Sat, Jul 15, 2006 - Page 16 News List

It's make or break for Berlin's revamped Love Parade

The party may be over for techno music and raves


People dance in the streets of Berlin during the Love Parade on July 12, 2003. The Love Parade will return to the streets of Berlin after financial problems forced the techno music festival to take a two-year break, organizers said.


Up to a million scantily clad ravers will gyrate through the heart of Berlin today in what is billed as the world's biggest open-air dance party — the Love Parade.

But then again, maybe nobody will show up. It has been three years since the last Love Parade and the new organizers have made some radical changes that may not go down well with trend-setting club-goers who made the Love Parade a mid-summer rite of passage for 15 years.

Call it a dance floor remix, if you will, for this year's revived and revitalized Love Parade has shifted away from the insistent techno beat that characterized the parade in the 1990s to accommodate a younger generation who prefer jazzier, rockier and hip-hoppier sounds.

“We want the dance floor crowd who like Madonna, Fat Boy Slim, Shakira and Tarkan, not just the old synthesizer techno freaks,” says Love Parade spokesman Maurice Maue.

Maue is the frontman for millionaire businessman Rainer Schaller who owns a chain of workout gyms. Schaller has put up US$1 million to revive the Love Parade after a three-year hiatus that ensued when the parade's original founders ran out of money.

And that is the biggest change of all. Whereas the old Love Parade was plagued from the start with amateurish management and chronic lack of funding, this year's event is a well-financed and well-organized offshoot of Schaller's highly lucrative McFit Studios gym empire.

Big-name club DJs from around the world will be flown in from as far away as China. Food and beverage concession stands will be available.

Uniformed security guards will be on hand for crowd control. Two commercial TV networks are paying handsomely for the rights for live broadcast coverage.

And, in a first, adequate toilet facilities will be able to accommodate up to a million ravers. In the past the adjacent Tiergarten park was used as a latrine, generating ill-will from Berliners.

Schaller is also providing litter cleanup crews, further defusing opponents to the event.

Amid mounting complaints and chaotic management, the last Love Parade in 2003 drew only half a million ravers.

Maue says he is hoping up to a million revellers attend Saturday, though he would be happy if half that actually show.

Berlin's hotel and restaurant owners are also hoping for a big crowd, especially since the just-ended World Cup failed to produce the record bookings that had been predicted. It turned out football fans were more interested in watching the matches than in eating out and shopping.

Retailers and hotel owners have been lobbying for three years to find a way to revive the Love Parade, so Schaller is a knight in shining armor to them.

The Love Parade drew over a million participants at its height in the years up to the turn of the Millennium when Berlin was a forest of construction cranes.

Television images of hordes of nearly nude ravers dancing to a throbbing techno beat through the heart of Berlin came to symbolize this post-unification German capital in the 1990s.

Pulsing music from scores of sound trucks reverberated on a Saturday each summer as the parade of writhing bodies made its way along the broad boulevard through the Tiergarten park between two Berlin landmarks — the Brandenburg Gate in the east, and the 1870 Victory Column in the west.

But times and musical tastes changed. And the German economy soured. Ravers who gyrated to techno music at the first parade are now approaching middle age.

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