Wasted Youth

After 20 years, the Arena’s Iceberg still hasn’t grown up

On The Town | Binu Starnegg | September 2013

Perpetual adolescents soak up a heady mix of tunes in the Arena’s retro setting (Photo: Iceberg)

"Waste your youth" (dj, ) is the fitting motto of this monthly tongue-in-cheek event, dedicated to new wave music and its German-language cousin, Neue Deutsche Welle. Conceived as a deliberately cheesy answer to the up-and-coming rave scene in the ‘90s, Iceberg remains both an ironic and defiant statement, combatting mass market beats with synthesizer-fuelled pop.

Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, Iceberg’s popularity exploded when the 80’s staged an unlikely comeback – and now the event has become one of Vienna’s longest-running continuously staged events. From the beginning, its home has been the squat, graffiti-smeared brick buildings of the Arena, which in the 19th century, was the city’s slaughterhouse. 


Three ring circus

Iceberg currently boasts three floors; aside from the main hall, still dedicated to Iceberg’s flagship ‘80s sound, it also offers an alternative/indie rock floor and an electronic floor on the far side of the main courtyard. The courtyard itself is a transit hub and a chill-out area, packed with food stalls and bars.

Somewhat removed from the main drag, the Arena Beisl is a dingy rock’n’roll dive that functions as a second living room for its tattooed and hairy regulars, making it an unofficial fourth venue (and a great place to replenish your drinks without waiting in line).

Most people frequently move between halls, following the invisible tides and currents of the party like a school of fish in search of sonic plankton.


Angst for all ages

Unsurprisingly for an event founded on nostalgia, all three halls rely heavily on vintage appeal. While the main floor’s sound was already comically outdated at its inception, the alternative rock venue is stuck in the mid-to-late ‘90s.Even the contemporary bands on rotation maintain a staunchly retro feel, such as Wolfmother, Danko Jones and Queens of the Stone Age. And while the electronic dance floor started the night by playing Daft Punk like everyone else this summer, this time all tracks were strictly from their debut album, the 1997 classic Homework. For the rest of the set, it played jungle and drum n bass, two genres that also saw their heyday before the millennium.

As a result, the median age at Iceberg tends to be rather high. About half appear to be just north of 30. Resident DJ G. S. Leitgeb explained: "We do get a healthy dose of fresh blood, but a lot of the regulars started attending Iceberg back when they were teenagers and are simply still coming."

The whole scene gives Iceberg a high school reunion feel: for every adult reliving their youth you find a perpetual adolescent that never really grew up. Music, it seems, is still the closest thing we get to a time machine. When Nena’s hit 99 Luftballons comes on, single mothers dance wildly like the prom queens they once were, groups of grown men and women cling together ogling each other, and men in Motörhead t-shirts stand outside double-fisting their beers, as always too cool to dance. Some may have gained weight or lost hair, but for tonight, they’re all sixteen again.



Arena Wien

3., Baumgasse 80

Next date: 23 Sept. 



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