When I first encountered Mauerpark, I had no idea what Bearpit Karaoke was. I was going for the flea market, which in itself is incredible and worth a visit. It was by the time I’d purchased my second hamsa themed bracelet, a victorian lithograph of a dissected Death’s-head Hawkmoth, and my fifth Radler, that I heard what I thought was an outdoor concert taking place across the dusty expanse of picnickers, frisbee enthusiasts, and dog walkers. I wandered over in the direction of the music, and there emerged a sight that literally made me gasp.
I saw Joe Hatchiban, a charming Irishman with a wit sharper than cut glass, crouching at the base of a huge stone amphitheatre that had been built into a towering grassy bank. Behind him was a bicycled laden with sound equipment, a laptop, and two huge speakers. There was also a middle aged man wearing a straw hat and what appeared to be lederhosen, bellowing Frank Sinatra’s My Way into a microphone, and gesturing towards a cheering crowd of hundreds.
Hatchiban has been emceeing at Bearpit since 2009. Every Sunday, if the weather is good, people from all over the world (I mean, literally, from countries I have never even heard of) congregate here to sing ballads, chart toppers, and classics. A huge part of what makes Bearpit special is the atmosphere; the crowd is always incredibly enthusiastic, even if your singing is pants. In fact, it doesn’t really matter if you can sing or not, as long as you can entertain the crowd. Just be confident, maybe throw some shapes, laugh at yourself, it’s all in fun.
The first time I attended Bearpit I saw a beatboxing Berliner who somehow managed to work Bohemian Rhapsody into his performance, a large man with a Mohawk who sang Brazilian classic Ai Se Eu Te Pego and got half the audience down on the stage to dance, a girl from Bangladesh whose rendition of Total Eclipse of the Heart gave me shivers, and a long-haired Irish boy who yelped A Kiss From A Rose, threw his shirt into the crowd, and had me laughing so much that I felt physical pain. Imagine attending the strangest of X Factor auditions, without the gut wrenching awkwardness. For approximately three minutes, every person who graced the stage shone in the spotlight of the summer sun like a rockstar.
Things usually kick off at 3:00pm, and I recommend getting there at 2:00pm to bag a good spot. Once seated, you will see guys wading through the audience selling beers and other beverages, so you won’t have to bring your own if you don’t want to! Running time is usually 4 hours, and to close you will be treated to Joe’s own rendition of Minnie the Moocher, and I can guarantee that you will find him strangely attractive after that.
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