Hamburg’s most often cited contribution to the landscape of musical culture, is perhaps the now famous residencies that The Beatles landed at various clubs there between 1960 and 1962. The northern German port has also given birth to unique sub-genres of electronic music and heavy metal as well as the wonderfully named Hamburger Schule and has in recent decades become a centre for activism and political protest. We take a trip and investigate some of the places that demonstrate the city's vibrant counterculture.
Große Freiheit 36/Kaiserkeller
One of the many venues in Hamburg's Reeperbahn area, famous for its reputation as Hamburg's red light district, Kaiserkeller sits in the basement of Große Freiheit 36. The Kaiserkeller opened in 1959 and is one of the clubs where The Beatles famously performed in the early 1960s. It was in Kaiserkeller that Stuart Sutcliffe met Astrid Kirchherr between sets, performing on a stage consisting of planks propped up on empty beer barrels. Große Freiheit 36 opened above Kaiserkeller in 1985, reopened the Kaiserkeller as its sibling venue the following year. The club with its endearing illuminated guitar signage has played host to gigs from by the like of Pixies, Nick Cave, Blur, Neil Young, Public Enemy and Metronomy.
Another club off the Reeperbahn where The Beatles played (before moving a few doors up the street to Kaiserkeller), Indra was reincarnated in 1998 and its programming these days is largely made up of German alternative bands alongside a few visiting artists. Indra is one of the host venues to 2018's Gott Sei Punk, the largest punk party/festival in Hamburg.
Sticking to the vibrant Reeperbahn area, Mojo opened in 1989 aiming to provide a platform for Jazz, Soul, Bossa Nova and electronic forms of dance music with the idea of evoking the atmosphere of British club-culture. The result is a slick curated venue with recent live bookings including Charlotte Gainsbourg and regular events running the gamut of club cool with everything from roller skate discos to live jazz.
Located in Hamburg's Sternschanze quarter has one of the most eventful histories of any venue in Europe. Built in 1888 as a theatre, the building survived the wars and went through incarnations as a cinema and department store before 1987 when plans to turn it into a musical theatre met with disagreement from local residents and businesses which eventually led to a group of protesters squatting in the property. Eventually, a temporary lease was offered to the squatters and despite the tricky deal falling through the Rote Flora opened as a venue and centre for left-wing political activity. Despite numerous attempts to close Rote Flora and a fire that nearly destroyed the building the venue still operates to this day. It was notably used as a meeting point during the protests against the 2007 G8 and 2017 G20. The Rote Flora is mainly financed through donations and parties and offers punk, reggae, ska, dub, drum 'n' bass, techno as well as exhibitions by artists from all over the world. The space behind the theatre was made into a skate park by the community in 2006 adding to the space's public countercultural use.
PAL and its sister venue Moire take their broadcast terminology names from its proximity in relation to Hamburg's television transmitter tower. The slick TV theme is carried through to the Teletext styled venue website for the dance and techno orientated club. Check out their Soundcloud page for a taste of their schedule.
One of the oldest techno clubs in Germany, Purgatory was founded in 1992. The club is small, but prides itself on its independent status and quality of programming, catering for the Hamburg appetite for House and electronic clubbing.
A small single room underground club close to the Hamburg's Fischmarkt area a short way from the Reeperbahn, the much loved Golden Pudel was pretty much destroyed by fire in 2016 but rescued by a government grant reopening in 2017. Despite its small capacity, the adjoining street is freely used as an outside chillout area in summer with more people outside than inside, clubbers enjoying the music with a view over the port. Golden Pudel describes their style as "trashy, punk rock and with underground charm".
Uebel & Gefährlich
With its name translating as Evil and Dangerous, Uebel & Gefährlich is a largish venue that manages to retain an edgy persona with upcoming visitors including Sleaford Mods and Kate Nash. Uebel & Gefährlich owes much of its imposing aesthetic to its location on the fourth floor of a converted overground bunker, dating from World War II.
Ending with a loose reference to The Beatles, Yoko Mono is a small cafe/bar/venue with lots of laid-back attitude of the manner that is more common in Europe than here in the UK. Along with the owner's other bar, John Lemon Yoko Mono is gained some notoriety when Yoko Ono objected to the venue's name. Heavily graffitied toilets, modest furniture and an ageing pool table, make up the wonderfully unfussy aesthetic, while the bookings are a mix of emerging electronic, dance and techno for clubbers whose tastes are a little more experimental and rougher around the edges.