This month Dear Readers, we are going to provide you a great report on a mega music event in Moscow, which took place in January this year. The Kids Rock Fest organisation periodically runs big music festivals in the city, primarily aimed at Children and their families. Rock’n’Roll plays a big part in them. Last year my rock’n’roll dancing co-operative was involved in a massive Kids Rock Fest event in the summer. And in January this year, in a huge building, R’n’R again made a big contribution to the latest Rock Fest extravaganza. Our dancing co-operative was again in action.

I’ve invited Alexey Kilikovsky to tell you about this mega concert. Alex was part of our dancing team on the day. Most of you will know Alex’s writings, as he’s written in this column a few times, including last month. So you will remember his style of writing – different, innovative and surprising! Take it away, Alex.

First of all, to set the scene for this Children and Family Festival, here’s a poem by Sam Marshak, a Soviet poet who wrote for Children. The poem dates back to 1946 and captures the atmosphere and purpose of a Child / Family event, such as the one I will tell you about:

“Never had I known

That it’s so nice to be old

All my thoughts now

Are bright as a gold.

Watching the children 

In parks and boulevards

I am recovering a little

For their fuss and runs.

Why should we be on the ground 

In bloody centuries of whirlwinds 

If they would not be around? 

These sonant, bright-eyed kiddies.”

The Fest was held in one of the buildings of the former Kurskiy cargo railway terminal. Once upon a time there was a small city of warehouses, working shops, canteens, garages, but now there are boutiques, cafes, shops, etc. I was amazed with the elegance of the red brick buildings; smooth walls. I know from the experience of my neighbours at my country house, how difficult it is to lay out a straight wall of bricks, without curves, skews or slopes. And these walls were not just walls, they also were decorated with brick parapets, cornices and friezes. No one can say they were added later; it was when the building was constructed. Why does this not happen nowadays? What engineering problem was solved at that time, to enable it to be achieved? And how is this problem solved now – if these gadgets are not now necessary, how come such work is not done any more? From my experience of laying a chimney, I can imagine how difficult it is to put the protruding parts of the bricks in place, to get results both reliable and beautiful. How talented were these construction workers at that time, who so playfully decorated facades of simple warehouses, which were not even living houses.

Inside one of these former red brick hangars, on the day of the Festival there were heard dramatic sounds of bass and percussion from the mystical dim light inner space. Inside, all the walls were draped with black canvases covered with white rocker symbols. The entire space was divided into zones; stage, dance floor, bar, recreation, cafe, entertainment, souvenirs, paraphernalia. And there was a corner, with a chair and appropriate attributes for a photo, for the memory of such a significant event.

Indeed, a unique rock atmosphere, but filled with a lot of kids, from the most gentle age (two or three were still in black strollers with appropriate decorations, as if from the TV Addam’s family of yesteryear) up to teenagers. Of course, black colour with white or bright prints prevailed, but there were also a lot of colourful clothes. And this mob of youth was moving, sneaking, shouting, laughing, jumping, dancing, hiding, seeking, catching up. This was an attractive and beautiful sight, but for me our own group of dancing ladies were looking more attractive and beautiful; hairstyles, makeup, attire, shoes, jewelry – as I understand, the Girls had brought with them several options for different situations. But in any case they looked like bright mischievous lights in the semi-darkness and sharp lights, beams and rays of the rotating searchlights. The most remarkable impressions for me were the light yellow skirt of Marina, which symbolised the Sun: And the flowers on the skirt of Galya added the feeling of the coming Spring. And yet, in my humble opinion the best and most worthy decoration for a lady dancing partner is the smile and the clear glance. Our gentlemen dancers didn’t care much about such concerns, but at Richard’s request we tried to choose our own outfits close to the Fest theme.

We were in Gothic style premises and behind the chair for the photo-taking, that I mentioned about above, suddenly a passage was discovered which led to the 2nd level of the hangar. From here, one could watch the Fest more closely. All the kids were busy covering themselves with the coolest tattoos on the most noticeable places, plus boys were interested in a variety of cool hairstyles done quickly and well with the help of foam. Girls being more patient were ready to wait for an eternity (or some at least!) to get the magic make-up. Some make-up Girls were sticking with baubles, another was using a glue gun to create some kinds of abstractions, or messages on pieces of black cloth for bandanas or headscarves. A whole table was set aside for the production of coloured gum for hands. On a nearby window the kids were making wreaths of pine branches. All these actions equally fascinated children and their parents. No one seemed to be bored with each other. That was great! 

The compere for the whole show was well suited to the event; slouched like Severus Snape in the Harry Potter books, but bearded and shaggy haired, in a leather jacket with a black woolly hat (a “condomka”, as it is named by the Moscow gentry) on his head and with chains from pockets of black jeans. He led the event with all the necessary effects: bowing, howling, hopping and performing sharp gestures. Some competitions were organised by him, one of them I especially liked: A boy and a girl were singing into microphones, which turned the sounds of their voices into the sounds of musical instruments. Prizes for participation were memorable and cool for kids – black bandanas, scarves, socks with emblems.

Those who did not want to participate or watch the competitions were in huge pools of paper tinsel, snowflakes, confetti paper, ribbons, fooling around with colourful foam cubes to release energy. So it meant goodbye to their hairstyles and makeup. A full-sized water-fowl doll wandered among the children, stoically enduring their tugs, hugs and kisses. There were lots of official Volunteers – they all had smiles and were ready to aid any guests that needed help.

Then, after all this preliminary entertainment, a rock band came on stage, dressed up as large Bananas. Their group name was the “Flying Bananas”. They started with a polka song for the smallest kids. Not all jumped and hogged to this polka, some of the children looked up contemptuously over their shoulders at the musicians, as if saying, “What is this kindergarten stuff for? Give us the real rock!” And with the second song, the Bananas gave out hard rock! At which the children no longer were jumping, but were dancing like Robo-Cops. This rock song was followed by a lyrical composition, then rock again.

One of the songs was called “Scary song about a ghost”, but the children it seemed were not much scared, they were happy to portray themselves as the heroes of the song, among the drifts of confetti and tinsel in front of the stage. The band’s final rock song was about Merry Xmas, with an abundance of drums and transitions, as if it was a part of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. The Flying Bananas were using the English language in their gig and Richard advised that it was an important part of the Bananas’ performances to use this language, to help children to learn English.

Two cheerful slender Santa Clauses amongst the audience fired up the children with their enthusiasm, getting them to dance. The two slender Santas were attractive young Russian women, dressed in the Russian version of Father Christmas i.e. “Dyod Maroz”. This Russian version is almost identical to our Santa, but with the dominant colour being blue rather than red. They did their firing up in front of the stage, among the restless parents and their offspring. I noticed that some of the youngsters were dressed the same way their parents did, as if like little replicas. I thought it was very good, to construct one more bridge between the ages.

I think this anti-kindergarten atmosphere, where anyone can do everything, liberated not only the kids but also their parents, so to speak: It forced them to recall their childhood dreams of how it would be good to run, jump and yell at the tops of their voices and be allowed to throw a foam cube or sprinkle tinsel on their friends.

And then, after the Flying Banana gig, it was time for our dancing group to perform. To clear the dance floor, the compere divided the kids into 2 teams who competed for the title “Who will be the fastest to collect the snowdrifts” i.e. all the paper tinsel, snowflakes, confetti paper, ribbons and  colourful foam cubes covering the floor. And with help of electric fans, the task was accomplished quickly. 

Because of the size of the stage, only 3 of our dancing pairs were on the stage and the other 3 pairs were on the dance floor right at the front. To warm up the guests we presented a rock’n’roll dance performance to Haley’s “Rock around the Clock”. Then Richard began to teach the audience the Stroll line dance. Excited by this rock’n’roll, all the guests were involved in the dance; even those who didn’t dance were shouting. It was so exciting that some of the parents were dancing with children in their arms, instead of with partners.

Of course during the first stroll all were confused, but no one worried, it was just fun. With the second stroll a lot of dancers were doing the steps properly, cheered on by Richard from time to time. After the strolls the Twist was announced and the number of dancers increased yet again: During the dance they were smiling, shouting, yelling and hopping around. And again I noticed how good was our Dance Group in improving good relations between generations. 

For those who wanted to try themselves to develop their rock’n’roll skills,  Richard invited them to ask for help from the members of our dance group. At this point, I could not continue my notes in preparation for this article, as I started to dance with a young slim Goth-styled teenage young woman, who had a paper guitar on a ribbon over her shoulder. She and I were so enthused with the dance that she didn’t notice that her guitar was lost from her shoulder ! There was rapture, shouting, whistling, roaring and wishes for everyone to stay young, by listening to great music and dancing to Rock’n’Roll.

After our own dance performance, next there was another game for children and parents called Cats and Mice, where the young ones rushed in and out in a circle of parents and on the signal those who’d got caught took their places in the circle of the Catchers. Then two performers dressed as Transformers came amongst the children. They were replicas of the autobots from the famous TV series and on arrival were literally swarmed over by the kids. The host explained that they had arrived here in search of the Cube of Wishes and asked for help – if you know the TV series you will understand this wish! The transformers proposed to help the youngsters by explaining the need to be strong and healthy, for which it is necessary not to be lazy but to do exercises and so they repeated several exercises for the children to copy. And with the help of the kids, the Cube of Wishes was found and now, as per the TV legend, if touched it would fulfill all the desires of the children, whatever they could be; good grades, health to parents or World peace. And as per the Legend, this unity of children, parents and Transformers will save the Earth!  

The transformers performance concluded and was summed up by the host, “You were taught to play fight and then become friends”. Yeah! The children formed a portal for the exit of the Transformers who “left for other Galaxies”, leaving a rain of coloured spangles in addition to tinsel everywhere.

Our own dancing group departed at this point, because the next rock group named “The Party” had started their hard rock style gig, with specific horse head banging, hogging and jumping associated with this style, so it was not possible to dance rock’n’roll.

I really did like the event. So many problems these days are announced of growing misunderstanding between parents and children. But here I saw the understanding and not only between parents and kids but even between parents and teenagers. Perhaps such events help to preserve the link between generations. On a general point, I see the sad evidence of the absence of a youth education system in our country. This has happened after the end of the Soviet Union, which had positive programmes like the Kids Publishing House and the Youth Film studio. And when there is no such education in the country, it is replaced by the education from another country, from the West or the East. That’s bad. Let me explain:

The present Western education is filled with toleraters and liberals, or tolerasters and liberasters as we call them in Russia. I believe tolerasted nations can be easily defeated by the forces with a more strong ideology.  

Fortunately in the old Soviet Union there was special attention given to the kids; maybe because of the Civil War in the early part of the last century, when up to 7 million children were left without relatives and any help. All possible efforts were done in this battle for the future of the Soviet State.

All Publishing Houses of Soviet Union were obliged to publish some literature for kids, plus there was a special Children’s Publishing House which published books only for youngsters. It was the same with movies: There was a special Youth Film studio which made movies only for children. In Soviet movies you cannot see violence done to the Children. So in the age of Perestroika in our country in the 1980s it was very shocking to watch Western movies with scenes of children being murdered. 

Despite this, some believe Winston Churchill’s quote, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried”. As I see it, the tolerasts are ready to abandon their culture. How they can look in the eyes of their children? What country will be left to them? Historically the Russian mentality is based on the way of surviving in the midst of problems and Society cannot give rights to the minorities which can infringe the rights of the majority.

Thanks again to events like the Kids Rock Fest, for the possibility to see that Mankind still has a chance to survive! As the old slogan says, “There is still a chance, Brother”. And as Winston Churchill also said, “For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else”. 

Thanks, Alex! Great Stuff. And a rock’n’roll article that includes two quotes from Winston Churchill has gotta be a first!