There is a house in Vienna, they call Soulsugar.
Every Sunday night in Vienna for the last couple of years, a time machine operates from about nine o’clock at night. Some space in the city (presently the Moulin Rouge) becomes part of the 1960’s and 1970’s. In these rooms, the music is James Brown and the soul pop of the epoch. No fear of ever hearing Michael Jackson or Tina Turner’s Private Dancer or any of the other dross of the eighties. Strictly prohibited, a rigorous selection that never breaks the spell. But very soul-oriented. You would be unlikely to hear The Byrds or Donovan here either.
In fact, a huge part of the music could be part of the French Nouvelle Vague cinema. On the walls, they show old super 8 movies of the epoch in endless loops. They used to loops from softcore of the period but lately they have been home movies.
In a crowd which is mainly from twenty to twenty-eight years old, most people come dressed as though they too were living in the Woodstock era, but without the same excess. One cannot grow an afro overnight and the afro is not a natural hairstyle to most Austrians. The other option for dress is a sort of natty French nouvelle vague look.
The Moulin Rouge is a particularly appropriate setting for Soulsugar with its red velvet and enormous old cocktail bar. It has balconies everywhere and deepset booths and heavy iron work as if from la Belle Epoque. Timeless enough and old enough to transport us far from the present.
The crowd at Soulsugar comes to dance. Which is good, as there are many places in Vienna where the people are there more to pose than anything else. Many of them actually know how to. There is an enthusiastic and giddy atmosphere. For better or worse, the people are without pretension.
Strange that these people seek every week to step back into the world their parents would have inhabited. An idealised version of that world of course without Viet Nam, drug overdoses or the Cold War. But a happy illusion, that one is happy to wrap oneself in for a few hours. Good music, friendly people, easy times.
The creators of Soulsugar add some lovely extras. The costumed girl selling candy, free massage, two-for-one cocktails before 11.
In a sense, the escapism of Soulsugar is a microcosm of the zeitgeist in Austria. Austrians would prefer to just not think about world problems just now. Their country is enough to them. They feel secure within their borders (what borders I would ask, considering their presence within the old EU and right at the edge of the expanded one). Austria is rich, secure and free. Long may it remain so.
An Austrian once compared his compatriots to Hobbits and Austria to the Shire. He was not far off, except that Austrians are somewhat taller and the women are very enticing.
MOULIN ROUGE – 1010 Vienna Walfischgasse 11. Admission is on a sliding scale depending on when you arrive. €3 before nine. Double or more afterwards.