Berghain Vs. Billyburg: How Output Compares to Berlin’s House of Hedonism

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How does Brooklyn’s EDM scene stack up?

As you may have read in various cutting-edge cultural publications, the city is enjoying an electronic dance music (or “EDM”) renaissance. Crucial to any such story is Output, the Williamsburg club that promises a no-frills, music-focused experience in the same vein as Berlin’s Berghain.

Because Output cribs most of its philosophy from Berghain—no mirrors, no pictures, no bottle service, the idea that it values “the communal experience of music” and is “not for everyone”—it should come as no surprise that the place has been compared to the European techno mecca numerous times in its five months of existence, most recently by The New York Times.

In an effort to see whether Output’s owners have in fact transported Berlin’s perfectionistic German dance culture to a place where Snooki is the genre’s most famous fan, the Transom attended Output this past weekend. Here are our findings:

Cover charge: On any given night, Berghain costs about 12 euros, and most folks stay for at least 12 hours—not a bad euro-per-hour deal. Output costs up to $30 and closes at 4 a.m.

Neighborhood: Berghain sits on a desolate stretch of concrete rife with big chain stores and depressing Communist architecture. Output sits on the “up-and-coming” douche strip of Wythe Avenue.

Door: After waiting in line for an hour outside a barbed-wire-festooned building, Berghain hopefuls are briskly waved in one of two directions by notorious doorman Sven Marquardt—some get in, some don’t. In 20 minutes of hanging outside Output pretending to text, the Transom did not see anyone denied entry.

Crowd: Berghain is a perfect balance of gay/straight, German/foreign, goth/hipster and normal/unplaceable, with an emphasis on laid-back locals. On any given night, numerous men in leather shorts and bondage straps rendezvous for public sex in the club’s darkroom, sex cubbies and elsewhere. On one visit, the Transom saw a man insert his whole arm into his friend’s body.

Output is heavily weighted toward heteros, some of the Jersey Shore variety. A few had their shirts off, but not “in a gay way.” Immediately upon entering, the Transom was asked, “Excuse me, is that a tattoo? I just got a tattoo!” and was then shown a “sick-ass” phoenix rising from the flames. The Transom did not see anyone getting past first base.

Drugs: At Berghain, it’s possible to find almost any drug you want by talking to one of three people in the bathroom. At Output, four out of five people the Transom spoke to had ingested the hip club drug known as Molly. The fifth was on a yoga cleanse.

Music: Berghain is the Carnegie Hall of house and techno deejays. Likewise, you cannot accuse Output’s owners of failing to book decent talent. This past weekend featured sets from SUBB-AN, Nicolas Matar and Stephanie, for anyone to whom that means something.

Appearance: Output is about one-tenth the size of Berghain. Colored panels of lights and cheesy fonts stenciled on the wall have earned Output comparisons to a laser-tag arena. Berghain’s former power-plant digs have the dust and weight of history.

Food: Because some people stay at Berghain for up to 48 hours at a time, the place offers refreshments in the form of a snack machine and smoothies. Output’s patrons can order artisanal grilled cheeses in an adjoining restaurant/bar decorated in the old-timey aesthetic of the rest of hipster Williamsburg.

Final verdict: As minimalist techno clubs go, Output is but a dim reflection of Berlin’s storied house of hedonism. But if plane tickets are not in your budget, this might be the closest you’re going to get. Given that, $30 suddenly seems a lot cheaper.