument with you, or just dance along with the musicians. It’s a happy party that always manages to last late into the night.
It might seem like it’s only possible to perform in these more formal ways, but that would ignore one of the best parts about performing in Berlin: everywhere is a stage, from the local park, to the metro stations to street corners. People are constantly expressing themselves creatively in public and offering a chance for others to participate (if only to drop a few coins in the hat). It’s an inspiring reminder for anyone who wishes to explore their artistic side while on a trip to this bustling city.