Karl Blau & Lake
Erdberg, Arena, 2010
“Just another day in Vienna,” says Ashley. For the filming session on the grey morning after their Vienna show the Olympia-based band Lake (here with Ashley, Andrew, Eli and Lindsay) is joined by Karl Blau, who is also from Washington, but from the smaller city Anacortes. On a huge, yet deserted open-air stage the quintet goes for the mellow “Breathing”, a song of subtle catchiness. The more the song advances, the more the scenery opens up and makes you feel either abandoned on the wide ground or buoyant under the open sky. It’s all about the nuances. Karl Blau, who is actually having his birthday on the day of the filming at the end of February, also chooses a setting that is far from being classy for “Hey Low, Halo”. Beside heavy traffic, smokestacks, a demolition site and a display board showing you the way out of Vienna, Karl is singing from “heavenly grace”, accompanied by Ashley’s and Andrew’s dulcet clapping and hey lowing, haloing. At times melancholy, these softly gleaming songs still know how to smooth away your problems. No wonder, as the musicians bring up joy or even grace at places that might have seemed dismal at a first glance.
At first sight there is not much reason to visit Erdberg, the southern part of Vienna’s third district Landstraße and one of the oldest settlements in the Vienna region. There are few things left which evoke the memory of the area’s rural past with its wineyards and vegetable gardens, apart from Erdberg’s coat of arms, which bares a strawberry. This, however, is based on a linguistic misunderstanding as the German word for strawberry, Erdbeere, bares a strong resemblance to Erdberg. Nowadays, factories, commercial buildings and the highly frequented A23 motorway with its several ramps, characterize the area. Although Erdberg appears rough and industrial, there are some spots that increase the value of the quarter. Arena, a former slaughterhouse, is a cultural centre and music venue, hosting mainly rock and punk concerts and manages to maintain a high-quality of programming for its altogether five stages. Close-by, the four Gasometer-towers form Erdberg’s skyline. The 70-meter high brick buildings, erected in 1896, were formerly used as gas tanks. Around the year 2000, however, the towers were reconstructed by famous architects such as Jean Nouvel and Coop Himmelb(l)au and now feature a shopping centre, flats, a concert venue as well as a student dormitory.
Arena is a cultural center and music venue in the industrialized district of Erdberg. Its beginnings hark back to 1976, when some thousand demonstrators gathered around the former St. Marx Auslandsschlachthof to save it from demolition and subsequent commercial use. While they were not able to save the huge building complex, the vast social movement did succeed in reaching the foundation of an autonomous cultural center on the smaller area of the former slaughterhouses, which represents today’s Arena. Presently Arena has integrated a wide musical spectrum to its programme for various crowds and commercial use. Yet Arena’s dictum “Love Music, Hate Fascism!” is more than a relict of old days as it is still the venue with the most punk concerts in town.