Donaukanal, Flex, 2008
The mini-amp buzzes like a swarm of angry hornets when Jesse Newman plugs in his bass guitar. It’s a foretaste of what is going to come when New York based five-piece band O’Death let their instruments off the leash. Jesse takes his shirt off, not caring whether he plays in a sweaty club or in front of a sausage stand on a calm Monday afternoon. O’Death are performers. Even if they play almost unplugged their bodies shake agitated, legs and arms are quivering and the beat stomps like a steam train. It is controlled chaos kept together by Greg Jamie’s characteristic voice and the simple, ear-catching melodies he sings. O’Death songs connect southern-state-dust with punkish anger and the instrumental virtuosity of traditional Balkan music. This attracts not only concert-goers and consumers of their fittingly titled 2008 record “Broken Hymns, Limbs and Skins” but also passing-by seniors and cyclists who take a break in their promenades or tours to watch the energetic O’Death performance on the bank of Donaukanal.
Donaukanal is the southern side arm of the river Danube in Vienna. Although the 17 kilometres long canal is quite narrow it is far more connected to the city than the actual Danube, passing the Inner City including all the nightlife hotspots around Schwedenplatz as well as the popular recreation area Prater. The vicinity to the city center may as well be the reason that the canal is particularly appealing to joggers, bikers and walkers. In the past two decades local politicians often discussed chances to integrate the Donaukanal even more in the city’s life by supporting the spread of clubs and bars like the old-established Flex or the newly created Badeschiff and making it a reasonable choice to spend your night out enjoying yourself on the concrete banks of the canal. What is now the canal was the main river until medieval times. Repeated floods frequently relocated the riverbed north- or southwards and – together with extensive river training measures – changed the hierarchy. Since around 1700 the side arm is known as Donaukanal.
With an almost boring regularity the annual readers poll of the German music magazine Spex tells the same story every year: The Flex is the best music club in Austria and is one of the most popular clubs in the German-speaking world. Among subculturally interested people the Flex still maintains its status as a must-visit-spot when coming to Vienna. The club opened its doors in 1990 in the 12th district but less than five years later moved to this days’ location – an abandoned metro tunnel on the bank of the Donaukanal, close to Augartenbrücke and Schottenring underground station. Besides live shows of different musical styles Flex is particularly known for its alternating club evenings all week, with Dub Club (Dub and Jungle music every Monday), Crazy (Techno on Tuesday), London Calling (Indie on Wednesday) and Beat It! (Drum’n’Bass on Thursday) being the most beloved ones and frequently featuring international guest DJ’s. But Flex is not only a place for clubbing. In summer people just hang out at the often modified Flex Café and have some drinks on the waterfront.