Re-printed from Maggie’s Blue Suede News

This month, am gonna introduce you to an iconic group in Russian rock’n’roll.

Raw Cats 88 are a four piece outfit based in Moscow, formed in 2004. At the present time they are amongst the most famous groups in Russia, with a huge following.

There are 2 original members of the band going back to 2004; Keyboards and lead vocal Valery Setkin and drummer Stas Mikosho. Dimitriy Smagin on guitar / vocal and Denis Ovchinnikov on double bass complete the line-up.

Any discussion of the band needs to start with Setkin. He is to say the least a larger than life figure and the real star. The best way to describe his style as a performer is, a mixture of Elvis and Jerry Lee. He not only has a great voice and keyboard excellence, but also displays charisma and character on stage.

At times he’s slamming down on the keyboards in the manner of Jerry Lee. Then he’s singing in the style of Elvis. It’s not a copy act, but an authentic rock’n’roll style that is heavily influenced by those 2 icons.

There are quite a few stories about him, linked to the history of the band. Most of the best ones relate to alcohol, women and strippers ! Many of these I could not relate to you in a family magazine like this one ! But here is one I can ……….

One of the band’s biggest fans is a gorgeous looking young Russian woman, who goes to see them perform not only in Moscow but other cities in Russia. On one occasion the group were performing in Tver (a city about 200 miles from the capital) and once again the young lady was there to see them. But the excitement of the occasion must have got to her and half way through the band’s set she proceeded to do a full blown strip tease act, while the group were playing “you can leave your hat on” (which is all she did keep on). Apparently it was an unforgettable performance ! The group kept on playing during this strip (I admire their professionalism), but 2 of the club’s security guards after the song collected all her clothes and threw her and her attire out of the club. By the way the saddest part of this story is that I was not at the concert to see this exotic cabaret !

But the tale has a happy ending. During the intermission Setkin, who was feeling very sorry for the young fan, discovered that their changing room backed onto the street. So he was able to smuggle the girl back into the club. She was eternally grateful and (although I have not been lucky enough to be at the right concerts to see one yet !) occasionally she repeats her raunchy stage act at Raw Cats’ gigs.

As their own compositions would mean little to Western ears, here are some of the standards they often cover on stage;

Viva Las Vegas, Runaway, Sweet Home Alabama, Burning Love, Ring of fire, A little less conversation, You got it, Great balls of fire and Rock this town. Their version of Viva Las Vegas is particularly impressive on stage – best one I’ve heard, except for the King’s of course.

What is personally rewarding (I’m sure other veteran rockers can relate to this) is to witness over the years how a band develops and advances. I moved to Moscow the same year the Raw Cats were formed. Over the last 9 years, going to their gigs, I’ve seen their progression from a good group into a great one.

Why the name “Raw Cats 88” ? Valeri advised me it derives from the classic song “Rocket 88”, which was one of the first rock’n’roll numbers he ever heard and helped to get him hooked on the great music as a young boy.

You can check out the band yourself. Go to youtube and type “Raw Cats 88” in the search engine box. Hail the Raw Cats – as their name implies, the music is raw with a hard edge !

Richard Hume