Subculture Weekender: Ljubljana

The best music hang-outs in Slovenia's capital

Thursday 18th April 2019

Klub Gromka, Metelkova, Ljubljana

One of Ljubljana's most obvious claims to global subcultural fame is the influential industrial band that share the Germanic form of the city's name, Laibach. The controversial band are just the tip of the city's iceberg though when it comes to counterculture. The country's turbulent political landscape, from its occupation during World War II, through its struggle for independence in the '80s and '90s and its eventual inclusion in the European Union in 2004, Slovenia has provided the setting for some unique subcultures from the early '80s onwards.

One of the best illustrations of Ljubljana's and Slovenia's thriving underground culture, Metelkova began as a large scale squat in an unused military barracks. Regarded as a sort of unofficial village by the rest of the city, the complex of buildings includes seven nightclubs and venues at the last count. Thankfully the city's current mayor is a fan of the unofficial settlement, despite its officially illegal status. The military buildings, given the country's history, have previously been the home of some pretty authoritarian tenants, but now display the street art and graffiti that often accompanies alternative liberal expression in Mainland Europe. A hub for all manner of genres, jazz, dub, hardcore, punk, metal and dance - all convene at Metelkova.

Klub Gromka
One of the venues sitting under the umbrella of Metelkova, Klub Gromka is undoubtedly the punk stronghold in the unofficial cultural capital. The anarchically spirited club began life in 1995 as an experimental theatre collective, eventually taking on the form of a music venue, specialising in punk, hardcore, crust, metal and everything in between.

Gala Hala
Home of Ljubljana indie record label Kapa Records, as well as a venue for events as diverse as youth rap battles and Bollywood Bhangra nights. Gala Hala is another member of the bigger Metelkova family.

One of Ljubljana's most respected venues, with a reputation for jazz, rock, reggae, blues and all manner of jamming, despite its tiny 60 head capacity. While not hidden the small club is can be tricky to find, located between two apartment blocks.

Factory Rog
Another appropriated space, Rog was a bike factory until 1991, manufacturing Rog Bicycles from the early 1950s. The large building fell into disuse until despite gaining cultural heritage protection due to it being the first concrete and steel building in Slovenia, then in the early 2000s, plans were drawn up for a two week festival for artists, students and architects to demonstrate alternative future uses for the site. The festival was cancelled days before opening, but the contributing parties, having invested themselves decided to go ahead with it anyway and a sort of polite squat/occupation ensued. Despite attempts to close the site in 2016, Factory Rog remains open, housing a huge indoor skate park, venues, indoor football pitch and even an area specialising in cosmology. 

Klub K4
A slicker kind of club to those that can be found in Metelkova and Rog Factory, Klub K4 is perhaps the best place to go for the younger urban and electronic orientated countercultures. That said, the liberal party spirit exhibited here is very much in the vein of the city's independent ethos. 

Kino Šiška
Another Slovenian architectural gem to find a new lease of life as a venue, Kino Šiška was one of the earliest modernist buildings to be constructed in the country and functioned as a cinema until the late 1980s. It reopened in the mid-nineties but the age of the multiplex brought a swift end to that and the 750 seater cinema found a new life as a venue for the arts - in some respects the city's official answer to Metelkova and Rog. Kino ;Šiška now asserts itself as the central Slovenian institution of the contemporary concert scene since 2009.

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