This month let me take you to the wilder side of Russian rock’n’roll. This story is based not in the capital Moscow, where I live and work, but in Smolensk, a city near the country’s western border.

The band is Route 67. For those of you who know your American musical history, nope they haven’t got the number wrong. Russia is divided numerically into different regions and Smolensk is in region 67, just one digit away from that famous highway. But of course Route 66 is the inspiration for their name.

Their style is what we’d call neo-rockabilly, somewhere between rockabilly and psychobilly. That may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s no doubt this band is real good at what they do. Hard drivin’ rock’n’roll which takes no prisoners; that kind of sums up the style and attitude of the group.

In the October issue of the magazine, I reviewed their first CD which had just been issued, “Sinful Way” on Crazy Love records. It’s a smokin’ CD, hard drivin’ neo-rockabilly from the start to the finish, comprising their own compositions – on the CD only one track is a cover version.

As the names of their own songs would mean little to western audiences, here’s a flavor of the kind of cover versions they perform on stage:

Twenty flight rock, Rockabilly boogie, Oh boy, Blue jean bop, Matchbox, Summertime blues, I’m ready; all performed in the neo-rockabilly style.

The band have been going since 2007 and the 2 main elements have not changed since then; Vladimir Katulsky, lead guitar / vocal and Andrey Sheshero, upright bass and support vocalist, the core of the band, are still there. Only the drummers have changed – they’re now with their third drummer, Andrey Moiseenkov. Vladimir composes the group’s songs, with a bit of help from Andrey.

Vladimir is a good friend of mine and told me something that took place at one of their concerts in west Russia. The gig was at Voronezh, not too far from Smolensk and I wasn’t at the event myself, but here’s what happened:

During their concerts the group do different kinds of visual effects on stage. For example, often Vladimir plays the guitar while standing on the upright bass. At this concert in Voronezh, as usual during one of the songs (it was Jack the Ripper) he played the guitar while standing on the bass, then slipped and suddenly …….. fell right into the face of the instrument ! The bass was completely smashed and destroyed. It was awful for Vlad and of course the bass player. Vlad fell to the floor, but kept the guitar in his hands. Fortunately it was the last song of the concert and they finished the number with just the drummer playing.
But …. the crowd was ecstatic ! They really went wild with the excitement of what had happened !
Rock’n’roll fans from other cities in Russia learned very quickly about what had occurred. Soon after, at another concert, as the band did their sound check at the beginning, a guy came up to the stage and asked them, “we heard about your fantastic show in Voronezh. Please can you destroy your upright bass today for us ?” This guy seriously thought, as did others, that this destruction was part of the act ! Maybe they’d been watching too many videos of “the Who”. The band now call this event “the story of the upright bass destroyers” !

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can have a look at the group yourself and see what you think. Go to youtube and type “Route 67 Russia” in the search engine.

So here’s to Route 67. Moscow is the cultural capital of Russian rock’n’roll, but this band from Smolensk are livin’ proof that although the capital for sure is the leader, there are other competitors in the race !