Can You Love a Love Parade?

Berlin's legendary -- but embattled -- Love Parade makes a San Francisco debut. But will thousands dance to its beat?

Dr. Motte and a few hundred friends took to the Ku'damm on July 10 with seven floats and the motto "Fight the Power -- Club Culture vs. Ignorance" as a reminder of the Love Parade. Meanwhile several thousand convened in the Tiergarten for "Music Day," an event, hosted by unrelated promoters, that the German news organization Deutsche Welle reported as a hastily organized, pale imitation of the Love Parade and a danger to the image of the original event.


Four years ago, the German organizers of the Love Parade contacted the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade Committee to ask for guidance on hosting an event here. The natural suggestion: Involve Joshua Smith, a dance-music enthusiast who had been responsible for organizing the S.F. Pride Parade's dance-music stages.

Smith lights up when asked what elements of the Berlin event he'd like to see translated to San Francisco. "The excitement, the colors, the art, creativity," he says, beaming. "When you go to [the parades], there's so much color and excitement and a feeling of love and togetherness. All these people who come from different backgrounds -- rural, urban, artistic, liberal, conservative -- all coming together in this thing called music and in peace and in love. I think now more than ever it's such an appropriate time that we come online here in the U.S. with this to be a part of that message."

The message will stay intact, but for it to work here, the medium will need to adapt to the local environment. "I think it could translate," posits Heiko Hoffmann, editor of the popular Berlin-based electronic-music magazine Groove. "It has already proven to do so in other places. Last year was the first year where the [Love Parade-inspired] Street Parade in Zurich attracted more people than the Love Parade. ... However, this obviously depends on what kind of music will be played and this music's current popularity in the city."

The biggest battle for the success of Love Parade San Francisco involves convincing the local scene that the event is a true San Francisco event, not a misguided attempt to reproduce a European party, and that it will include many genres of electronic dance music. Although the techno/trance sounds favored at the German party do have some followers here, they are by no means dominant. "In my opinion, the Love Parade S.F. should be an authentic parade done by people in San Francisco and California," says Dr. Motte. "A true Love Parade S.F. will be made by the whole club-music community, like DJs, clubs, labels, musicmakers, music lovers, dancers, and spirit keepers.

"The all-time Love Parade slogan is 'Unity by Diversity,' so if every one of the Love Paraders embody this, this will be a wonderful family with an excellent potential."

"They will have to work hard for sure, because the Love Parade has such a strong connotation with [trance music]," says Tomás Palermo, the editor of local electronic-music magazine XLR8R, an event promoter, and a DJ who co-hosts the Friday Night Sessions radio program on KUSF. "But having said that, the San Francisco 'scene' is in a very fragile position right now. If you take a look at attendance in clubs and who's making money and not making money and what's at stake for DJs, I think if you involve a wide swath of DJs, you're bound to do better in the long run."

Smith says that Love Parade S.F. has musical diversity as its No. 1 goal in choosing who will operate sound systems and floats in the parade. The event's organizing committee has trolled the local scene for board members who reflect a range of tastes. "We have people from the drum 'n' bass community, the breaks scene, psy-trance scene, house music," says Smith. "In addition to the professional skill sets, we have a very diverse electronic-music background on the board. We've been very lucky."

"We don't want it to become an exclusive clique of just one kind of music," he continues. "Being focused in one particular genre can be dangerous, because nothing stays the same forever."

Love Week is traditionally a boon to the DJs and club promoters of Berlin, who pocket profits for well-attended parties whether they support the parade itself or not. (And many do not, particularly the hordes of Berliners who faithfully plan their vacations out of town for Love Week to avoid what they see as an overly commercialized nuisance of the highest order.)

It's not unusual to have as many as 100 electronic-music parties and events in Berlin during Love Week, some scheduled to coincide with the parade -- and some to provide reasons to miss it. At popular techno clubs like the consistently edgy Tresor in Mitte, revelers are at least temporarily tap-dancing on the grave of the Love Parade while still enjoying their annual Love Week festivities (which continued earlier this month, despite the absence of the parade).

Love Parade S.F. is almost certain to offer a similar boost to club attendance, with smart local promoters looking at the Oct. 2 weekend as good for almost any style of electronic music. The increase in business will probably be felt most prominently in South of Market clubs such as 111 Minna Gallery, Club Six, Ten 15 Folsom, and the DNA Lounge, which will have the distinct advantage of foot traffic spilling from the Market Street parade.

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