The Arena Beisl, a small bar on the huge site of the Arena venue, is a place to watch punk and hardcore shows or just hang out and have a few beers. The spot for sure hasn’t seen a poppy act such as Montreal-based Islands play there. Yet, the heavy snowfall and biting coldness on this mid-February evening force singer Nick Thorburn (former singer of the not less exhilarant group The Unicorns that was dispersed some years ago) and three of his bandmates to choose an indoor location for our little video session, so they pop into the Beisl. Nick opts for the cosy place next to a stove with all kinds of self-built, unnameable things rotating on it. Thereby warmed up, they head into a full-of-verve rendition of “Pieces Of You” from their 2008-album “Arm’s Way”, which startles a resting, lovable mutt and makes him explore the scene – especially the lense of the camera – with a wagging tail. As a reward he gets a few pets from the band after they finished the song. Islands move on to the bathroom, where they – after some inspired urinal flushing – play a surprising and beautiful cover version of The Smiths’ “I Won’t Share You”.
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.