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Feeling musically inspired by Berlin’s vibrant arts and entertainment scene? Cheapos, step right up to Bearpit Karaoke!
In February 2009, Irish expat Joe Hatchiban plugged in a karaoke set at Berlin’s Mauerpark Flea Market in Prenzlauer Berg. A bicycle courier by day, Hatchiban toted the necessary equipment on his vehicle: a laptop with karaoke mp3s, a microphone, mixer, two speakers, an umbrella, and a lawn chair. The stage was open to anyone with the gusto to sing and dance on stage. It was a huge success.
Enter the Bearpit
Bearpit Karaoke now draws about 1,500 people on an average Sunday afternoon. It’s open from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m in the summer and 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the fall. Performers range from kids to adults, metal heads to opera singers, and average Joes to best friend trios.
“It brings a whole new activity to the flea market,” says Donald Burke, a professional Berlin guide, bartender, and Bearpit Karaoke regular.
Burke is a loyal fan, admitting that two favorite performances he caught recently were the Spice Girls’ “If You Wanna Be My Lover” sung by a French girl who barely knew the lyrics, and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” performed by a 13-year-old boy “with perfect choreography.”
Razzle dazzle them
It’s all about picking a tune that’s both a crowd-pleaser and that falls in line with the three-and-a-half-minute song limit. In the end, perfect pitch isn’t necessary when you’ve got killer moves, high enthusiasm and audience interaction.
The beauty of Bearpit Karoake lies in its communal aspect, as the crowd acts as a giant support group for all performers. The seating area in Mauer Park’s stone amphitheater fills quickly with onlookers ready to spend an entire afternoon clapping, dancing, and shouting lyrics to singers in need of assistance. The event is also a magnet for tourists, who are offered a special look inside Berlin’s summer scene.
Sing for your supper
“It’s also a new outlet for food and drink businesses to set up and accommodate the 1,000 people watching karaoke,” Burke said. About a dozen refreshment vendors line the area ready with water, beer, and soft drinks at dirt-cheap prices.
There is no cost to watch or sing at Bearpit Karaoke, though donations are happily accepted. The whole event doesn’t aim to make money; it’s simply a fun way to spend an afternoon.
Bearpit Karaoke runs during the warm months of summer and fall. Check out the Web site for more information.