This month Dear Readers, we’re gonna focus on a big Moscow rock’n’roll concert in December. It featured real stars in the rock’n’roll World, here in the East. Plus for reasons you will see below, it was a very special day for me personally.
The stars in question were Valery Setkin and the Aleksey Fetisov Rock’n’Roll Trio. I’ve covered both in previous columns in this magazine. In the World of Russian Rock’n’Roll they are both mega. And here to tell you all about it all is Aleksey Kilikovsky. Many of you will remember Aleksey’s previous contributions to this column. He writes in a unique, inventive and colourful style. Over to you, Aleksey.
14th December 2019 – Esse Jazz Café – Moscow. On this day there was a great occasion. The fabulous Valery Setkin and the Aleksey Fetisov Rock’n’Roll Trio were performing. Plus it was Richard Hume’s 69th birthday celebration. As а gift to him, I took a treasure chest named “House of Health” with treasures from Siberia: herbal teas, honey with nuts and jam. On the road to the concert a couple of jolly verses about Siberia were on my mind from the Fred Astaire film “Silk Stockings” (1957):
“When we’re sent to dear Siberia,
When it’s cocktail time ’twill be so nice
Just to know you’ll not have to phone for ice.
When we meet in sweet Siberia,
Where the snow is so ‘superia’
You can bet, all right
That your Christmas will be white
In cheery Siberi-a.”
Richard met the guests wearing a Teddy boy “uniform” of red colours; it seemed specially designed to wear it in the country of the Reds, of course. I gave him my best wishes and stepped aside to let others congratulate him in their turn.
My partneress i.e. dancing partner for the concert, Olya, was sitting by the stage talking with Lena, who was definitely dressed in the style of “Carmen” from the famous opera. They were talking about Bulgarian seashores. If I’m not wrong then it is obvious that when Women are discussing something, then they’ve got their own personal opinions on the subject – but for the male being it is not possible to understand from their dialogue whether these opinions are coinciding or not. For example: “the water was warm, blah-blah-blah” – “Why not? The blue waves, indeed, blah-blah-blah” – “The air was fresh, blah-blah-blah” – “Salty, blah-blah-blah” – “I bet” – “You do?” Soon Carmen vanished, having shaken me with the short keen glance of her dark Spanish eyes, very piercing and sparkling. Other guests of both genders joined our table, so a common conversation was established.
In the meantime the people were coming and coming, the lucky ones were sitting at tables, some of them eating, some drinking. A lot of unlucky ones without tables were chatting, standing or strolling around the hall. The celebration started with a short dancing lesson for new pupils. Due to the abundance of people, Richard had to climb onto the stage to show a couple of dance steps with the delightful Tatyana. I’d been teaching a couple of ladies, who were trying to copy me without understanding at this moment the mechanics of the human body, being a little jealous of how much of such discoveries they still had ahead of them.
Valery Setkin (though I think it is more proper to call him the Set-King of Moscow rock’n’roll) and Aleksey Fetisov’s Trio then appeared on the stage. It was very kind of Richard to invite these best rockin’ performers in Moscow to the Esse Cafe. Fetisov was cheerful, optimistic, happy, the same as his trio. As usual Setking was decorated in Elvis sideburns, a 6 gallon hat, ponytail, with glimmering chains hanging from his jeans’ pockets. He sat down heavily at the piano, his fingers ran lightly over the keys and the folks were frozen in sweet expectation.
Richard introduced them, though it was unnecessary – everyone knew them anyway. The party really started! The dancers grew their invisible wings to fly and flutter. We heard the exciting voice of Elvis (via Valery), his magical lyrics filled us with excited memories, sending us to the time of our Youth, to the times of enthusiasm, carelessness and stupidity. Fetisov being an excellent singer and musician was performing the original rock’n’roll compositions without removing or adding anything else, as if he was a good surgeon performing a tiny operation.
Everybody was dancing! – including those who had been going to Richard’s events for a long time and those who joined them not long ago.
The crowd waved and stormed, some dancing beginners it seemed to me were dancing as if for the last time in their lives, oblivious to others, by doing enormous Charleston rock steps resembling mares or stallions, kicking those who were behind them. Due to this, soon they were hard of breathing and noticeably wet. Of course the majority of the crowd were dancing very carefully not just the set of movements, but creating some consequences, smoothly flowing from each to the other, using the gaps in melodies to insert their improvisation.
During intervals Setking and Fetisov were giving congratulations to Richard and to the audience. Before the second part of the show, Richard was presented with a Cake and he blew all the candles out on the first attempt!
Among the many gifts (Richard joked he would have to hire a cab home, given the quantity), there was the most unusual one! A medal! It was inscribed “Teddy Boy First Class”! Accompanying the applause of the audience, it was pinned to his lapel and the hope was announced that this award will not be the last! Everyone congratulated Richard as best one could; warm words and good wishes, exclamations, ovations, whistles.
The second part of the show began with a dance jam, to which Setking had specially chosen a long exciting song and so almost all the women took their turns to dance with Richard. Unbelievable! Breaking social and medical fundamentals, Richard at 69 looked and danced like a young man in love with life and happy with his fate.
As for the Band, well even their final “Viva Las Vegas” song was not in fact the last, as the audience insisted on more. Setking had to perform another song after it. This was the second time in my life, when I have heard Setking perform something AFTER his finale song Viva Las Vegas.
Well, charged with Richard’s energy, after the party finished some guests left for Gorky Park, where a Ukrainian group was performing. Myself and my dancing partner Olya went to another Moscow venue, the Duma Club, to see and dance to the female Marshmallows band. There we were the only dancers! The Marshmallows this night were wearing their outfits of pin-up haircuts, striped T – shirts and tight jeans. Of course they looked very sexy, but when in skirts they are more conformed with their repertoire. During the performance they used a lot of feminine tricks just to add even more vivacity to the gig. They even included use of a vuvuzela musical instrument, the sharp sounds of which can add some amusement to a party. We danced very well and one pair of guests could not find the words to express their impressions to us. So they just embraced us and shook our hands with admiration. When the Marshmallows finished their set, we could not stop our dances for an hour to the DJ music.
Thanks, Richard! Your Birthday Celebration made this Celebration – Ours.
And Thankyou Alexey, for your very kind words. Thanks also to my Dear Friends on 14th December, who made the event so memorable for me; a concert to always remember!
Before concluding this month’s column, I wanna do something I didn’t have time to do before. It’s about P.J. Watson’s letter in the October issue of this magazine. He was criticising the “Confederate flag” being displayed at rockabilly events. First of all, no disrespect to Mr Watson, we’re all entitled to our opinions and from the contents of his letter he clearly feels strongly about this issue. But I totally disagree with him. I’ve been going to rock’n’roll events since my youth, from the early 1970s. I remember the flag being on display even then. And nobody but nobody at these 1970s shows suggested the displayers of the flag were racist. Or let’s put it this way, I do not recall anybody making such claims. The flag originates from the Deep South in the USA and guess what, that’s where rockabilly was born, back in the 1950s: The performers at that time in the Southern States were generally from less-well-to-do backgrounds and that flag was part of their upbringing. So choosing the flag as one of the symbols of rockabilly was a very logical choice.
And here’s a technical point that’s relevant. The official Confederate flag at the time of the Civil War was not the Southern Cross flag we see at our rock’n’roll concerts. The Southern Cross was the battle flag of the Southern Armies. It means this flag for Southerners was a commemoration of the brave men who fought and died for the Southern Cause. It was not the official flag of the Confederacy. In other words the Cross flag was not a manifestation of what that country represented, but a commemoration of the sacrifice of their soldiers. By the way, before I’m accused of not knowing what I’m talking about, I lived and worked in the Southern States (in Alabama) in the early 1990s. I worked with and befriended many Southerners, many of whom had family roots which went back to Civil War times. My knowledge about this is based to a large extent on what they told me.
The fact that there may be a tiny number of racist lunatics somewhere in the World using that flag for their own ends, should they therefore dictate whether or not the flag is displayed at rock’n’roll events? In the UK, there have been examples of other racist crackpots using the English St. George’s Cross as their symbol. Does that mean England football supporters should no longer display our national flag at England matches? I don’t think so.
Like I said, Mr Watson is entitled to his view. I just think in the UK things are maybe becoming generally just a little bit too “politically correct” these days. And now, enough politics – back to the Rock’n’Roll!