Pool bar festival – “At some point the spook must be over”

The pool bar festival took place this year under difficult conditions, in addition to the corona measures, there was also the bad weather. Organizer Herwig Bauer is all the more pleased about the great public interest.

Vorarlberg’s outdoor pools suffered severe losses in this rainy and much too cold summer. How was the season in Vorarlberg’s “cultural outdoor pool”?

That’s right, the summer was a provocation in terms of weather. At some point I even started taking screenshots of the weather forecast because it always started pouring at 6 p.m. – exactly when it started for us. We even had to evacuate the area twice. However, we were lucky that the storm warnings always came early and that we were able to react in good time and postpone the concerts. It was pleasing – and surprising – that the guests came anyway. At first there were calls as to whether the concerts would take place. But word got around quickly that we demand weather resistance. In the end, the rain didn’t bother us as much: at the sold-out Mighty Oaks concert, for example, everyone was wearing raincoats and had a smile on their faces. In any case, the number of visitors was well above that of the previous year – which of course also had to do with the fact that we were able to drive outdoors with higher capacities and had the pool open due to the fallen distance rule.

Speaking of rules: You were lucky, if you may say so, and no 2G rule.

Yes, on the grounds that we are a “gathering”. Sure: The regulations are not always rationally comprehensible, but you have to draw a dividing line somewhere. Even so, the controls of the 3G rule and the registration requirement were a huge effort.

When did you actually know that the festival could take place again in 2021?

Since we were even able to set up a program in 2020, we always assumed that the festival would also work this year. The question, however, was to what extent. In any case, we were quite perplexed when it was said that the distance regulation would be canceled. At that time, however, the architecture was already there and it would have been very cumbersome and time-consuming to change everything – so we only made minor adjustments. Also because many still keep their distance from themselves. But you could definitely feel that people are happy that encounters can finally take place again.

And how did it go with artist bookings? A festival like this cannot be organized overnight.

It was a constant back and forth. In autumn 2020 we were full of hope and booked international bands for the hall. Then the vaccinations weren’t going so fast, there were new virus mutations, travel restrictions and ultimately none of the big international acts were left. Nevertheless, we had a varied line-up with bands from German-speaking countries, but also from Belgium, Great Britain, South Africa, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Australia. And the fact that we focused on the Viennese club scene and less on what has been tried and tested in Vorarlberg with the DJs has proven to be a complete success.

The open-air variant is, if you like, a “child of the coronavirus”. Will it stay that way?

We used to have smaller outdoor concerts as well as the multi-day open air. The Corona variant, born of necessity, ultimately turned out to be a great asset. We will take a lot of it with us for the future, but not with this intensity.

The Poolbar Festival supports the UN’s 17 “Sustainable Development Goals”. Has sustainability always been important to you?

Well, at the beginning (note: the Poolbar Festival took place for the first time in 1994) we still had disposable cups that we washed out in the hope of using them again in the coming year. Which, by the way, didn’t work. But yes, we have always been aware of our ecological responsibility. We would never let a band fly in just for a concert. Although you have to admit: In practice there is still a lot of potential for optimization and everything is nowhere near as good as we would like it to be. But it is important to us to create awareness for the topic.

Cooperation with regional partners is just as important to you – from culinary art to local timber builders and retailers to local bands.

Whatever works and makes sense, we try to implement with partners from the country. Everything in the field of architecture comes from Vorarlberg. Timber construction is generally a great example of how regional cooperation can work. Even this year, when the raw material wood was in short supply due to global demand, everything worked perfectly. Incidentally, we are also on the move here sustainably, because the furniture and constructions – mostly in a completely new constellation – are used over a number of years. For us, regional cooperations simply have to do with expertise and common sense. And yes, local and domestic bands also get a stage with us. A lot has happened here – luckily. In the past, Austrian bands had almost only niche status. Today they are headliners.

For many event organizers and restaurateurs, there is still great uncertainty as to how things will proceed. How do you see the future?

With great confidence. In the worst case, we have to do without the interior again. But I don’t really think so. At some point the spook must be over. In our well-rehearsed, constructive team, everyone pulls together – and we all pull strongly and with full motivation. We are already in the middle of planning for the coming year and have already booked the first international bands for the hall.

Herwig Bauer is co-founder and managing director of the Poolbar Festival, which this year took place for the 28th time in and, due to the corona, especially in front of the old indoor swimming pool in Feldkirch’s Reichenfeld. From July 9th. By August 15, 2021 around 21,500 visitors came from the four-country corner to experience festival culture at the highest level.