Willard Grant Conspiracy
Szene, Vierkanthof, 2008
„Hi, how are you doing, buddie? “, Robert Fisher addresses the grayed shepherd dog in an old lady’s wintergarden in an outskirt of Vienna. The lead singer and mastermind of Willard Grant Conspiracy – a California-based collective with up to thirty other musicians occasionally contributing to the deep folk rock with rumbling guitars and orchestrating strings – performs solo this time. From the bare car wash to the carefully decorated wintergarden Fisher’s singing creates a surrounding of earnest intimacy. With his barritone voice Robert tells poignant lyrical stories of mysterious ambiguity and stirring frankness that deal with human fallibilty and personal struggle. Yet the sound is not thoroughly dark and burdensome. The rich emotionality embraced by Fisher’s bottomless voice is rather solemn. So breathtakingly intense that the canaries did not dare chirping until Robert’s focused play is over. (Because of a flash disk failure we have no photos to provide of this atmospheric shooting – Credits: Iona Macdonald).
Szene Wien is a venue for concerts in the mainly industrial area of Simmering. Despite being a little bit off the map in Vienna the Szene is quite popular among lovers of every variety of alternative music – and because of its cosy, slightly savaged courtyard. In the past the concert hall with a capacity of about 500 people was home to several shows that marked the live debut of then unknown but later acclaimed bands in Austria. Nowadays there is a little focus on world music but you can still spot some alternative shows on the monthly programme. Just when everything was set up for the 25th anniversary of the Szene – which was a cinema for porn movies before – the venue hit the newspaper headlines in May 2008. The management of city-run Szene was said to be not efficient enough and found itself replaced without further ado. As the new management runs an among Szene visitors less beloved metal venue in Vienna as well there are fears that the Szene might change its advanced alternative programming to a more mainstream one.
A Vierkanthof is a typical regional farm building that encloses a rectangular central square. Its quad is entirely occupied by thick walls. Made out of stone or brick the walls measure between 50 cm up to 1 meter. The roofridge is the same height on every side of the building. Vierkanthöfe are widely spread in the rural parts of Upper and Lower Austria and some remainders can also be found in Simmering, an outer district of Vienna with its residual vegetable farmlands. The extended family that runs this particular estate formerly grew pickles and sold them to the Viennese Hilton hotel, serving its affluent guests fresh vegetables from the area. But the times of big pickle business are over. Simmering is drawing back from agricutlural use. The owners of the Vierkanthof are retired and take their rest in the blooming allotment. Yet as the grandchild tells us, they still keep a semi-rural privilege: “Our own vegetables, we grow them in the backyard.”