Established back in 1994 and continuously setting up regular live gigs and club nights ever since, Orto Bar is one of Ljubljana’s central places for rock music enthusiasts. Its name suggestive of the club’s persistent and unwavering rock’n’roll allegiance, this cult bar & club has recently nevertheless opened up to a number of other musical genres. One can subsequently also stumble upon the most extreme metal acts, psy trance parties or rap performances as well as participate in karaoke nights.
Running a programme of its own for the past quarter of a century, Orto (as it is usually called) remains an important catalyst for the Slovene rock scene. However, it also cooperates with several outside producers as well as offers a possibility to rent the venue for private purposes.
Orto usually operates till about 4 or 5 AM, though not on every day of the week. It is made up of three separate venues. The main one, with which Orto initially started, is a narrow, 80m2 bar. This is augmented by a concert venue located upstairs, capable of hosting about 150 people. The third site is the bigger “Orto hall”, located downstairs, with a capacity for up to 320 people and suitable for somewhat bigger events.
Located near the train station, just on the edge of the city centre, Orto is but a short walk away from the Metelkova mesto Autonomous Cultural Zone.
As the story goes, Orto’s history stretches back to the early 1980s when its founders Marko Prihoda and Andrej Ciuha were still in high school. They set their ambitions on setting up a club that would be wholly dedicated to rock culture, a feat they’ve managed to realise about a dozen years later. Hence the name Orto.
The place they chose was the former premises of the Zmaj (“Dragon”) battery factory (and still longer back, a beer brewery). The refurbishment and interior design was taken care of by Primož Jeza, a student of architecture who was later given the Student Plečnik Award for this endeavour.
The venue was enlarged with an upstairs concert venue in 1999, but only after already hosting the likes of Dirty Three in its rather tight and smoke-filled premises (Warren Ellis – of the Bad Seeds fame – had to interrupt the band’s Orto gig for an emergency stitching at the ER, only to finish it two hours later). In 2007, Orto gained another hall (serving as a pool room when not used for gigs or clubbing) as well as a smoking room.
When first established, Orto was a pioneering bar-and-live-music venue in Ljubljana. However, it still remains one of the few venues in Ljubljana with a regular programme of live rock music.
There have been well over 3000 (possibly even closer to 4000) concerts held at Orto since it was established, with about 100-150 concerts each year.
It maintains a very open gig policy and hosts internationally-renowned rock acts as well as fresh bands from Slovenia and abroad. The club runs an open call for new rock and metal bands who want to perform here, supplying them with all the necessary stage equipment, taken that the band is prepared to play on a door-deal.
Besides most of the major rock, punk, pop and metal bands from Slovenia, the stage of Orto also hosted a significant part of big rock acts from the ex-Yugoslavia region like Jinx, Majke, Psihomodo pop, Partibrejkers, Rambo Amadeus, Goblini, Bambi Molesters, Dubioza Kolektiv, Bajaga, and Urban & 4.
Of the guests from abroad, one can mention Clawfinger, Toasters, The Slackers, Hanson Brothers, Little Axe, Mick Harvey, Napalm Death, Therapy, Nick Oliveri, Cult Of Luna, Red Sparowes, Anti-Nowhere League, UK Subs, Dirty Three, Young Gods, Orange Goblin, Satanic Surfers, Nebula, At The Drive-In, Fshbone, Dead Moon, Nashville Pussy, Kosheen, Jucifer, Billy Milano, etc.
In 1999, the first annual Orto Fest was organised sometime in April, basically presenting an excerpt of the club’s musical agenda throughout the year. Initially it lasted for 10 days but later it was prolonged to what is now almost one straight month of rock’n’roll.
Each first, third, and fifth Thursday of the month is reserved for the Kadilnica of Death programme, organised by the Dirty Skunks. There play records as well as host live gigs (among others, the HC legends Agnostic front from the US) and organise album presentations, record fairs, and concert after-parties.
Other significant organisers are mostly set on psy trance, techno, and other clubbing genres.