Munich differs from Berlin and Hamburg in many ways, with its relaxed village-like character giving it the nickname 'Millionendorf' meaning village of a million people. With its population nearer the six million mark though, it's hardly surprising that the city has an impressive nightlife and culture, and as you would expect the capital of Bavaria has always had a thriving music scene too.
Though the city has its associations with traditional oompah bands, Munich resident Carl Orff created modern classical music that permeated into the world's popular culture everywhere from heavy metal to horror films and advertising, and there is also a still thriving jazz scene. In the 1960s and '70s Amon Düül I and Amon Düül II formed out of the city's politically left student counterculture, and their pioneering legacy is still visible today from punk to experimental electronic music. A diverse scene by the 1980s, the city provided a home to Freddie Mercury and provided Megadeth with a jazz drummer among its claims to fame.
We take a trip and investigate some of the places that demonstrate the unique city's counterculture.
As a city, Munich has been committed to nurturing culture since the end of American occupation. Where many European cities owe their modernistic architecture to post-war rebuilding, much of Munich's skyline remains unaltered or restored. Among the preserved and repurposed buildings, on the stunning beach-like banks of the river Isar, The Muffatwerk, a converted Art Nouveau power station, now positions itself as a powerhouse for the arts. Supported by its smaller sibling venue Ampere, The Muffatwerk's former turbine hall has played host to memorable concerts from big hitters such as Amy Winehouse and Paul Weller but is also home to local bands, spoken word, dance and installation. If that all sounds too highbrow, there's also a beer garden nestled in surrounding wooded grounds. The Muffatwerk is flexible enough to support programming that is truly diverse and challenging but presents it all in an idyllic setting.
Not too far away to the North East of The Maffatwerk, Kafe Kult is another Munich space devoted to culture. At the other end of the scale to The Muffatwerk, Kafe Kult is a small volunteer-run venue, founded initially as a space for the city's sizeable punk and hardcore scene in 1999. Since then the venue has embraced all manner of DIY counterculture and music. If you're looking for Munich's answer to Brixton Windmill, this is probably it.
More of a movement than a venue, Feierwerk was set up in the early 1980s with the remit of ensuring that Munich's creative scene didn't become trapped and dominated by an elite establishment. The venue and its socially minded project were specifically set up to promote subcultures, an alternative to the city's more traditional museums and concert halls. In its 35 years it has been able to put on new artists as well as holding enough audience for visitors including The White Stripes, Sunn O))), Chelsea Wolfe – even James Blunt. Run by a not for profit organisation, it can be quite flexible with ticket prices and risky programming, meaning that you'll find almost anything at Feierwerk, from Punk to Metal, Industrial, Folk, Balkan, Reggae, Dubstep, Hip-Hop, Indie and Electropop. The set up also offers a gallery to young visual artists from the Munich area.
Primarily a rock venue (recent visitors include Crossfaith among others) but also holding regular nights for hip-hop and indie fans, Backstage like many Munich venues boasts a buzzing night beer garden.
Lost Weekend is a co-working space, cafe, and bookshop specialising in a thoughtfully curated selection of contemporary novels, philosophy, history and cultural titles. It also acts as a hub for emerging musicians who converge at Lost Weekend for open mic nights, alongside a programme of spoken word events, comedy and other DIY performance. It even plays host to social experiments where strangers attend to maintain eye contact with each other - not your run of the mill speed dating night.
"I believe the best place I’ve played at was Lost Weekend near the University. It’s a super cute vegan coffee place, where you can read or get together with friends during the day and during the night, they often host parties, concerts or open stages." - Marie Bothmer
A socially minded arts centre, Import Export opened in a former Greek supermarket in 2010. It's the sort of repurposing of an unremarkable disused space that gives hope to those that despair of venues turning into apartments. Dedicated to diversity and multicultural values, Import Export is now regarded as a 'socio-cultural institution' on the Munich scene. The program includes dance and theatre as well as music, with genres so diverse it would be pointless to list them here.
Arts 'n' Boards
A venue which may annoy those who like to repeatedly point out that there is nothing wrong with food served on plates. Arts 'n' Boards is a restaurant and beer garden which hosts open stage nights for musicians, filmmakers, comedians and performers of all types to entertain its diners while they eat their food - which is naturally served on skateboards.