Munich City Guide by Benjamin Roeder

         Munich City Guide by Benjamin Roeder

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Munich is well-known for one of the highest standards of living in Germany, a reliable transport system, an abundance of architectural and historical monuments as well as vibrant cultural heritage. In the 60s, the basements of Munich were shaken by the revolutionary spirit of the krautrock classics from the likes of Amon Düül, and later Giorgio Moroder, who gave the Bavarian land a phenomenon called "Munich Disco."

The current musical life of the city is represented by such names as Skee Mask, Zenker Brothers, Schlachthofbronx, veteran labels Schamoni Musik, and Gomma, as well as Blitz club and now closed MMA Club that gave the nightlife its big splash.

Still, the city is often somehow undeservedly stripped of attention and usually resides outside the radars of those who are interested in an independent music scene and underground night culture. Indeed, it is hard to believe that behind the image of a removed corner of Bavaria lies a kind of alternative reality, different from everything that we've already known. However, each coin has a flip side.

We went to Munich in April to try and find out what is behind the ordinary of a traditional and relatively conservative European city. That is where we discovered dozens of labels, groups, artists, self-made organizations that give the new Munich scene its constant dynamism and prove that small, musical communities generate genuinely unique talents.


Supported by Goethe-Institut Ukraine.

Story

16/10/2019

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Munich is well-known for one of the highest standards of living in Germany, a reliable transport system, an abundance of architectural and historical monuments as well as vibrant cultural heritage. In the 60s, the basements of Munich were shaken by the revolutionary spirit of the krautrock classics from the likes of Amon Düül, and later Giorgio Moroder, who gave the Bavarian land a phenomenon called "Munich Disco."

The current musical life of the city is represented by such names as Skee Mask, Zenker Brothers, Schlachthofbronx, veteran labels Schamoni Musik, and Gomma, as well as Blitz club and now closed MMA Club that gave the nightlife its big splash.

Still, the city is often somehow undeservedly stripped of attention and usually resides outside the radars of those who are interested in an independent music scene and underground night culture. Indeed, it is hard to believe that behind the image of a removed corner of Bavaria lies a kind of alternative reality, different from everything that we've already known. However, each coin has a flip side.

We went to Munich in April to try and find out what is behind the ordinary of a traditional and relatively conservative European city. That is where we discovered dozens of labels, groups, artists, self-made organizations that give the new Munich scene its constant dynamism and prove that small, musical communities generate genuinely unique talents.

Supported by Goethe-Institut Ukraine.

Text: Tanya Voytko
Photo: Vitaliia Zhyriakova

It’s Thursday noon in Munich. There is not a rustle on Schyrenstraße, near which there are public baths, the Kolumbusplatz metro station, and the Kiosk Wittelsbacherbrücke beer garden. Near the residential houses stretch empty bicycle lanes, the sounds of passing cars are heard occasionally. At the very end of the street, you can see the building of dirty-yellow color, which is no different from a dozen other residential ones in this area. The only thing that catches the eye is remarkably bright pink marquees on the first floor. In their shadows, the figure of a man dressed in a beige shirt, loose trousers, and a panama hat appears. This is Benjamin Roeder - a DJ, vinyl collector, frontman of the club Charlie, which turns out to be that building with pink marquees.

Benjamin or “Benny,” as he is called in a local community, is one of those who dedicated his whole life to the city: “I am born and raised in Munich, and probably die here as well,” he says over an espresso at the Charlie entrance.

Munich is Germany’s third largest city. Here are concentrated the headquarters of industrial and research centers, one of the best universities in the country, an impressive number of companies and start-ups. And yet, the variety of stamps has firmly stuck to the city — from the famous Bavarian sausages, Oktoberfest, highly pronounced household conservatism to the banal “there’s nothing to do in this city.” In truth, coming to Munich for the first time, and not knowing any of the locals, there is a big chance to experience the above, but after a short conversation with Benny on deserted Schyrenstraße, it is clear that there is another side of the Bavarian capital - unknown and hidden from the outsiders eye. It was the atypical Munich, free from prejudiced judgments that Benjamin kindly agreed to show us.

Charlie

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Charlie is closed at lunchtime. Chairs are neatly folded on the tables, and it is chilly inside. "Here is a Vietnamese restaurant. The concept was born eight years ago, and we were more or less the only Vietnamese restaurant in the city," remarks Benny, asserting that a completely different atmosphere reigns in Charlie at night. The restaurant is filled by six o'clock in the evening, and by eleven, the atmosphere becomes extremely lively. Gradually, spring rolls are replaced by cocktails, visitors leave the tables and go down the floor below, where night events are held.

In the past, Benjamin studied sculpture and tried himself as a graffiti artist. At the age of 16, he began working at the entrance to one of the local clubs and, since then, Roeder has been inseparably linked with the nightlife of the city.

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“For me creating the club space is basically the same like creating an installation for the exhibition,” says Benny. And indeed, Charlie gives the impression of thoughtful artistic work. Going down the stairs and expecting to see a damp room according to the familiar canons of underground clubs, you can be surprised - the doors and walls are painted marshmallow-pink, and the work of the artist Christian Leitner with a rotating propeller hangs on the wall.

We follow Benny and get into the next room - all night events take place here. At first glance, the space of the club looks quite simple - a wooden bar counter, black walls, a spacious dance floor. However, at night, Charlie is transformed beyond recognition. The room visually acquires the shape of a cube, framed by neon light. A light design creates such an illusion. It's built in such a way that, in combination with a high-quality sound system, you are supposed to be teleported aboard a spacecraft.

"Right now everyone is so oriented on Resident Advisor, all these charts and blah blah blah. We never wanted to do that - to expose a name and have all these people just for a name here," says Benny.

Charlie's musical policy is built on a moderate balance between local artists and guests, and a necessary criterion is the diversity of selections and the ability to tell different stories using the colorful palette of danceable electronics.

"In Munich, not so many people know about Charlie. Some of them just been here for dinner, never knew about the club downstairs. We never did advertisements, we don't work with newspapers. And yeah, what happened, is now more people from outside know about Charlie than the Munich people itself."

Isar River

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Unlocking a bicycle parked near the restaurant, Benjamin suggests going further - to the Isar river, which is considered the heart of Munich. “It’s turning into a big beach in summer. Everyone is spending their time there doing soccer, frisbee, surfing, swimming. For me it’s definitely one of the most important places in Munich,” says Benny.

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After a couple of minutes, we find ourselves on a broad green plain surrounded by lush green trees. The riverfront is quite crowded, as for a working Thursday - someone sunbathes, someone enjoys their drinks in a noisy group of friends. Looking at Benjamin and the people in bathing suits and swimming trunks, you involuntarily ask yourself: “How does this city combine so many opposites?” On the one hand, Munich appears to be a dynamic business enclave of Germany with expensive cars, office buildings and crowds of hurried careerists, on the other hand, it is an island of calm, a place where life drifts smoothly.

WORKSHOP

Having overcome a keen desire to stay by the river, we continue our tour. A 20-minute walk from the Isar is another unique place for Munich - a small creative cluster hidden in the Munich gateway. It is nearly impossible to get here without a guide.

Benjamin takes us through the jewelry store of his friend Saskia Diez, then the front door of the apartment building and the courtyard adjacent to it.

"This is probably best-hidden place in Munich. It is Stephan's office he is doing interior design in and this is an office of the Public Possession. My spot is upstairs, Martin Fengel's as well," Benjamin says lively.

From the outside, the complex is not particularly comparable to the "cluster," but instead to the farm. Behind the fence that separates the offices from the kindergarten, poultry walks around at ease, and the office building itself resembles a small village house, untouched by sticky paws of gentrification.

"Gentrification is really big. What we feel is that in future we won't have any chance if we don't fight for that. What is happening right now is so much more protests, and demonstrations started. Like, last year, 30 000 were protesting against this price politics. And that's the biggest challenge - to keep workplaces, to keep it affordable for people."

LORETTA BAR

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Before leaving Glockenbachviertel - the area that forms all the main infrastructure in the life of Roeder, we stop at his favorite cafe on Müllerstraße.

On the way, the boss of Charlie continually greets passersby - it seems that everyone here knows him. After exchanging a few words with another friend, he explains: "I've reduced my radius a lot, and I rarely go out of this district. Here is all my network - I know the butcher, the coffeeman in the neighborhood, I know the cleaning lady, the guy from the grocery store. You know it is just like when you get to a small village, and life here is more like countryside life".

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Having come to Loretta Bar, Benjamin is still smiling, shaking hands and wishing a good day. When asked if such publicity bothers him, he throws up his hands and notes: "Sometimes it becomes annoying. But if you are born and raised here, it's almost impossible to hide."

We take a sit at the vacant table on the summer terrace. Cyclists and trolleybuses pass slowly and quietly past the cafe - Munich is still steeped in lunch hibernation. Quickly finish our espresso, and we are back on our route.

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HALLE 2

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The next destination is Halle 2, a city store of used goods. It is far from the center, but, as Benny assures, the long road should not confuse the real diggers. The path to Halle 2 is full of surprises. For example, in the middle of lovely, sleek streets, a strip club or a brothel can arise, once again showing that Munich is truly a diverse city.

Halle 2 is a flea market under a roof. It has everything - posters, shelves with dishes, and small things for the house, chairs, old wooden tables. Benjamin advises to come here for rare musical finds - old and used records are brought to Halle 2 from all over the city.

In addition to the noble ecological mission, the Halle 2 flea market is an excellent alternative to record stores like the Public Possession and Optimal Records and can satisfy almost any requests in terms of folk, German hits, disco, soul and classical music - all at prices ranging from 50 cents to 2 euros.

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Augustiner Am Dom

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"It's very touristic but very popular also with locals. They have the best sausages and the best beer in town," says Benny. However, later, he says that in reality, he prefers to stay away from the centers of the beer culture. "And don't even ask me about Oktoberfest, - says Benjamin, - For Munich people it's like a real disaster."

Finishing our day in this tourist place, we understand that Benny is a man of wide and free views, and his genuine love for his native city cannot be broken either by gentrification and rising real estate prices or by the dominance of traditionalism in culture and the growing influence of capitalism.

He admits that a unique vibe reigns in Munich. Someone may like it, and some may be annoyed and even leave the city. But not in his case. "15 years ago people were moving to Berlin, but right now people are slowly coming back because Munich is a hometown city".

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Public Possession: «Мы просто веселимся, что бы мы не делали

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