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Woodstock Redux to a Techno Beat _ Berlin Braces for Love Parade

July 12, 1996

BERLIN (AP) _ In the summer of 1989, about 150 young people danced through the center of then-West Berlin behind a Volkswagen van pumping out the insistent beat of ``techno″ music. Their motto: ``Peace, Happiness and Pancakes.″

What begun as a lark has exploded into the annual ``Love Parade,″ possibly one of the world’s biggest music festival.

Last year more than 250,000 young revelers shook and shimmied their way down the Kurfuerstendamm, Berlin’s main shopping thoroughfare. Twice as many are expected for this Saturday’s procession, from as far away as Japan and Australia.

Parade spokesman Peter Luetzenkirchen calls it Woodstock for a generation that prefers techno music _ blaring, electronic, and with up to 180 beats a minute.

``As a rule we don’t have much to do with rock’n’roll,″ he says. ``But ... Woodstock showed that the American youth of that time wanted more freedom, more tolerance. ... And it’s the same thing with techno and the Love Parade.″

For others, the parade is a noisy nuisance at best and a dangerous and costly rampage at worst.

Complaints last year from merchants about broken glass and frightened shoppers prompted the city to insist the parade be moved to a less congested area. After much debate, both sides agreed on a new route through the Tiergarten park to the Brandenburg Gate and back.

Yet the thought of hundreds of thousands of heavy-booted teens tramping through the park _ not to mention the 40 or so trucks with mega-watt loudspeakers blaring _ has environmental groups up in arms.

``At 180 decibels the bird eggs burst,″ warned Reiner Schicks of the Tiergarten Working Group, who also called this week for evacuating small animals.

Police plan to block off the old Soviet war memorial along the route and spread grease on lampposts to prevent people from climbing them. The federal Environmental Ministry issued an appeal to young people to protect their ears from the ``hammering rhythms.″

Luetzenkirchen insists the parade will go on and predicted the nature-loving techno crowds will surprise the skeptics. ``Watch and see if they destroy everything,″ he says. ``I think they’re much more careful than we think.″

Techno music _ synthesized waves of sound over an insistent beat, with few if any lyrics _ began with such groups as Kraftwerk of Germany in the early 1970s.

Two decades later it dominates European clubs and is spreading to Asia and America, where it’s still primarily underground. A techno culture has also sprung up, centered on psychedelic fashions and marathon ``raves,″ where fans dance all night, often fueled by the amphetamine-based, designer drug Ecstasy.

Some techno purists deride the Love Parade as a sell-out of the genre’s anarchic roots.

This year MTV Europe has signed on to cover the event live. A tobacco company and an ice cream maker are sponsoring the parade’s $333,000 budget, covering everything from promotion to hiring top DJs for the closing party.

Organizers see the Love Parade as a chance to promote their message _ this year it’s ``We are one family″ _ beyond Germany’s rave music scene.

Despite the controversy, the Love Parade should be a good image-booster for Berlin, especially among young people for whom techno is the music of choice, says Francine Jobaty, spokeswoman for the city’s interior ministry.

``It’s an event with a signal effect,″ she says. ``Berlin can present itself″ to the world.

In fact, Jobaty expects to partake in the parade _ albeit involuntarily.

``I live very near to the starting point, so I will certainly get some of it,″ she says. ``You can’t ignore it.″

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