View Chapters

Book: Turntable Stories

Chapter: Vintage DJing at Konrad Tönz, Berlin

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.46287


Berlin is well-known for its vibrant night life, top-tier clubs and momentous DJ performances. What the casual visitor might not be aware of is that the German capital also hosts a rich and varied selection of venues that cater to niche audiences and selected music scenes such as Northern soul, funk, reggae, punk, and rock & roll.

Among these venues, one of the most peculiar and long-lasting is the bar Konrad Tönz, located in a characteristic area of Kreuzberg. Borrowing its name from a regionally famous radio and TV personality, it displays a modernist décor that is not uncommon in Berlin, especially in the former Eastern part of the city (though after the construction of the Wall Kreuzberg found itself in the West sector).

As in most bars in Berlin, it hosts regular DJ-sets. What makes it an oddity is its DJ console, consisting of two separate vintage portable turntables. This means, first of all, that DJs cannot rely on headphone monitoring. Moreover, since there is no mixer, the only way to blend two records is by turning the respective volume knobs up or down. If they really want to be audacious, DJs may mess with the tone knobs.

In this context, what would appear like the opposite of classic DJing – no pitch control, no separate monitoring, no direct traction, no beatmatching (unless you are lucky) – makes for a unique experience both for the performer as well as the audience.

A welcoming place with accessible prices (and low DJs fees), Konrad Tönz possibly epitomises the well-known saying about Berlin being poor but sexy. This chapter draws on personal experience as a DJ in the years between 2006–2009, as well as on ethnographic work (Nardi 2014) and interviews with bar owner, manager, booker and bar keeper Jens Maeß. It will discuss what makes Konrad Tönz an original venue that expresses a side of Berlin that, although not as glamorous as that associated with the most celebrated clubs, is worth looking in depth.

Chapter Contributors