Arena, Erdberg, 2008
Humming Owen Pallett is the man behind the one-man-project Final Fantasy. The violin-trained Canadian – he studied composition at the University of Toronto – kept singing by himself before and after our shooting to try out his acoustic potential. On stage his approach to pop melodies through classical compositions are punctuated by unexpected swerves. In concert Pallett uses a loop & rewind technique that he operates with his foot while plucking and sawing his violin to protract and superimpose the tones. When doing the acoustic gig without this special layering technique Final Fantasy’s pop appeal still stays varicolored and fragmented. Pallett’s soulful play and haunting vocals are accentuated by his sporadicly interruptive a cappella-shouts and yells. When it comes to the diversified and playful arrangement of the songs, even in their acoustic version Pallett can not deny the academy he went through. He told us that he started practicing acoustic numbers after his spontaneous shooting for La Blogothèque, just in case he was spontaneously invited to play acoustic again. As intuitive the performance may occur, the master of composition never leaves it totally to chance.
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.
At first sight there is not much reason to visit Erdberg, the southern part of Vienna’s third district Landstraße and one of the oldest settlements in the Vienna region. There are few things left which evoke the memory of the area’s rural past with its wineyards and vegetable gardens, apart from Erdberg’s coat of arms, which bares a strawberry. This, however, is based on a linguistic misunderstanding as the German word for strawberry, Erdbeere, bares a strong resemblance to Erdberg. Nowadays, factories, commercial buildings and the highly frequented A23 motorway with its several ramps, characterize the area. Although Erdberg appears rough and industrial, there are some spots that increase the value of the quarter. Arena, a former slaughterhouse, is a cultural centre and music venue, hosting mainly rock and punk concerts and manages to maintain a high-quality of programming for its altogether five stages. Close-by, the four Gasometer-towers form Erdberg’s skyline. The 70-meter high brick buildings, erected in 1896, were formerly used as gas tanks. Around the year 2000, however, the towers were reconstructed by famous architects such as Jean Nouvel and Coop Himmelb(l)au and now feature a shopping centre, flats, a concert venue as well as a student dormitory.