Underground Session

Indie folk jazz meets Vienna’s alternative scene

On The Town | Michelle Falkenbach | December 2008 / January 2009

Inside the Subterrarium venue (Photos: A. Kleylehof)

After almost losing several fingers to frost bite wandering the streets of Vienna’s 17th District one brutally cold night in late November, desperately trying to find the underground club Subterrarium, I called my friend Ian, who was headlining the show:

"I’m sorry, I can’t find the place!  Joergerstrasse 23 -- I’m here and believe me, there’s no entrance to any club!" At this point, I could barely hold my phone.

"Look to your left!" Ian said, "there is a wooden door with fliers for tonight’s show on it!"

Now, the door was in fact wooden, and it did have the fliers reading "Subterrarium featuring Ian Fisher and Bernhard Eder…" BUT I would have walked back and forth past it all night before figuring out that this was the spot! The wooden door was directly on the street and stood at most about 150 cm – for me, that’s shoulder height. There was no knob, and it flopped open when I pulled: I felt like Alice in Wonderland, about to go down the rabbit hole, too big to enter this fairytale place.

After bending under the lintel, the wooden steps led me down into a battle-scarred lounge, where patchy cement walls stained white and grey complimented the ancient, rough-hewn floorboards creaking under-foot.  The ceiling was low and there was no way around the musty basement smell that flared my nostrils as I ambled over to the quaint wooden bar to get some fire into my blood.

The session was due to start at 8 pm, but like most musicians, this band had a loose association with time.  Which was fine, as so did everyone else, it seemed. I ducked under an archway leading me to the main lounge area, arrayed with sofas and chairs that filled the cave like performance space.  A bourgeois, French-style couch with floral patterns held a bohemian couple, while around the wooden coffee table, friends crowded onto a faux-leather TV couch that was all comfort, and a few padded lounge chairs rooted deep into the ground that made even the tallest person look small.  I picked a snug sofa chair that allowed a view of the small, slightly elevated wooden stage.

After some chatting and légere hellos, Ian got up from his spot in the corner and made his way onto the stage: "I think I’ll start now," was his comment to me as he passed. Ok.

What came to pass was more than I ever expected from my 160 cm tall, scruffy-faced American friend.  The extreme cold and basement dispenses on a chilly winter night vanished as he climbed onto his bar stool and began strumming his guitar, transporting us into "Indie Folk Jazz meets Vienna’s alternative scene." Inspired by legends Nick Drake and Bob Dylan, Fisher distinguishes himself with his raspy, distinct, directed, yet soothing voice, putting the audience into a kind of trance as feet began tapping to the beat of his guitar.

With original texts taking aim at today’s political game and song titles such as ‘Invasion,’ ‘Look away,’ and ‘Singing Joni Mitchell,’ Ian Fisher wants to provoke. He demands that the audience think, yet in a relaxing environment that makes it safe to do so.

An hour went by before I realized how cold I actually was. Fortunately, at this point, Fisher had just finished his set and I was able to ease my way out of the crowd.  I exited into the even colder night, while Bernhard Eder’s pre-pubescent voice backed by a violin filled the cave behind me.

The next Ian Fisher ‘Session’

Dec. 8, 20:00

Club B72

8., Hernalser Gürtel-Bogen 72

(01) 409 21 28


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