Ottakringer Goes Irish

Charlie P’s turns 10: Celebration with Green Beer and U2

The poster read: “Thank You Vienna For 10 Great Years at Charlie P’s!”

Well, I had been here for quite a few of those, so was pleased to be given a ticket to the Irish pub’s tenth anniversary, celebrated at the Ottakringer brewery with music by TribU2, a U2 cover band.

I arrived at the brewery, a castle-like compound buried in the heart of Vienna’s 16th district and walked up to the ticket booth.

Tonight I would be Alex Wiltner, an English friend and bar tender at 1516 (who had mysteriously exchanged his Manchester accent for a thick Chicago bray) and apparently a VIP. The greeter checked the list: I was there, but not as a VIP.

I walked away, slightly dejected, when a voice chased after me, “Alex… Alex!” it said. “Alex?” I thought, “He’s not here.” Then I realized he meant me. I tried to act distracted, and not as if I had forgotten my own name… Huzzah! Alex had been added to the VIP list.

I could feel the bass before I had even checked my coat, and hummed along with the familiar lyrics. All eyes were transfixed on a just-out-of-sight stage. With the ground quaking beneath my feet, I thought, “This is going to be a good night.” As I entered I saw a very Bono looking singer, swaying back and forth to a U2 standard.

Told that there would be a U2 cover band, I had expected just that. Boy was I in for a surprise. Formed in October, 2002, TribU2 aims to recreate a real U2 concert. I have never been to a U2 concert, but I have a feeling this was a fairly good approximation.

As I made my way through the ever shifting crowd, making my way to the VIP section high above the stage, “With or Without You” came on. As I made my assent, fans began hopping up and down on the springy boards, and I wondered how sound the entire staircase really was.

Someone handed me some free drink tickets: This night was getting better and better. There was green beer, Guinness, cheap long drinks, and of course Ottakringer beer served by the half-liter or 0.33L bottle.

We were standing in the old brewery warehouse, iron and steel work everywhere, walls covered in a 100 years of character. Here was none of the antiseptic feeling of cookie-cutter glitz and glam you get all over Vienna and every other city; no, this had the appealing feel of something slightly more seedy and jaded. I liked it. But then again, I have always been more of a metal and concrete kind of guy, than marble and leather.

As the night went on, TribU2 really got the crowd going, with people hopping up and down, spilling drinks with little care about where they landed, or on whom – that they just lost half of a beer.

And at 1:30 a.m., as they began the last song – “One” – I went down to stand in front of a speaker and take it all in. Lead singer and Bono impersonator Jürgen Haslauer introduced the band, and people swayed back and forth in an irresistible wash of fellow feeling. Cheers brought them back with [German version of Encore], and back again for two more, and finally for U2’s most popular song, “Bloody Sunday.”

I watched from the steps, listening to this my favorite and singing along till I was hoarse. And before I knew it, it was 2:45 a.m., TribU2 walked out through the cheering crowd and left the building. A DJ came on and kept the party going until 4 a.m.

As I left, I realized I was feeling something I had not felt for a long time: I was genuinely sorry to leave.

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