Music & clubs

Obituary: Maria am Ostbahnhof

She was the club pioneer on the banks of the Spree. But soon, at just 13, she will be gone forever. Maria, one of Berlin’s top clubs for electronic music, closes this month.

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Maria was one of a kind. A solid companion, who would always make you feel at home. Loyal, but always a trendsetter with a sure feeling for what was yet to come. You could rely on her like on an old friend. Thanks to her good looks, she even made it in the movies, when, in 2008, she co-starred with DJ Paul Kalkbrenner in Berlin Calling. But soon, at just 13, she will be gone forever.

Maria, one of Berlin’s top clubs for electronic music, closes this month. Their lease with the city’s property office, the Liegenschaftsfonds, has expired and will not be renewed. The new owner of the site, the Hamburg-based Ludger Inholte Projektentwicklung, is planning a building with a hotel, offices and flats. Construction is meant to start next year.

Club Maria was the pioneer on the banks of the Spree. Founder Ben de Biel, once a punk, started out with illegal clubs in squats in the 1990s. He opened Maria No. 1 in a now-demolished factory building belonging to the former Postbahnhof. In 2002, Maria moved a couple of hundred meters to the bunker-like building next to Schillingsbrücke, where a club named Deli had already held parties with fires in barrels and dirty trance music.

Maria’s look has always been simple and minimalist, improvised rather then designed, and randomly put together like the red neon letters outside that once spelled “Pumpen und Armaturen CSSR” on a building on Alexanderplatz. Since there was no ‘I’ they just turned around the ‘T’. The chairs came from an East German hotel lobby.

Maria always had personality: think of the toilet man who had his own little table in front of the bathrooms, with lollipops, deodorant, condoms and everything else a Berlin clubber might need. And while you always risked not making it past the strict bouncers of Bar25 or Berghain just around the corner, Maria kept her arms open for pretty much everyone. You never could pigeonhole Maria’s crowd, who simply agreed on the lowest common denominator: just dance.

In 2005, they opened up Josef, an additional floor that on occasion served as a venue of its own. That June, Exberliner celebrated its third birthday at Maria, with a massive bash peaking with an awesome show by Berlin vamps Cobra Killer.

In the summer of 2009, the narrow outside strip of land at the river bank became a perfect after-hour spot named ‘Jacki Terrasse’, with just enough trees to feel like nature, but ugly and industrial enough to correspond to the wastedness of a Sunday afternoon.

There now seems to be a curse on all of the nightlife that once flourished Spree-side. Yaam is constantly threatened, Bar25 shuttered (though rumoured to be opening on the other side of the water this summer), Kiki Blofeld on the way out, and now Maria, the pioneer, is going as well. The curse has a name: Mediaspree, with its big money investors. Maria’s departure signifies more than just another club closing down. It signals the disappearance of subculture and creativity. We’ll miss her.

Maria will be survived by her progenitor Ben de Biel, who says he is already looking for a place to accommodate Maria No. 3.

Join Maria for her last party: May 20-22, with long-term boyfriends Modeselektor, T. Raumschmiere, Gebrüder Teichmann, et al.