For the intrepid music fan, a week in Berlin can be overwhelming in the best sense. After all, it's a city that finds room for at least 2,000 active bands, 50 theaters, seven orchestras, three state-funded opera houses and countless DJs. Beyond that, there's hardcore techno, laptop-driven electronica, homegrown hip-hop, R&B and soul, and stylized revivals of 1920's cabaret. Most everyone in Berlin points to a basic set of factors driving the arts scene: the lack of any real industrial base, amazingly cheap rents, and a quirky, nonconformist atmosphere.
There's something else happening. Geographically, Berlin is sprawling -- about eight times the area of Paris -- and some argue that it's like New York in the '80s. It's easy to walk through areas of the former East Berlin and find gray, bullet-scarred buildings next door to beautifully renovated apartment houses, next door to giant construction cranes. Neighborhoods are constantly changing. Whereas some European capitals feel comfortably settled, nearly two decades after reunification, culture in Berlin is still very much in flux. -- Brian Wise
Note: Stay tuned November 5-9 when Soundcheck broadcasts our series of shows from Berlin.