Sound and Space—Electronic Music Locations in Hamburg

A Snapshot of 2014

By Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

When thinking of the city of Hamburg, the Reeperbahn party district, the nightlife, and the club culture are what come to mind. Beyond those clubs around the St. Pauli quarter, the city also offers a diverse club scene for electronic music, as shown by this selection of images from the Hamburg Museum (Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte) collection.

A city and its music depend on each other. A city's music scenes need free spaces to be able to perform their music, invite their fans to clubs, and be able to develop at all. At the same time, music in the concrete jungle is a form of culture that often offends residents, who find the music a racket. Last but not least, however, urban music culture also plays a part in the ever-increasing fight for urban space which is becoming commercialized. In this fight, music culture—and especially subculture movements—are equipped with humble means. However, this gives them a pioneering spirit which is particularly noticeable in their ability to discover, take over, repurpose, and play in (free) spaces around the city.

This basis forms the origin of the following photo series created by urban researcher Dr. Sönke Knopp as part of a project for the Hamburg Historical Museums Foundation (Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg). It is a snapshot. The entryways/accesses to electronic music in Hamburg can be seen here. And this should be taken literally—the focus of the camera is on the entrances to the locations. The series is exemplary without claiming to be complete. This photo series also shows a phenomenon of the changing city: many of the documented locations for electronic music already no longer exist, just a few years after the pictures were taken. In some cases, the whole building has disappeared, while in others, only the club inside the building is gone. On the one hand, this demonstrates the city's dynamic development. On the other, it is evidence of the structural issues of subcultural music scenes in the city.

The clubs on the Sternbrücke       

Club Fundbureau at Sternbrücke, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Fundbureau

One of the first clubs of today's collection of clubs on the Sternbrücke, the Fundbureau in the Kasematten opened in 1997 under the tracks on Stresemannstraße. Where Hamburg residents once recovered or bid for lost items is now the place where bass resonates.

Entrance to the club Fundbureau at Sternbrücke, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Fundbureau

Through a narrow entrance decorated with colorful graffiti, visitors step into a unique atmosphere—a mixture of the rumbling S-Bahn train track and the great sounds of electronic music. The only question is: for how much longer? Due to the planned new Sternbrücke construction by Deutsche Bahn, the Fundbureau, as well as other clubs nearby, face an uncertain future.

Building and entrance to the club Waagenbau under the Sternbrücke, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Waagenbau

Situated on Max-Brauer-Allee, the Waagenbau belongs to the Sternbrücke collection of clubs. In 2003, it was established here in the catacombs under the train tracks on the former site of the Altona scales factory, formerly based here from 1933 and whose name can still be clearly read on the outside.

Like all clubs around the Sternbrücke, the Waagenbau and its existence are also threatened by demolition due to the planned new bridge construction by Deutsche Bahn, with an uncertain future ahead.      

Entrance of the club Übel&Gefährlich in a bunker, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Uebel & Gefährlich

Uebel & Gefährlich is without a doubt based in a unique location. A flak tower from the Second World War isn't something that's typically seen. But the bunker, built during National Socialism by slave labourers from 1942 to 1944, is now so integrated in the daily live

Entrance of the club Übel&Gefährlich in a bunker, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Even the entranceway to the club along a seemingly endless, circular spiral staircase in the side stairwell is an experience in itself. Most of the time, however, visitors would take the elevator in the main stairwell. The partygoers still need some energy for the dance floor, after all. High-quality sounds from the world of electronic music typically await visitors on their arrival.

The former bunker on Feldstraße in Hamburg, St. Pauli   

Entrance of Angelklub, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Clubs along the Elbe river and Hafenstraße  

Pudel Club in Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Pudel

The Golden Pudel Club is the subcultural beacon of this Hanseatic city which sometimes even shines brighter than the Elbphilharmonie orchestra on some nights. It wasn't always a refuge for electronic music. Quite the opposite, in fact: for a long time, the Pudel was the meeting place of the so-called Hamburger Schule punk movement. However, it always guaranteed quality underground sounds. In February 2016, the building which was first constructed in 1872 and was a former smugglers' jail, among other things, burned down to almost nothing.

Entrance of Pudel Club (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

What followed were endless arguments around the ownership and future of the club, which fortunately were resolved with an agreement for communal use. In August 2017, the foundations were rebuilt, meaning that the club could reopen. Since July 2019, the top floor was also renovated and is accessible again.

To ensure the club remained on the harbor edge for many successful years to come, the Golden Pudel Foundation was founded in 2018, managed by the Patriotic Society of 1765. Since then, the club has been under their ownership.

Entrance of Angelklub, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Angelklub

Along the famous Hafenstraße, the Angelklub was a small establishment in an old building. Electronic music was a key element of the club's unusual program which was barely known among the wider public—not uncommon for electronic music locations.

Entrance of the club Golem, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Golem

There is no question that the Golem club was a very special location. On the Große Elbstraße right next to the fish market, the entryway—purely for visual effect—could have just as easily led into a law firm or bank.

Golem

Inside, however, fancy drinks were served in a sort of private library atmosphere, where readings and smaller live music events took place. However, when the large bookcase swung open to the side, the way to the underground finally opened. This is where a selection of the finest electronic sounds by handpicked DJs could be heard and people could dance to their heart's content.

The vessel Stubnitz, located at HafenCity, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

MS Stubnitz

MS Stubnitz is a former reefer ship of the East German (GDR) deep sea fishing fleet, launched in 1964 from the Volkswerft Stralsund shipyard. It has been used as a ship for sociocultural events since shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall (1992), and has been owned by Verein Motorschiff Stubnitz e.V. since 1995. With its class renewal in 2000, the Stubnitz was mobile again and traveled across Northern Europe as an event ship. It has been based in Baakenhöft in the Hamburg HafenCity since 2014 and brings in guests for a wide range of events—including the sounds of electronic music.

The vessel Stubnitz, located at HafenCity, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

MS Stubnitz

The subcultural sounds in particular in the otherwise clean-cut HafenCity quarter make the program and mooring combination especially interesting, but not everyone is a fan. In the case of the Stubnitz, however, the fight for space in the city is probably secondary, if not trivial. Instead, as so often happens with old ships, its focus is on the fight against rust.

Club Kraniche in Hammerbrook, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Kraniche

The Kraniche was the last club before the Elbe bridges, so to speak. The visitor had to know the exact location beforehand. Apart from the three red crane silhouettes on the front of the slim functional brick building, there was no other indication that a club had been established next to a gravel and building materials trade which invited visitors east of the city center to listen to a select range of electronic music, far away from the partygoers in St. Pauli.

The Club Brandshof in Hammerbrook, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Brandshof

The club known as the Brandshof was based in the warehouses of the former site of Schlesischen Dampfer Co. Berliner Lloyd AG, built according to plans by architect Otto Hoyer at the end of the 1920s, as part of the Brandshof office and commercial center. Around the end of the 2000s and at the start of the 2010s, an unusual range of electronic music was played here, including parties from the ranks of PLUX.

The Club Brandshof in Hammerbrook, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Brandshof, back  

Its central location is enclosed by train tracks, autobahn feeder roads, and the Billhafen bridge in the middle of an industrial area. The collection of buildings was purchased in 2008 by real estate agent Klausmartin Kretschmer, well-known in Hamburg media, and has since then been labeled a development project.

Frappant e.V.

The Frappant isn't a traditional music location, but it's one of the best examples of the fight for space for art, culture, and music in Hamburg. In 2003, the Karstadt company on Großen Bergstraße in Hamburg-Altona closed, which marked the beginning of the end for the entire building complex. Indeed, it became a space for temporary concepts, and artists and creatives moved into the spaces under short-term rental contracts. Clubs such as the Hafenklang whose own building was renovated found freedom in the Frappant—the same as the Klick, a club for electronic music.

In 2009, Frappant e.V. was founded as a community advocacy group. In 2011, furniture company IKEA purchased the so-called Frappant complex. From this point on it became a top business location in the Altona-Altstadt district, which had been declared a redevelopment area by the federal state government just a few years before. Tough negotiations between the city, artists, and real estate owners around the future of the group's space began. In the end, the Frappant complex was demolished, and IKEA constructed an inner-city branch in Altona.

Building of Frappant in Altona, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Artists found a new home in the Viktoria-Kaserne on Zeisewe

Artists found a new home in the Viktoria-Kaserne on Zeiseweg. This was eventually purchased by the city, no less, and is now under cooperative ownership. The music can continue to be heard in the so-called tiled room of the Kaserne.  

Entrance of the Prinzenbar in St. Pauli, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Clubs in St. Pauli

Entrance of the club EGO, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

EGO

EGO on Talstraße was a frequently visited club for electronic music in the late 2000s and early 2010s. The styling of the club along the street is particularly notable. There is no sign pointing to the entrance. The entrance can only be recognized by those in the know by the black building front.

Entrance of the club EGO, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

The idea that the visitor had to be in the know in terms of the program sets the EGO as well as other clubs along the tourist mile in St. Pauli apart from other offerings.   

The idea that the visitor had to be in the know in terms of the program sets the EGO as well as other clubs along the tourist mile in St. Pauli apart from other offerings.   

Entrance of the club Baalsaal on the street Reeperbahn (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Baalsaal

The Baalsaal is one of the few clubs directly on the Reeperbahn. The fact that it still exists is proof that there's still room for club culture there alongside supermarkets and chain restaurants, even if it's limited. The club itself is on the lower level—it would be very easy to miss the entrance. It's a narrow entrance with a slim black door with the club name in minimalistic white lettering.

Entrance of Docks on the street Reeperbahn, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Docks

The Docks on Spielbudenplatz is a classic concert venue and not a place which exclusively puts on electronic music. The Docks is one of the central components of the Hamburg music scene and, with a capacity of 1,250 to 1,500 people, the largest music club in St. Pauli. The Docks therefore even has room for international electronic music superstars and, unlike other clubs, doesn't cater to a niche audience.

Entrance of the Prinzenbar in St. Pauli, Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Prinzenbar

The Prinzenbar is essentially the rear part of the Docks, but it doesn't have the character of a rear entrance at all. With its front painted a loud blue and the graffitied name above and slightly set back, the club stands out completely. This is also evident on the inside. The stucco on the ceiling, a leftover from its past life as a playhouse, is a testimony to this. Another stand-out feature is its program, which also features many other genres besides electronic music on the small but excellent stage.

Klingel 3

A shining yellow smiley face above the club shows followers of great electronic music the way to the entrance from a distance. The tiny premises are known for still being completely packed in the early hours of the morning (and later than that), which isn't unusual for electronic music locations. Located directly between Silbersackstraße and Hans-Albers-Platz in the middle of St. Pauli, however, it also ends up being an oasis for travelers.      

Entrance of the club Klingel in St. Pauli, Hamburg, 2014, From the collection of: Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg
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Entrance of the club Klingel in St. Pauli, Hamburg, 2014, From the collection of: Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg
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Art and Culture Centre Gängeviertel in Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Gängeviertel

Electronic music events are also held in the spaces in the Gängeviertel in Valentinskamp in the new town. The buildings themselves are a symbolic exclamation point in the fight for space for art and culture beyond government funding in the city.

Art and Culture Centre Gängeviertel in Hamburg (2014)Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Historische Museen Hamburg

Since 2009, music has been played in these historic buildings, which are the last of their kind in the city after being gradually torn down following the cholera epidemic of 1892 (due to extremely cramped living conditions) leaving only this small collection of buildings. Even this last piece of Gängeviertel history in Hamburg was set to vanish into new major building projects in this attractive inner-city location, but since they have become culturally relevant, this outcome has so far been avoided.

Credits: Story

Dr. Sönke Knopp and Dr. Anna Symanczyk

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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