Blog: ‘I’ll drink to that’ – Tallinn’s Black Celebration of Depeche Mode

The winding medieval streets of Estonia’s capital hold a bit of a surprise for the traveller who hasn’t done their top bars research in advance. Voorimehe, a cobbled alley just off the main square, leads to the DM Baar – a Depeche Mode shrine. Why owner Dan Buinenko should have felt that a DM theme bar was a good business prospect in post-communist Estonia is a mystery. The country certainly takes music seriously, but of a rather different kind (independence was fought for through the ‘Singing Revolution’, when the Estonian flair for choral music was channelled into anti-Soviet protest), and the bar’s presence among the turrets and churches of Tallinn’s Old Town is incongruous. Still, the bar has been open since 1999 and is still going strong – there’s clearly an audience for it in this corner of Europe.

Originally opened in a location further to the north of the Town Square, the bar’s major claim to fame is that it was graced with the presence of Depeche Mode’s own Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher during the Exciter tour in 2001, before the band played Tallinn’s open-air Song Festival Grounds (the focal point of the Singing Revolution in 1988, in fact). They returned in 2006 when the band played the city again on the Touring the Angel tour. These hallowed occasions, when the gods visited their own temple, are captured in a photo display that takes pride of place on the back wall of the bar.

Arriving at the DM Baar on a snowy Monday night, there was hardly a party atmosphere (one other patron, plus two of the barman’s mates), but once the band’s epic 1988 performance at the Pasadena Rose Bowl, captured in D.A. Pennebaker’s film 101, started blasting out of the plasma screens all around the walls, the ambience improved immeasurably (further assisted by the local Vana Tallinn liqueur). Although there’s the slight whiff of the tourist trap about it (there’s a suspiciously full range of merchandise available – keyrings, €20), the bar hardly depends on foreign Mode fans alone, as the locals certainly hold the band dear. The new album, Delta Machine, is currently at number 1 in the Estonian album chart and there’s a dedicated Estonian fan club, which celebrated its twentieth birthday last year.

Delta Machine has already gone platinum in Poland and Hungary, so the DM Baar can be considered the centre of the Depeche Mode fan cult not just in Estonia, but in Eastern Europe as a whole, and it is a symbol of just how loved the band are by our European neighbours. In fact, the bar is not unique – there’s also a dedicated DM watering hole in Moscow (the Depeche Mode fan cult is huge in Russia), and the eastern Polish city of Poznań is home to a regular club night (Polish fans made perhaps the ultimate fan tribute video to celebrate 30 years of the band in 2010). If Basildon is the Rome of the Depeche Mode cult, the DM Baar is just one of several local shrines also to be discovered throughout the world.