Note: This is episode one of “Bizarre Berlin,” a weirdo-series about our weirdo-nights in Berlin. Have a story you want to share? An event you think keeps Berlin as bizarre and titillating as ever? Send us a line to [email protected] and we might feature you.
Don’t you love it when you had nothing special planned, and you just happen to land in one of those delightfully weird Berlin events?
What I expected to be a classic “meeting friends at a bar” plan the other night turned out to be a jolly bizarre surprise the moment we walked into Franken bar, on the ever so lively Oranienstraße.
From outside, the place looks like another old-school pub, but fully-packed inside, with people crammed up til the front door. We go in and squeeze our way through the crowd, as an old groovy hit song plays in the background.
At the very end of the bar, we spot a middle-aged shirtless man standing in front of a couple of record players on a small stage.
Facing the crowd, he moves erratically, performing eccentric, drunken dance moves, a faithful beer in hand.
The ambience feels pretty electric and people’s jovial grins despite the lack of space definitely has me wondering what the hell is actually going on here.
As we reach our friends’ table, we greet everyone in the happy and crammed chaos of the bar and try to grab a drink. One friend comes up to us on his way back from the DJ stage, waving a 7” vinyl that he hands to us: Funkytown from Lips, Inc., the song that was just playing.
While the DJ sways and dangles his plump beer belly to the new tune he’s playing, another friend kindly helps put a context to all the merry mess. The bar is hosting some kind of informal 7” auction.
The DJ plays each single, performs a peculiar one-man-show for the crowd while the vinyl is playing, and puts it up for auction, starting at 10 cents.
Whoever is interested raises a straw and the price increases 10 cents by 10 cents. This humble premise gives birth to a much more extravagant reality.
DJ Papst Pest aka Frank Castro, show master of punk performance
DJ Papst Pest has had his share of beers by the time we got there, and stands half dressed with spray paint smears on his torso and face (he sprayed some directly in his mouth, says a friend, who seems to wish he hadn’t seen that). But the show is just starting.
A real gritty showman self-trained perhaps in the art of punkish performance, trashy burlesque and absurd happening, he adapts to each song, twisting around and rinsing his hair with beer on a groovy tune, stripping to his underwear printed “façon shorty jeans” and doing weird sexy tricks with a vinyl on Rod Stewart’s Do ya think I’m sexy?, whipping a rose on his then bare butt cheek, and going maniac on Ça plane pour moi biting off chunks of his beer glass and chewing on it.
A few horrified looks here and there spread on faces when this happens. Sometimes, a deliciously absurd comment accompany the auctioning. After playing Yes Sir, I can Boogie for instance, he yells: “Baccara, from Spain! Now they’re junkies on the street”. A master of his trade, DJ Papst Pest keeps his crowd entertain in the oddest of ways and we can only salute his wonderfully limitless sense of absurd humour and physical prowess.
Getting a piece of that auction
It’s getting late and as the songs get more and more cult, the prices go up. When the needle hits YMCA, hips can no longer be tamed, the crowd gets stirred up and the auction, I figure, is gonna be a bloodbath. After a race of hands rising up to the highest bid yet, 6 euros, the lucky new owner walks back from the stage gazing reverently at the vinyl in hands with sparkling eyes, oblivious of his hectic surroundings. Cult-classic hip-hop song Rapper’s delight from the Sugar Hill Gang plays right after, and the single’s irresistible funky samples of Chic’s Good times is just the trigger I was waiting for to fall victim to the auctioning madness: this has to be mine!
The auction starts and I fight my way through the fast-rising bids.
I raise my hand again and again, and at 5.40 euros no one seems to continue. 5.40, my bid, gets repeated once (could this be possible?), then twice. But a few words are exchanged in the front and, confusion, I learn that someone has bypassed the auction by offering directly 10 euros for the single. My pumping adrenaline comes to a crash in front of the higher bid. My coveted prize has been snatched away, so close to becoming mine. Damn you unknown stranger, I think as I vengefully shake my fist in my mind, damn you!
Funky Town and Gotta Go Home as keepsakes
Eventually, it’s time to move on to something else. We pack ourselves in heavy winter layers, while the DJ jumps in fury on a high stool (cheers to his impeccable balance despite high alcohol levels) to the sound of Moskau! Moskau! Two 7”s are left on the table, one a present to us, the second is Gotta Go Home from Boney M. The owner, who doesn’t know who Boney M. is (what?) and doesn’t have a record player at home, generously donates it to us.
Fate, as to console me from the bitter defeat, lets me go home with two groovy songs, souvenirs of one refreshing Berlin surprise evening.
That delirious auction of superb ’70s and ’80s musical gems with a show was “Hit oder Niete” with DJ and Showmaster DJ Papst Pest (aka Frank Castro) at Franken bar.
DJ Papst Pest only pays a yearly visit (every November) to Franken bar so you’ll have to wait a bit for the next auction. In the meanwhile, for more grungy events or concerts check out Franken bar’s Facebook page.
Featured Image by Jeanne Lassus.