One of the most impressive things here is public transport. It is incredibly well organized, it will virtually get you everywhere and it isn’t expensive. You can buy a ticket for 24, 48, or 72 hours and ride anywhere and as long as you want. On Fridays, Saturdays and nights before holidays the subway lines operate 24 hours a day, with a train every 15 minutes. Night operation was introduced in 2010 because Vienna’s citizens demanded it in a public opinion poll (!). It has been upheld ever since.
Another noteworthy thing here is the cleanliness of public space. There is no litter, no nothing. I don’t know any big city that looks like that, and I’ve seen a few. Once you’ve visited, you’ll know why Vienna has repeatedly been ranked among the most liveable cities world-wide. In last year’s survey it ended up second behind Melbourne, Australia.
I’m here to see Long Distance Calling, the German post-rock band. They are on tour to promote their new album Boundless. The tour has been a huge success so far, with almost all of the shows being sold out. Besides Vienna, there are only two more left, both in Germany.
I arrive early at the venue. The B72 is one of Vienna’s well-established places to see live shows of underground or alternative music. It is located beneath the railroad tracks, near the historic subways station Alser Straße. The neighbourhood is just the right amount of dodgy. On entering I find a small bar, with 20 to 30 people in it. At the centre of the bar, on the tap, there is a sticker featuring the new, right-wing populist chancellor of Austria – crossed out. Nice. I immediately feel among friends. Opposite of the bar there is a big door opening onto the show space. I’m surprised at its smallness, and happy, too, because shows in small venues are always better. The place looks like it might fit 200 people overall, but that’d be really pushing it.
I buy a beer and find a nice spot near the stage. There are more and more people coming, the place is slowly filling up.
The band climbs on stage at nine o’clock sharp, as announced. There is no support band. The guys position themselves. The bassist between the two guitarists, facing the audience, the drummer behind them. They look confident, but friendly. Smiling faces.
The show opens with Ascending, the second track on the new album Boundless, energy-laden and guitar-heavy. The sound is excellent. The audience is thrilled about this strong start, and the band is visibly happy about the audience’s reaction. Since the place is so small, the band and the audience are unbelievably close. If you’re right at the front, you can reach out and touch the musicians. Where I come from, this is an unthinkable situation. There is a reason for that, of course. People get drunk and nasty. They climb on stage. They pester the musicians. Every venue or club has security personnel to prevent that. No security here. People are civilized, especially those in the first row.
The show continues. The band plays a couple of older songs, and then In the Clouds from the new album. They follow that mode throughout the evening, playing a mixture of old and new material. They have been around for over ten years now and have produced six studio albums. There is a lot of material to choose from. Most of their music is instrumental post-rock, but they’ve also experimented with a vocalist in the past. A singer is not really missing, though. Their music is sophisticated, varied and complex enough to be interesting even without vocals and lyrics. There are no boring lengths. They are also excellent musicians, especially the guitarist Florian Füntmann, and that alone makes their show worth watching.
The audience reacts stronger to older and faster material, looking like they don’t know what to do with themselves during slower song passages. At one point one of the guitarists asks the audience if anybody has had a chance to hear the new album yet. About half of the people raise their arm.
Halfway through the show, the band is playing Out There, it gets really crowded up front, with people pushing forward. That’s the downside of a small venue. When it’s sold out, it can get really nasty. The ventilation has been turned on, and that helps a bit. But after more than an hour I can’t stand it anymore, I need some space. I have to fight my way back, through the crowd, to the bar at the entrance. That’s not easily done.
The band continues to play for another half hour or so, including an encore, the track Skydivers featuring great drumming being another highlight from the new album. When the show is over, the audience looks exhausted, but happy, and so does the band.
I get quickly outside and walk back to the subway station. When I arrived, there were some suspicious looking figures hanging around the station, staring. I wondered whether I would be safe here later at night and alone. But when I get back to the station, there is a police officer there. Just in case. Again, I forgot where I was and how well-organized things are in Vienna.
Great show, great band, great venue, great city. I’ll be back for sure.
(Review and photos Slavica)