Stephen McBean is in an entertaining mood when we meet him on a late May-afternoon at the Arena venue. Pink Mountaintops is the solo project of the Vancouver-based songwriter, who also leads the psychedelic rock band Black Mountain. Everything is running a bit late, so there is not much time for doing a little acoustic session. While we are still thinking where it would be best to do the filming, Stephen has already made himself comfortable on a couch in the bar room of the venue, which he wouldn’t leave anymore for the next 30 minutes. His band mates on guitar, violin and – later – plastic bag join in and Pink Mountaintops start into stunning acoustic versions of “Vampire”, “Plastic Man, You’re The Devil” and “Leslie” – each song is from another of their three albums -, interrupted only by the omnipresent giggling and joking of Stephen. He switches moods easily, makes funny comments and the next moment strums the intro chords of a melancholic song such as “Vampire”, only to stop after a few seconds, burst in laughter again and then restart. So we get treated with a highly enjoyable, yet musically and emotionally very intense session.
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.