After Dark: In a Funk

The Luftbad – Vienna’s hidden spot for feel-good vibes and incendiary jazz

Thursday jam sessions thrive at Luftbad, a unique space for new funk | Photo: Eszter Korodi

It was Thursday evening and the city was brewing in anticipation of the weekend. One of the most sought-after secret locations in town, the Luftbad, has realized that Thursday is the new Saturday, and has been outsmarting weekend junkies ever since.

Easy to miss from the outside (there is no entrance sign), it may capture your attention only if you listen closely as you walk by.

Downstairs, the bar area, a lounging corridor and the actual performance room – the stage and dance floor that fits just about 60 people – all are poorly lit. It doesn’t smell great, but ‘70s wall graffiti and a few dark wooden tables promise a lighter mood. Acoustically apt and perfectly isolated from intruders, a confined space has never felt so welcoming.

Toggling between “It’s late and tomorrow is a workday” and “I cannot miss this,” the Luftbad decides who truly has funk at heart.

I’ve arranged to meet with Carl Avory, a distinctive Englishman-singer whose winding musical path brought him to Vienna by way of a few Greek islands. Fellow musician Big John Whitfield, a Luftbad regular, invited him to play with an Austrian band. Five years and many projects later, he sees no reason why he should go back to racing cars. Things are good.

“Young people don’t care about the money,” he says. “They’re anxious, loud and make the crassest mistakes. But they also bring the biggest innovations, because they haven’t found their niche yet. That’s what we want.”

These are people who mark the spirit of change. When Kris Jefferson first moved from New York to Vienna more than years ago, it seemed unlikely that he and his “sexy ass bass,” would soon come to transform the Austrian Jazz scene. In Vienna he stumbled upon something raw and uncensored, and never left.

He’s now in charge of the weekly Thursday FSB Jam Party – the busiest day of the week. His vibrant energy has been inspiring musicians to play with their senses, and creative energy has now become his second nature. “Bring your own instrument and get in for free” is the policy (the cover is €5), “jam along” is the prerogative.

Carl explains, “Kris doesn’t like to start until he’s sure that there are enough musicians in the house to replace him.” It doesn’t take all that long before electrically charged air and canny glances shared across the dark room begin to take new shape. Suddenly, being almost lost in time and space makes perfect sense.

“You can’t find a place like this anymore,” he sighs, as his eyes pierce straight through me. “Not in New York, not in Europe. And I’m not talking about the city, man, or the monuments; I’m talking about a place like this.” I know what he’s talking about.

Because it’s not even the place, of course; it’s what happens there. It’s about the love for music. All-consuming, timeless and secretive, it grows in people until it fills the empty space between them. And for now, the place is Luftbad. ÷


6., Luftbadgasse 17
Reservations:  0664 4513610
Gastro & Locale: Armin 0650 3506506
Mon.-Sat. from 20:00 – 04:00

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