Waves Vienna 2012
Chris Beanland follows in the footsteps of one certain romance story in search of a music festival with heart...
The only thing about Before Sunrise - Richard Linklater’s perfect paean to the glories of travel, youth and falling in love – that irked was the setting. Shouldn’t Jessie and Celine have spent their stolen night together in somewhere a bit more renowned for youth culture – like Berlin, Barcelona, or London?
But no, the more you think about the more you realise that it had to be Vienna. The Austrian capital’s faded imperial grandeur, its bohemian bonhomie, its perfect views framed by the right angles of its palaces and boulevards – this was the place.
It’s easy to forget that it wasn’t just about our flaneuring, occasionally facetious heroes. The film is also made by its supporting cast of random characters the couple come across en route. If it was Berlin or London or Barcelona the locals would be either so weary of tourists that they wouldn’t even bother approaching, or else they'd be too busy chasing their own hipster fantasies.
The fact that Vienna and its wonderful residents aren’t as in thrall to the latest fashions as the more heavily narcissistic folk of some other European cities makes them seem incredibly friendly by comparison. (This, despite their giggled confessions that in many ways they are in fact a city of grumps). But no, the people that have come to live here will make your stay special – and they makes Waves special too.
This boutique festival based on the SXSW logic is laced with charms. And made all the more exciting by the fact that all manner of people will accompany you on your own Before Sunrise-style nocturnal odyssey right until it’s time to say (sorry) "Goodnight Vienna".
Waves is especially worth noting for its fascinating venues – from ships to saunas. No, the city is not all opera houses and coffee shops frequented by randy Jewish psychologists. The programming is crisp too. On a boat on the Danube chartered by Austria’s answer to Radio 1, FM4, The Wave Pictures play Waves on the waves. A jaunty little set makes it worth coming aboard.
Finnish shoegazers Murmansk are a truly enthralling live act. With howling banshee vocals and a wall of noise which seemingly stretches from Helsinki to the North Pole, they are life-affirming.
At the scruffy and loveable Fluc cafe, Belgian duo Too Tangled are one of our new discoveries. The male-female pairing drop catchy fashion show indie which seems on first listen to fall somewhere between The Black Keys and The Kills. They’re also very polite. If you wanted to look at people with bad haircuts you could have also seen Toy afterwards, but we passed on that.
Underneath Fluc, some steps lead down into a black hole. In an old pedestrian underpass slung beneath the Praterstern roundabout, Fluc Wanne makes you wonder why all subways aren’t turned into clubs? Imagine how many subterranean dubstep dens road-mad Birmingham come end up on the back of this ruse.
We see local lad B Fleischmann perform some eccentric moves down here – if he lost the sax and the whispered White Town vocals he could really be on to something with his weird wig-outs. Four Tet contemporaries RocketNumberNine also turn in a strong performance. Kavinsky rounds things off under the tarmac – but not before he’s complained to festival organisers that his hotel room was too small - and paid out his own cash for a suite.
Vienna is famous for its trams and one of them has been transformed into a disco. Drinking beers and listening to local DJs like Uciel and Nutrasweet while people try to dance without pinging into one another when the tram makes its slithering turns all - well this makes getting from venue to venue a bit of fun rather than a chore.
The final surprise is tucked right in the middle of the Prater Park – Vienna’s answer to Central Park or Hyde Park. The Pratersauna is an old sauna transformed into a spectacular nightclub with white walls and a gallery feel. It’s so new you can smell the paint, and is perhaps the cleanest club in the world. Down in the old swimming pool space Austrian electro DJ Martin Rigelnegg puts aside the rivalry that the German and Austrian capitals feel to take the stage with his Deutsche Haupstadt friend Thomalla. The end result is pleasing indeed. Gold Panda pulls a big crowd for his headline set here straight after.
Waves Festival, and Vienna, should both be on your agenda. Of course it’s the city and the people here who really make it all come to life – just like in Before Sunrise. When you walk round on a morning-after sightseeing trek and you again see the deserted places that just a few hours ago in the darkness were filled with people and so much merriment, it gives you a pang of regret and a yearning to return to those magical moments that all the money in the world can’t buy. In that respect it is just like the melancholy ending of that superb film.