Indie-sputable: The Hipster Rock Scene

A quest for flannel, couches and acoustic guitar

By E. R. Pulgar

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A glimpse into Prague’s rock and indie scene at Basement Bar. Photo courtesy ER Pulgar.

Prague’s rock scene is as vibrant as it is varied: Klub Kain for the metalheads, Alternatiff for alt-rock lovers, and O2 Arena for headline acts like Mumford and Sons. There really is something for everyone, but none benefit more from this diversity of venues than the indie crowd.

“Indie” is an umbrella term for music outside the norm of the classifiable, from Renaissance-inspired chamber rock to the ethereal sounds of shoegaze. This kind of music is best described rather than pinned to one genre, but God knows the Internet has tried. Mostly disregarded as a “hipster genre,” live indie venues have so much more to offer and Prague’s venues are exceptional.

Live music is alive and well in these intimate spaces, resplendent in their red lights and cigarette smoke haze. Below you’ll find bastions of exposed brick, microstages illuminated with Christmas lights, and watering holes-in-the-wall overflowing with cheap beer and Czech hipsters.

Basement Bar

For this underground delight, you have to go down a flight of stairs—were it not for the big sign out front, it’s easy to miss.

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With a space this big, you’ll most likely be left to enjoy your Gambrinus—and the music—in peace.

The inside, equal parts DIY basement venue and SoHo loft, boasts a large stage near the back equipped with a state-of-the-art sound system and minimalistic decorations on the exposed brick walls. The crowd, mostly cool twenty-something Czechs, has plenty of space; this venue could host large concerts if it wanted to just as well as it could host quiet nights on the town.

Basement Bar also has two rooms separating smokers and non-smokers, if you don’t want to be choking on the harsh scent of tobacco while you enjoy the live music, which features musicians from the Czech Republic, Germany, and even the US.  

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Inside the Basement Bar. Photo courtesy ER Pulgar.

On the nights without live shows, music is still a prevalent and varied force; when I was there, they were blasting Yann Tiersen’s soundtrack from 2001 French film Amelie.

The bar is well-stocked and a bit pricy, but this is the place to go if you’re looking for a more solitary night of music; with a space this big, you’ll most likely be left to enjoy your Gambrinus—and the music—in peace.

 

 

RedRoom Music Bar

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This hidden gem is appropriately named—right off the Myslikova tram stop, the simple LED sign outside the shop is the perfect segue into the intimate experience of RedRoom, which just celebrated its eighth anniversary in April.

The locale’s atmosphere is purely rock: the walls are lined with ’60s New York memorabilia, photos of American musicians in dive bars, and signs and a bar lit with colored lights in an otherwise monochrome red— suits the music, which usually consists of live English-language acoustic covers, usually sung by Czech musicians.

It’s also important to note the range of music played here: when I visited, a cover of charming coffeehouse staple “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz was followed by a guitar-heavy original track reminiscent of Tame Impala.

Once they hosted a girl from Berlin who performed using candles.

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At the entrance of the RedRoom Music Bar. Photo courtesy ER Pulgar.

“The previous owners were American,” Ivana, who has been bartending there for two years, told me. “The crowd is 60 percent expats, but we’ve gotten more locals lately, and that’s great.”

The small seating space features a sea of couches and cushy seats near the stage and a few tables near the back, Ivana says that the place usually gets full on weekends. The bar also has a couple stools, and a good selection of American and Czech liquors and beers on tap—this is your place whether you’re looking for a cold Pilsner Urquell or a Jack and Coke.

RedRoom has open mic nights on Sundays for anything from acoustic rock to poetry, all local performers, both Czech and American. Once a month, they also feature musicians from around the world.

The venue size doesn’t matter for the musicians, some of whom employ strange props: Ivana adds that once they hosted “a girl from Berlin who performed using candles.” In this hole-in-the-wall performance space, it would seem anything goes, and it’s pretty awesome.

Cafe V lese

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A few blocks down from Basement Bar, Cafe v Lese’s calm exterior and main cafe are a front for Prague’s most authentic underground music experience. Not to say the cafe itself isn’t fantastic—kick back with a cappuccino or two before you get to the action.

The venue’s program features everything from festivals to knowledge competitions, but their typical fare is concerts, and the range of sounds is something to behold—from German post-punk to Romanian-inspired jazz funk, such as the phenomenal Free Balkan Quintet.

Put on your Doc Martens, button up your tightest flannel, and venture into the woods.

Great music, of course, needs a good venue, and Cafe V lese, which literally translates to “café in the woods,” is everything an indie fan could possibly want: located in the basement, the sprawling stage near the back allows for a floor big enough for both moshing and swaying about, lost in the sound. Despite the large dance floor, the basement has tables and couches strewn about for those who would rather not stand, and the dim LED lighting makes for a relaxed atmosphere, no matter what’s playing.

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Beer tank at Cafe v Lese. Photo courtesy ER Pulgar.

 

Beyond this, there’s a rec room where patrons can play billiards, cards, and a baby grand piano. You don’t even need to buy a drink to enjoy the atmosphere, but I wouldn’t shy away—they keep local microbrews on tap that change every so often, perfect for those who want more than the usual Pilsner.

If you’re looking for Czech microbrews and the hippest crowd in Prague, put on your Doc Martens, button up your tightest flannel, and venture into the woods.

E.R. Pulgar is in the Liberal Studies Program transferring to Gallatin in the Class of 2018. His hometown is Miami, Florida.

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Categories: Culture, Europe, Spring 2016 Issue Number 2

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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