Blackland Rock & Metal Bar
Blackened ruin on Highway to Hell
Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Lemmy are still waiting outside for the Blackland Rock & Metal Bar to reopen.
But it seems the pub may have joined them in the otherworld after going up in flames nearly two years ago. Ernst-Thälmann-Park has never been so quiet and the local district office is in no hurry to help the proprietors get the rocking and boozing going again.
Michael “Pille” Parlow and Freddy Gantenberg have been trying to reopen the appropriately named Blackland since the fire caused €178,000 worth of damage in August 2021. They blamed the blaze on old East German cabling.
According to a petition signed by more than 7,500 supporters, Gantenberg’s insurance covered the cost of all the interior damage, but the “Feuersozietät” employed by the local district office (Bezirksamt) refused to handle the rest, preventing its repair. The petition also alleges that the Bezirksamt wants to terminate the pub’s lease.
Gantenberg says the defective ventilation system responsible for causing the fire was installed when the building was built in the 1980s, so the local district office is responsible for damages.
“The (district office) employee said I could happily cancel my rental contract, but I certainly don’t want that. Blackland is my baby,” Gantenberg told the B.Z. tabloid.
Pankow mayor Sören Benn denied responsibility.
“There were and are discrepancies between the tenant and the landlord’s insurance companies regarding the assumption of costs to restore the pub,” Benn told Der Tagesspiegel. He added that the Bezirksamt was not trying to end Gantenberg’s lease and that the discrepancies were “being clarified.”
Well, that was September last year and nothing’s happened since – Berlin bureaucracy is a sticky beast and you sure as hell don’t want to get caught in it or you’ll never get out.
All this was far from Gantenberg and Parlow’s minds when they opened Blackland in the octagonal flat-roofed building on Lilli Henoch Straße just off Greifswalder Straße on April 9, 2010.
Juliane Wiedemeier interviewed the latter two years later for Prenzlauerberg Nachrichten.
“The beer is freshly tapped and cheap, the menu has 26 types of whiskey and no Bionade,” Wiedemeier wrote before describing Parlow with what appeared* to be a racist slur. “He’s the black man from little girls’ nightmares. Until he opens his mouth and explains in the loveliest Berlinerisch how he got his position as the owner of a metal (pub) in the eco-district.”
Wiedemeier went on to describe how Parlow described himself as “apolitical” and distanced himself from right-wing bands that had played at a festival that Blackland later presented, Rock for Roots in Nauen.
However, Blackland would go on to play host to many questionable bands over the following years, according to a list complied by Berlin antifa in April 2015.
“The Blackland owners refrain from a public and credible demarcation against right-wing ideas. It would damage their standing in right-wing parts of the community and deny the opportunity to party in friendly unity with gray-zone bands, right-wing rockers and NSBM (National Socialist black metal) fans – something Blackland has been practicing for years, by the way,” the antifa wrote.
It pointed to a photo on Blackland’s website showing partying guests in front of a Frei.Wild poster, a guest in a Nazi-clothing brand “Thor Steinar” jacket, and another wearing a shirt of alleged NSBM band Burzum.
“It must therefore be concluded that the Blackland has not only flirted with guests and bands from the right-wing spectrum in the past, but it will also keep the door wide open for the spread of right-wing ideas in the future,” the antifa wrote.
A bomb threat was made against Blackland that April before a concert by Limited Booze Boys. The band’s guitarist, Henning Haydt, was previously a member of the neo-Nazi scene in Jena and had been investigated for the construction of pipe bombs in connection with the NSU (National Socialist Underground) terrorist group.
No one was harmed and Blackland reopened. But Parlow was “noticeably angry,” the Prenzlauerberg Nachrichten reported.
The online newspaper again played down any right-wing connections the pub may or may not have had.
“For some the Blackland is part of the right-wing subculture in Prenzlauer Berg, for others just a Kneipe with real drinking culture with little room for ambivalence: beer on tap, hard seats, hard music. There’s little to suggest that this is a Nazi shack, and much to say that such allegations stem from a certain hysteria,” Prenzlauerberg Nachrichten said.
Celebrities have been rushing to Blackland’s aid with calls for its salvation.
“For me as a Prenzlauer Berg native, Blackland should clearly be a protected part of the neighborhood. It should never be quiet where there’s still loud and wild music,” the Boss Hoss singer Alec Völkel told B.Z.
Sophia Thomalla apparently knew the pub from her days dating Rammstein singer Till Lindemann, long before he made front-page news for his alleged treatment of women at concerts.
“The Blackland is like Berlin. It doesn’t matter what you look like or where you come from. With Freddy at the counter, everyone’s the same,” Thomalla said. “The Blackland has to stay.”
Thomalla is now dating tennis player Alexander Zverev. She sure picks ‘em.
Evil Jared, former bassist of the Bloodhound Gang, also lamented Blackland’s downfall.
“The loss of this landmark would leave a gaping hole in the city’s culture,” Jared said.
There ain’t much of Blackland left now, with windows smashed, anything of value taken, and tags all around outside saying “Nazis raus.”
The giant skull still warily watches passersby from the roof. It might not be there for much longer though – another guy was poking around looking for a way to take it off the roof to bring it to his bar in Kreuzberg. Meanwhile, in the last few weeks, some idiots climbed up on the roof and knocked it over.
The pub is more dead than alive at this stage, in keeping with the general vibe of darkness it aspired to. Without booze and music, however, it’s just not the same.
LOCATION AND ACCESS (HOW TO FIND GUIDE)
- What: Blackland Rock & Metal Bar, which was – as you may have guessed from the name – a rock and metal drinking establishment with lots of heavy loud music.
- Where: Lilli Henoch Straße 1, Prenzlauer Berg, 10405 Berlin
- How to get there: Greifswalder S-Bahnhof is just across the road, so you can take the Ringbahn here from wherever you happen to be in the city, or take the M4 tram from Alexanderplatz. Otherwise, hop on your bike, still the best way to get anywhere in this city (though the CDU-led city government is doing all it can to change that). Here it is on a map if you need it.
- Getting in: Someone has kindly left a chair outside a smashed window so you can easily get in. There’s another chair on the other side if you need it, but you probably won’t. The door is also open if you give it a light push.
- When to go: Day or night, it doesn’t matter.
- Difficulty rating: 1/10. Pretty much no effort at all.
- Who to bring: Bring a DJ or a band if you want to hear any music.
- What to bring: Bring your own beer and spirits as this bar has none. Bring a torch to explore the back rooms if you want to check out the posters.
- Dangers: Watch out for any homeless as it seems someone has made their home here, meaning they’re not homeless at all. So just watch out for the new inhabitants, and perhaps also keep an eye out in case any of the old customers return.
*After Wiedemeier’s apparent racist slur was pointed out to the Prenzlauerberg Nachrichten, they said they had no explanation for it as she had left them long before. They changed the text with no mention of what was there previously to “Er ist das Monster aus den Alpträumen kleiner Kinder.”
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