First performance in the “Besetzereck”: the doctors celebrate 40 years on stage

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First appearance in the “Besetzereck”
The doctors celebrate 40 years on stage

Today, they usually perform in front of tens of thousands of fans. But Die Ärzte also started small – with a show at “Besetzereck” in Berlin. 40 years ago. Not only the number of spectators has changed since then, but also the musical ability of Farin Urlaub and Bela B.

Four decades after their first performance as Die Ärzte, the Berlin musicians are aware of the importance that has grown with their fame. “From the start, applause was optional,” says guitarist Farin Urlaub 40 years after their debut on September 26, 1982 in Berlin’s “Besetzereck”, a squat in the trendy Kreuzberg district. “We also drew our own posters for this first concert.”

“Sometimes you would finish a song and just listen to people drinking beer,” says Farin Urlaub. “You didn’t feel like rock stars there. It’s a little different now. We have quite a lot of attention and hopefully we will handle it responsibly.” The musicians are involved individually or as a band in many campaigns for small clubs in crisis, against right-wing extremism or for refugee initiatives.

Jan Vetter, the real name of Farin Urlaub, and drummer Dirk Felsenheimer, better known as Bela B, had met two years earlier and played for Soilent Grün. After the punk band broke up, the two musicians formed Die Ärzte together with bassist Hans “Sahnie” Runge in Berlin. Rodrigo “Rod” González joined the band in 1993 as bassist after a five-year break.

“We have allowed ourselves the delusions of grandeur”

“We called our first tour of the German-speaking world a world tour, we allowed ourselves the megalomania,” says Bela B afterwards. “In the end, we thought it would all be over in a year or two.”

The first performance in the “Besetzereck” was not sold out with 50 or 60 people. “During the concert there was some resentment because some of those present knew us from Soilent Grün, a very fast punk band with partly political lyrics. They didn’t like our new orientation at first.” The doctors were also pop and slapstick.

Since then, fundamental things have changed for Farin Urlaub in the repertoire. “Of course we now play a bit better than before and there are more people. But what a huge difference: we played 20 songs at the first concerts with a lot of effort because we only wrote 18 songs and also played two covers.”

The first rock star feelings

For the set lists, the trio now has “many options for every position” with several hundred songs, which is “very luxurious”. Some songs are completely off. The band hasn’t played “Elke” for years. Farin Urlaub justified this recently during a performance with the “Fat Shaming” passages in the lyrics.

The first concert was “only afterwards such a very important moment”. The mood was different for the guitarist at the time: “I remember thinking afterwards: Well, now we have played a concert with the new band. But the feeling was not: Now it starts. That’s how it happened the year later.”

Drummer Bela B marks this turning point: “It wasn’t until a year and a half later that we didn’t have to dismantle our own system anymore. That’s when real rockstar feelings surfaced for the first time.”

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