April this year was the 53rd Birthday of Rock’n’Roll. So here in Moscow we celebrated with a rockin’ Party; April 1954 being the birth of Bill Haley’s “Rock around the Clock”. Moscow’s best rockabilly bands performed at the B-2 Club; AND to make the Event very very special, flying in from the U.K. and topping the Bill ……….. the Jets !
Celebrating this Birthday is an annual Moscow tradition. How about doing something similar in the UK all you guys and gals back home ?
The Jets were preceded on stage by 4 of the best Rockabilly Bands in Moscow: The Prayers, Diamond Hand, the Alligators and the Great Pretenders. They’re all quality groups and did the business on the night. My 2 favourites were Diamond Hand and the Pretenders: Both play hard drivin’ authentic rockabilly and both have an impressive stage presence. If ya wanna see what I mean go to the following web-site page and hear Diamond Hand rock !
The whole event was largely organised by Sergei Kuteynikov, lead singer of the Great Pretenders who played the 4th set. Sergei has introduced more physical movement into his performances and it works – real authentic Elvis-style gyrations ! The Pretenders style is authentic rockabilly but they include traditional rock’n’roll hits in their repertoire (including my favourite “Teddy Boy Boogie”, naturally !). They’ve been playing since 1996. The Alligators played the 3rd set and gave another solid performance. I always enjoy hearing them play.
By the way those of you who went to the Rockabilly Rave last year back in the UK, don’t be fooled re. the quality of Russian rockabilly by the Russian band that performed there, the Neva River Rockets from St Petersburg. Nothing personal, I spoke to them at a gig when they were last in Moscow and they’re nice guys. But compared to the best Russian bands they’re strictly non-league. I could quote you over half a dozen Russian bands who are premier league material who were NOT invited to the Rave.
Russian rockabilly grew largely out of the change in the scene here in the past few years. In the 1990s rock’n’roll bands attracted huge crowds especially in Moscow and St Petersburg. Unfortunately the quality of the Russian bands then was not particularly good (with some fine exceptions). But then something strange happened. By the turn of the millennium the rock’n’roll crowds had got smaller but the quality of the bands had drastically improved ! The huge crowds had partly been a reflection of Perestroika and Glasnost and the “opening up” culturally of the country after decades of Communism. After a while many simply gravitated to other things as more and more choices became available. And the crowd that stayed with the music tended to gravitate towards rockabilly rather than standard rock’n’roll. A more recent phenomenon is the strong support also for psychobilly here in Russia; but that’s another story. For more info about Russian rock’n’roll go to my web-site at www.coopjive.co.uk and head for the Feedback page.
After the 4 Moscow bands had all given full value for money, then it was the turn of the Jets. They completed the evening’s line-up and the old cliché “they brought the house down” pretty much approximates to the truth. They began their set with their traditional opener “Turn up the Guitar” followed by their classic “Rockabilly Baby”. After all these years their rendition of the latter is still a highlight for me; a great number performed superbly with a hard edge. That was enough to get the large audience going and the place rocked ! Standards like “Josephine”, “Somethin’ Else” and “Runaround Sue” kept the momentum going.
The Jets still have that ability to vary the content of their performance. For example they threw in the odd Doo Wop number plus one or two distinctly non r’n’r songs like “Hobo”. But it worked; they never stay far away from the next hard drivin’ rock’n’roll song so the variations are not a distraction for the audience.
Speaking to Friends during and after the gig, it was clear the Jets willingness to travel all the way to Moscow for a one-off performance was much appreciated (UK Bands out there please note !). Following the Restless gig in Moscow last year falling through (the details of which are messy) the Jets presence was especially savoured by the Rockers here.
Although I’d seen them quite a few times when I lived in the UK I hadn’t known them personally, so it was nice to have a chance to chat with the Band during the evening. They came across as nice, quiet and genuine blokes off-stage. After all their years together, it was clear they still got along well with each other (being brothers probably helps !). They told me they didn’t miss the big fame they’d had following their hit records all that time ago – they were still happy and glad to be playing the kind of music they loved and being able to do it for a living. In other words they lived the opposite of the stereo-type wild, crazy, destructive rock’n’roll life ! (speaking personally, my only regret is that I no longer have the energy to live the wild, crazy, destructive rock’n’roll life …….. ). I also asked them their views on Russian rock’n’roll from what they were hearing that evening: They were hugely impressed.
So from all of us back in the big city in the East, a big Thankyou to the Jets. Welcome back any time.