NIGHT. Club Culture in Munich

An Exhibition at the Münchner Stadtmuseum

Ultraschall Deckenlampen, 1999Original Source: Rights: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum

"NIGHT. Club Culture in Munich". The title of a major special exhibition with which the Munich Stadtmuseum will be dedicating itself in 2021 to the various socio-cultural aspects of club culture and illuminating the history of nightlife in the city. As a foretaste, here is a small selection of objects and memorabilia from the Munich electronic music scene then and now.

Schallplatte, "Silver Convention - Fly, Robin, Fly", 1975, Original Source: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum
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Munich always had its own sound, at least from the time of Giorgio Moroder's Musicland Studios, where bands like the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Queen all made records. The studios are still famous today thanks to the pioneering disco hit "I Feel Love" by Donna Summer in 1977. As early as 1975, the trio Silver Convention, who were founded and produced their music in Munich, scored an international success with Fly Robin Fly, which even topped the US charts. 

"Toxic Mega Rave" Alabama-Halle, 1994Original Source: Rights: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum

Munich nightlife in the 1980s was defined by the so-called Hallenkultur (hall culture), with the Alabamahalle laying the foundations for this as one of the cult venues favored by the city's youth. The program Live aus dem Alabama, which was shown every Monday on the Bayerisches Fernsehen channel, mainly featured critical discussion and debate, as well as plenty of music. Following its closure in 1987, the Alabamahalle moved to Domagkstraße and became a favored location for many rave nights.

Flyer, "Ultraschall - Programm No. 1", 1994Original Source: Rights: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum

In the 1990s, the grounds of the old Munich-Riem airport became a nightlife hot spot with a reputation that extended far beyond the city. In June 1994, what used to be the large kitchen for the airport's restaurant opened as Ultraschall, the city's first techno club.

Dokument, "44 Namen für einen Club", 1994Original Source: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum

There was no shortage of ideas for what the club should be called, and these can be seen here on a list drawn up during a brainstorming session by the club's owners. Candidates included Stroboskop, Hexenkessel, Silicium, and even Dröhnophon. In the end, the preferred choice was Ultraschall.

The resident DJs at techno club Ultraschall included people like Monika Kruse, Acid Maria, Richard Bartz, and DJ Hell. One of the regular guest stars on the turntables was ...

Flyer, "Sven Väth - Alter Flughafen München" (2), 1994, Original Source: Rights: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum
Flyer, "Sven Väth - Alter Flughafen München" (1), 1994, Original Source: Rights: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum
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... Sven Väth.

Reportage Riemer Hallen, 1993Original Source: Volker Derlath, Rights: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum

Besides the techno-heavy Ultraschall, Riem was also the location for other clubs such as Zeppelinhalle, Charterhalle, Wappensaal, and...

Reportage Riemer Hallen (2), 1993, Original Source: Volker Derlath, Rights: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum
Reportage Riemer Hallen (1), 1993, Original Source: Volker Derlath, Rights: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum
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...Terminal 1, which hosted lots of parties and also concerts by major bands. Some of those to have graced the stage include Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis, Rammstein, Bob Dylan, Soundgarden, and Green Day. The most famous event at the venue, however, took place on March 1, 1994.

On this day, the very last concert of the band "Nirvana" took place - five weeks before frontman Kurt Cobain took his own life.

In 1996, it was all over for nightlife in Riem. The old buildings had to make way for the new Messestadt Riem complex. One of the few reminders of the old airport that survive to this day is the tower.

But the Munich club scene soon had a new playground again. One that was even bigger and more central. This was the era of Kunstpark Ost, a large party and nightclub area.

Bar im Ultraschall II, 1998Original Source: Marcus Zumbansen, Rights: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum

September 1996 saw the opening of Europe's biggest nightlife area covering over 950,000 square feet. This became the new home for Ultraschall 2 and around 30 clubs, discos, bars, restaurants, gaming arcades, and studios. This new hot spot of the nightlife scene was made possible...

Arbeitskittel "Pfanni", 1995Original Source: Rights: Sammlung Mode/Textilien, Münchner Stadtmuseum

...when the company Pfanni moved out, after decades of making potato-based products on the site. Overalls like these were worn by the owners of Ultraschall 2 during renovation work on the building.

Silberne Schallplatte "Kernkraft 400", 2000Original Source: Rights: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum

The track Kernkraft 400 by the Munich duo Zombie Nation became one of the biggest hits that Munich was to produce during the late 1990s. The track was released by International Deejay Gigolo Records, the label run by DJ Hell.

The song "Kernkraft 400" by "Zombie Nation" was created in the environment of the subversive Munich music scene and was not actually destined to become a hit. At its inception, the electro project set out to satirize the grand gestures of mainstream pop. But ironically, their song quickly became one of the most popular Munich productions ever. From the underground, the duo quickly made it to a silver record in the UK and an appearance on "Top of the Pops." The performance, persiflage in the best sense.

Today, the song has finally arrived in the mainstream and has become a perennial favorite, especially in stadiums and sports arenas around the world. As an intermission jingle in the North American professional leagues NBA, NHL and NFL, or even as the official goal anthem at the games of the German national soccer team. A fascinating short documentary by the online portal "Vice" describes the amazing history of "Kernkraft 400" with many anecdotes and background information. 

In 2003, Kunstpark Ost was superseded by the Kultfabrik and Optimolwerke complexes, before these too closed in 2016 and 2017 and stopped putting on party nights and events. Work then began on the new Werksviertel area, a new urban district where people could live and work with the new concert hall at its heart. But the city's club scene had already been moving ever closer to the city center from the start of the new millennium.

Veranstaltungsplakat, "The Party's over? - Die Registratur", 2009, Original Source: Designliga: Artwork: Andreas Döhring
Veranstaltungsplakat, "Turn Out the Lights - Die Registratur", 2009, Original Source: Designliga, Andreas Döhring (Artdirektion)
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From 2003, Registratur joined the ranks of the city's hippest clubs. This was located in the premises of the former postal service in the Old Technical Town Hall at Blumenstraße 28. Well-known DJs from the house and techno scene plied their trade here for six years, before it was eventually closed in September 2009. The club owners plastered these posters all over Munich to promote the very last night on September 19.

Registratur also hosted several major live gigs, however, with Indie heroes Maximo Park including the venue in their club tour of 2009.

Veranstaltungsplakat, "Harry Birthday - 5 Jahre dein Platz an der Sonne", 2015Original Source: Dominik Schieß (Grafik), Tanja Carina Leithe (Artwork)

Eventually, the section along Sonnenstraße turned into a genuine party zone for lovers of nightlife. It also became known as the Feierbanane (party banana), due to the banana-shaped appearance of the road between Sendlinger Tor and Sonnenstraße (when seen from above). This area saw numerous clubs emerge such as Harry Klein... 

Slipmat, "Harry Klein - Himmel der Bayern", 2016Original Source: Dominik Schieß (Grafik und Artwork)

 ...which opened in the Optimolwerke complex in 2003 and then relocated to Sonnenstraße in 2010. Like the Rote Sonne at Maximiliansplatz, Harry Klein was regarded as a legitimate heir to Ultraschall. On flyers and posters, owners were always making playful references to the Free State of Bavaria, such as here on the slipmat...

Plakat, Harry Klein, "Dahoam sterbn d'Leit", 2016Original Source: Dominik Schieß (Grafik)

...or this poster titled Dahoam sterbn d'Leit (People Are Dying Back Home), a reference to a film with a similar name released in 1985. Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp provided the inspiration for this photo collage showing the various resident DJs.

Bierkrug "5 Jahre Harry Klein", 2008Original Source: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum

In 2008, a beer stein created by club staff to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Harry Klein at the Optimolwerke complex caused quite a stir. It showed a modified version of the protected logo of Verein Münchner Brauereien e.V. (Munich Brewers' Association). According to club owner David Süß, this was intended to be a humorous tribute to Munich's brewing culture and the Bavarian Purity Law that applies to beer. But Munich's brewers failed to see the funny side and sued the club for passing off and trademark infringement among other things.

Veranstaltungsplakat "Marry Klein", 2017Original Source: Svenja Dahm (Grafik), Phaedra Richter (Artwork)

With the series of events billed as Marry Klein, the club is trying to improve the visibility and involvement of women and non-binary people in terms of nightlife, with club culture still being dominated by men even today and having something of a patriarchal feel.

During the coronavirus pandemic from March 2020 onward, Harry Klein was one of the five clubs from Munich and Nuremberg that took part in the United We Stream campaign. The evening premiere event was broadcast on April 7 on ARTE Concert. Harry Klein hosted Stefanie Raschke & Proximal.

One of the city's latest clubs can be found in the historic Congress Hall at the Deutsches Museum. This building opened in 1935 and was Munich's biggest concert hall until 1985. Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, The Who, Peter Gabriel, Elton John, and many other legends from the world of pop and rock have appeared here. At the start of the 1990s, the Congress Hall was converted to the Forum der Technik complex, complete with a large IMAX cinema and planetarium. It then stood empty for years. 

"Blitz Club" aus Fotoreihe "Vorübergehend geschlossen", 2020Original Source: Ernst Jank, Münchner Stadtmuseum

2017 finally saw the arrival of Blitz, which quickly became one of the city's best known clubs, including at an international level. Blitz can accommodate 800 guests and boasts a unique sound concept, according to the owners.

Wandverkleidung Blitz-Club, 2017Original Source: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum

The room-in-room concept delivers phenomenal acoustics inside the club, while also ensuring perfect sound insulation toward the outside. 

Innenaufnahme Blitz Club München, 2017Original Source: Simon Vorhammer

Stempel "Blitz", 2019Original Source: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum

The well-established Munich club scene motto of "Wer reinkommt, ist drin" (once you're in, you're in) also applies to Blitz, of course. The door policy is not too severe here though, with doormen seen as much less strict than at other clubs in the city.

Aufkleber zum Abkleben von Handykameras, 2018Original Source: Sammlung Stadtkultur, Münchner Stadtmuseum

A special feature of Blitz is the strict ban of filming and taking photographs. Customers have to cover their cell phone cameras with these stickers so they can simply get on with having a good time, without being distracted by trying to reproduce what they are experiencing. 

All this and much more can be seen in 2021 in the large special exhibition "NACHTS. Club Culture in Munich" at the Munich Stadtmuseum. 

We look forward to your visit!

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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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