Dear Readers, as promised last month we continue with an exciting list of gig reviews from the scene over here in Moscow during our cold Russian winter. I’ve invited Alexey Kilikovsky, a long time regular on the Moscow rockin’ scene, to continue his reviews following last month’s article in this column. Alexey will again write in his own very individual style, replete with many metaphors and digressions ! This includes coverage of Moscow for rock’n’rollers on New Years Eve, as will see. You will note from the dates below that the week leading up to 31st December is not a quiet one in terms of rock’n’roll events, as in the UK. The reason is simple – Russian Christmas is not until early January. Now over to you, Alex.
Pub No Pub, 27/12/18: This night, along with my dancing partner Mila, I went for the first time to the new venue with the inventive name of Pub No Pub, recently opened in the middle of Moscow. The band Betty Boop Lovers were playing. But though it is a good place for gigs, it was very badly organised. There were a lot of empty tables in front of the stage. Empty ! And a couple were sitting at a table that reliably blocked the passage to a small space in front of the stage. As I know from experience, after the beginning of a gig the non-dancing guests usually leave these tables because of the loud sound from the speakers. Stupid managers – from the street there is a great view through the glass wall to the inside the pub, where one can see the performance and the dancers !
Duma, 27/12/18: So we left for the Duma Club, pushing-pulling-tucking each other and other dancers at the birthday party given for the wife of the Alligators’ singer. The rockabilly group the Alligators were performing and their leader Oleg had invited many guests to celebrate his wife’s birthday. This group are very well known in Moscow and have been around a very long time. Plus they are a really good band. The air was filled with the stench of sweat, abun+dance+rs and a gentleman in a black T-shirt with a Spiderman face print. He was bald with a beer belly with а head the same shape as the print. We danced nearby the exit, sometimes using the stairs as a stage. It was cool there, but the guests – they were squirreling back and forth, thus helping us to improve our improvisations ! The guests who’d become frozen on the dance floor because of the lack of space helped us to be patient and calm.
Doctor Watson Pub, 28/12/18: Our next dance point was the pub “Dr. Watson”. What a wild winter cold that night ! Plus we had to go for 15 minutes along the riverbank. It was impossible to talk ! Words froze to lips and the lower jaw to the upper one. The venue had been a former factory labyrinth, red brick buildings and aisles; and Lofts – inside one of them was the Dr. Watson. The group Diamond Hand, a veteran rockabilly band, were playing. To warm ourselves up we started to dance as soon as we’d entered, along with other couples. There were 3 to 4 women in cute dresses and hairstyles of the 50s. An old gentleman danced solo. More precisely, he thought he was dancing. Alas, his delightful pas and chic outfit was camouflaged by dull bounces, a total slouch and jeans, with a perpetual blue T-shirt, which perfectly painted his shoulders and chest, but could not hide the flabby belly and waist. There were a couple of chairs by the bar, so we could have a coffee break. These vaulted brick ceilings (in which wonderful way were they made?) had perfect domes connected by arches, without flaws. It seems as if the builders dug a tunnel and then turned over the gravity control, dug a regular hole for the dome, carefully covered it with bricks and again turned over the gravity control. It sounds unbelievable, but it is also incredible that the Sun attracts the Moon to itself 4 times stronger than the Earth, but the Moon does not fly away from the Earth! Or the asteroid belt behind the Mars orbit, why are the asteroids flying without attracting each other? Something is wrong with the Gravity Law. Hmm. Mila my dancing partner said this Doctor Watson event was a Jiving Rockets’ party. This dance group previously had been a part of the Moscow Dancing Rebels, but then they split off. For some reason, members of the Jiving Rockets tend to be small or medium in height, whilst the Dancing Rebels are generally tall. Yeah, I can imagine it, ” Partners! Get in line, the highest to the left, the lowest to the right! From the middle to the end of the line, partners march away from here!”, with girls crying and some giggling.
Rock’n’Blues Café, 30/12/18: This night it was the Boneshakers performing. Since our last visit the dance floor had become wider. The band came on stage, the performance started, but no one was dancing at first. The band leader, looking like Andy Warhol – slim, same grey haircut, black glasses and white jacket, informed the guests that they’d come to bring fun and the floor had been well prepared for dances, so everybody must get up and rush to boogie! By the third song it was still only me and Mila dancing, but then other couples and dancers came to the dance floor and afterwards almost all the guests ! Two couples plus an elderly gentlemen had engined the guests onto the dance floor. It didn’t matter that many of them were not quite moving with the correct tempo and in fact some were very artistic. Soon I had to screw in and out between the pairs, protecting Mila from the public and even the public from her, such was the lack of space. The group’s final number was Johnny B. Goode; the dance floor turned into a kind of bee swarm, where all the bees were worn, buzzed, mixed, flashing with smiles and glittering eyes!
Rhythm’n’Blues Café, 28/12/18: Mila and myself visited the Rhythm’n’Blues Café again. Sipping buckthorn tea, we listened to the Cross-Eyed Cats Blues Band and after a cup we were warmed enough to dance. The dance floor was small that night because of the tables on it, but there was enough space. When dancing I tried to find out why there are no other pairs, although the quality of the music was excellent. And the answer came rather quickly. If rock’n’roll resembles a mixture of popcorn and nuts, the grand funk of the Cross-eyed Cats resembled a well-done steak with potatoes and thick sauce. It was so nice to chew it slowly without any rush, feeling the quality and intent. So our dances mainly were variants of blues and Carolina Shag into which we inserted some quick moves, according to solos or voices. Mila sent some mystical signs to one of the musicians to turn them to r’n’r, but in vain. He smiled to her and showed back his thumbs up only.
Duma Café, 29/12/18: This night we were at the Duma café (in Russian “Duma” means “Parliament”). I think Duma means Doom for the dancers. Moscow is covered with snow now, there are illuminations, glittering, congratulations, plus small snowfalls. We were late and from the stairs we heard the noise of cheerful voices, stamping, rustling of dresses and music, music, music. The sounds we heard were – the Polka! The Sun Valley Serenade Kiss-Kiss Polka! And in proper time; romantic stars, silver of snow under the moonlight! Wow! Wonderful! All other compositions were of the same kind. The band performing, “Jolly Fish”, can mix everything in the rock’n’roll style. It is hard to imagine performing Beatles songs in that style, but they did it! Their best number was “Back in the USSR”. The dancing united music and memory! Everyone recalled their youth and the guests showed off the best they could. 20-30 years were swept away from our ages and the dance floor it seemed was filled with teenagers! In conclusion, the final number Great Balls of Fire enlightened the guests, some pairs trying to dance, others just galloping, tugging on the chairs, screaming and yelling! Plus Mila received a card from the band.
New Year’s Eve, Moscow: This night Mila and me started our New Year’s Eve r’n’r dance marathon ! Our first stop was the Rock and Blues Café, with “Boogie Motor” on stage. They really are a powerful motor, the power feels like 200 horse power from each band member. Their repertoire included Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode and Rock’n’Roll music, plus Tequilla, LaLuna and other songs. By then I was really hot! That evening was the corporate party of the Rutech company, so their tables covered the dancefloor in addition to 2 huge monitors. Soon the Rutech folk flooded the dance floor. Alcohol relaxed some young girls and they danced rather bravely and provocatively in front of their shocked boyfriends. The others ate, bouncing and hopping at the tables, cutting up pieces of meat and chewing them in sync to the beat. The waitresses lanced through the mob of dancers with dishes and drinks. The band leader had a joke to tell, “Girls, look at our pianist! Such fingers. Show Your fingers to the girls. These are the fingers of Jerry Lewis! He’s old now and no longer needs them and 2 years ago our pianist bought them at a flea market in Los Angeles!” The band had bad luck with the harmonica. If I’m not wrong, it was planned to add the sound of it to what turned out to be an over-loaded amplifier, but something didn’t quite work, the speakers whistled, boomed and screamed. The sound engineer was called in to stop the problem. Almost forgetting to pay for the tea, we left.
So, the next pit-stop of our Dance Marathon was the Duma Club. We immediately began to dance, once we entered the hall. At first there were not many people. Not warmed up yet, we were making mistakes. A pig-like sound was screaming. Where is it from? Wow, the DJ about 50 years old with a beard dramatically was imitating a vampire attacking his victim during the dance. The “victim” was giggling and squealing with pleasure, simulating offering her various body parts to his open greedy mouth. As for the Betty Boop Lovers band, who were performing that night, I can say it was their usual good and impressive gig. Mila is fond of the group. Unlike the songs of Motor Boogie, their songs were merry, one could recognise the mild notes of folklore. It is a pleasure to dance when they are performing. Our marathon was postponed a little, for there was no other rock’n’roll music places in action at the time we left the Duma Club. Only Indy, Hard rock or Jazz was available at that time. The Marshmallows gig was timed to start at 01:30, but it was too late for us. So we went to the Brown Bar again. Mila was with her friend Irene from Finland, she had come to Moscow for the holidays.
In the hall I met an English teacher with whom, whilst waiting for our ladies to finish their last preparations in the rest room, we tried to clarify the origin of the differences in the forms of New Year congratulations in Western and Eastern languages. The Cynics were playing that night. And Oh did they justify their name: They were meant to start at a certain time and an hour later the stage was still empty. It was only after Mila and myself hit the dance floor, dancing to the music playing on CDs, that eventually the Cynics decided to start. It seemed they were waiting for the dancing to begin first. Their compositions were rather cynical, they were short and tended to end unexpectedly in the middle of their numbers. However, this feature soon ceased to amaze or annoy. On the contrary, a kind of competition began between the dance partners about which one of us would guess the proper time for the final pose. After an hour they finished and the dancing continued. The DJ was a real pro, he alternated the well-known records from the 1940s to the 1960s with the unheard ones: That is why we felt like teenagers, who had not yet tried to bite an apple of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, who still had everything ahead. And then wow, the DJ launched the New Year’s Waltz! 2 or 3 couples were able to dance it. Mila and me were in my opinion the best! Although we hadn’t danced it for 2-3 years. The Moscow Dancing Rebels group, who arranged the party, were well prepared; their appearances were styled in that of the 1940s and 50s, with the addition of Italian half masks. One young woman was in a top hat and frock coat, like a young Ute Lemper (“Life is a Cabaret”), but alas not completely Ute, as she was a brunette and in a skirt ! Another woman was wearing a silk scarlet dress in the style of the 40s, right up to a headband, like a 40s pin-up girl assembling a Sherman tank in a playful pose. There were 3-4 more pin-up Girls, but much further from the original. There were more entertainment games for the guests. The first was named Dancing in Parts: All 5 participants first had to say what parts of the body they liked best and then they had to dance with it. One girl said boobs and proceeded to dance by accentuating her boobs. And she really danced it! One guy said the bottom and the audience enjoyed his energetic attempt at bottom dancing. Overall, a fun event. And it brought our New Year marathon to an enjoyable and interesting conclusion.
Thankyou Alexey, for your quality article and your inimitable style of writing ! As you can see from the above, we know how to Rock in Russia. And wherever you are in the World, keep Rockin’ !