Vienna. Dancing with the Cool Kids.

Posted in media, culture and society by thomas on the Juni 4th, 2010

Riesenrad

(What comes now should probably be filed in the category: „Topics that I have no business writing about“, but anyways.)

One of the good things about being away from home is that you have an incentive for getting to know „home“ better once you return. Things always change, some more subtle, others more visible and dealing with the whole „coming home“ situation makes you more aware of stuff that you wouldn’t even have noticed before leaving. However, when I came home to Austria after my semester in Vancouver, I hardly spent time in Vienna. On the weekends I played tennis for my hometown and during the week I studied for a big exam. Then, in July, I took off to Budapest for three months. The only thing I saw from Vienna during that time was its train station.

So, looking back at the year since I came back, what has changed?

A lot, obviously, but what I think is really amazing to see is how the music scene in Vienna has built some sort of cluster at the edges of laid-back but energetic, raw but sophisticated, oldschool but innovative funkyness – can I get a „Ho!“ for that? – and I don’t only mean the tonality of the music. Now of course, there’s always been underground Hip Hop and electronic music (sic!) in Vienna, and I’m most definitely not in a position to educate anybody about that. What comes out of Vienna recently sounds like that:


(It appears that Dorian Concept and The Clonious are only two of that bunch of producers that are pushing Vienna next to LA and Detroit as the hot spot of this intersection of Hip Hop and Electronic music. You know, Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing, Hudson Mohawke and all.)

What I find interesting in all this are two things.

First, it seems like it took the opening of a third club right in the same are to ignite that breakthrough on a bigger scale. The „Fluc“ had been home to Techno, Dubstep, Drum and Bass, Hip Hop and all kinds of other stuff for some years but it was always a little too alternative for a lot of people. The „Planetarium“ right next door had its share of House, Techno, Hip and Hop and other stuff but was always a little too posh for others. So when the „Pratersauna„, a former sauna with outdoor pool and a „legendary“ grimy heritage, opened in July 2009, suddenly 3 of the most popular alternative music venues in Vienna were all in a 5 minutes walking distance. And then, in fall, Planetarium and Pratersauna took part in the 5 days minifestival RUN VIE – a week „by the heads, for the heads“, organized by Supercity, one of the important platforms for what I’m writing about here. Sneakerness Vienna – a sneaker fair for the „sole culture“ also was happening as part of that thing.

RUN VIE, The Festival 2009, Vienna from supercity on Vimeo.

Now, almost a year later, another collective has formed that will bring Vienna its first electronic „festival“, with Austrian and international acts from Techno, to House, to Dubstep to Hip Hop, in exactly those three locations.

Proximity and momentum. Kind of interesting.

The second thing that I find interesting is the tonality, the look and feel of this ever-more attractive scene. At the intersection of all those genres I left it to you to determine the right words for the sound itsself.

Fluc Wanne Klo

pratersauna

However, apart from the sound I think there is something at the „core“ of this scene with its different venues (and it’s not the toilet architecture as you can see). The clubs themselves are of course different from each other.  Of the three clubs, one is under the ground, one is in a real planetarium and one in a former sauna (and/or swinger club). All of them, however, are improvised and minimalistic.

They are raw in the way how they approach interior and sophisticated/rich only in the music they play. All of them are in a district until recently famous only for the Prater, Vienna’s prototypical and stangely-famous entertainment sight, and prositution. So all of the clubs „benefit“ from this „dirty“ halo of the district and its grimy flair.

All of them are laid back in the sense that there’s no dress code, people from all kinds of backgrounds hang around there and that the whole thing is not taking itsself too seriously yet. They are oldschool in the fact that they are letting the patina survive – both in the sound and the style – and in building and innovating upon that.

And why funky? Well, a week ago I went to another one of the „fresh“ venues, Club Morrison. This one’s not in the same area, but it is also in a former brothel and at least as improvised and raw. Ever since, I can’t help but link this whole movement to this movie that I saw in fall at the Viennale:

The patina, the sophisticated rawness, the disco flair, the grimy atmosphere, parts of the sound, the not taking it too seriously…  I can’t help but think of it all as Black Dynamite, remixed Viennese style.

Years ago, when I moved to Vienna, I asked bounce!-records sage Plaq why there were no Grime gigs in Vienna. He answered that Vienna wasn’t raw and tough enough for Grime. Now, years later, we might have found our thing.

(Apart from the fact that I shouldn’t be writing about music – sorry to all you real heads out there-, this posting shows how limiting text is when writing about culture. I’d need way more pictures and video to properly get across what I mean.)