It's Russia - where are all the Vodka drunks?
We just wrapped up a 12 date tour of eastern Europe, with incredible shows in Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia, with only one day off in between shows. We've all been constantly on the road playing intense shows to great audiences and of course, little to no time for sleep as eastern European hospitality has meant staying up 'til early hours of the morning. We played our last European show in Budapest performing with our Aussie brothers sleepmakeswaves at the club Durer Kert and, of course our Aussie brethren know how to party. Literally after the show, we were all drunk like hell. Then it was 3am and time for us to jump into a cab and go straight to the airport as we had a 6am flight to Moscow - no sleep, no showers, we were pure stinking drunken street dogs at this point. We didn't know if they would even let us through the border due to our inebriation, but at the point we were having so much fun we were like "what the hell" and miraculously, they let us on the plane - tired, wasted and vibing like hell! We had no idea what was waiting for us in Russia. The only info we had were the names of venues, our fees and one phone number, no worksheets, nothing, that's it. So mother Russia here we come!
We landed in Russia and first things first - it was fucking cold! The snow stopped falling literally one day ago and holy moly, there we were at Vnokovo airport, which is tiny and looks like cement. There was no Wi-Fi, we had no money, no food and were dehydrated from the excess boozing the night before. We waited almost an hour to take a train into the centre and the people watching began.
New band promo shot?
Meet me at the Kremlin gates...
The people are as you can imagine them. Firstly, the men generally come in two types. Category A - seedy middle-aged, dodgy types that all look like cheap mafia henchmen with rugged faces, harbouring guns in their pockets sporting black jackets that are falling apart and, which were bought in the early 1980s. Then there's Category B - the typical blockheaded army crew cut, muscley and ready to kick your ass type! Fuck we were fish out of water, but on the bright side there were the Russian women and, wow, the answer is yes, they actually exceed their reputations! No shit, you're basically surrounded by 10 models, all the time and everywhere.
Then of course our mindset was cautious as all our Aussie friends and family were saying "Russia? Shit guys be careful", so our minds were a little on guard. We arrived at the central train station where we met Valentine, who is the front man of the Moscow based prog-rock band Adaen, who we will be touring with together in Russia. So we met him and his lovely girlfriend Alina who took us a to an official bank to change money, as they said the other money exchange places by the station are not official and will give us fake money, then they said "welcome to Russia" and smiled.
The most pimped out Subway you'll ever see.
The first impression of Moscow was surprising - other than cement and bricks, there are actually incredibly modern buildings, super modern! Some of the buildings look like they are from the movie The Fifth Element, I haven't seen anything like them. The shopping centres have checkpoints and metal detectors guarded by some serious beefy looking security guards that look like uniformed Russian special forces. Then of course there's another part to Moscow, it looks very European and romantic. Wide streets, lots of green and beautiful parks surrounded by incredible artwork. The subway is absolutely stunning, it looks like an old ballroom with stunning old art in the arches.
We get to our sound check at 3pm at a venue called Grand Bourbon Street. It seemed a fairly classy venue, with cool stage and lights, but was frighteningly large. I would say it would fit at least 600, but possibly quite a few more as it's a long room. We sound-checked and then received our first lot of Russian catering! Some good old traditional Russian food - Macdonalds!!! No, really that's what they fed us - they bought us five Big Macs and 40 Chicken Nuggets! They were all laughing about it and our drummer's face just dropped as he is the vegetarian in the band but Jeff, our percussionist couldn't have been happier!
Just prior to the Maccas binge.
Anyway the show started and we were all exhausted like hell almost falling asleep, from no sleep and fatigue. Our percussionist had a strained ankle from a drunken fall at the sleepmakeswaves after-party in Budapest and was limping intensely and in pain. Our drummer had lost his voice and had a cold and couldn't eat any of the food. Also the room was so large and I was thinking 'my god will there be anyone here? The first band started and holy mother of god, they blew my mind, it was their second ever gig, but don't be fooled, this was the best support band we ever had! The were called Cosmos Skerlet and had incredible three part harmonies, incredible rhythms and changes and performed beautifully and passionately. This was world class, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The second support came up and again, brilliant! A crazy electro, rock band with charisma and first and my mind was melting.
Then we got on stage, burned street dogs and injured soldiers! Ready to pass out, we started our first note and we looked into the crowd and suddenly the room was full with the crowd all squeezing to the front to see us. This gave us a new burst of energy and as we started grooving, we saw and felt the crowd do something special, they were moving with us in synch. As the set continued, they got wilder and we saw and felt the audience singing our songs, flaying their bodies in all directions and grooving or moshing intensely. Although we experienced this in Australia and in Europe to some extent, this vibe was different. There was a different level of intensity and a passion in the crowd that we never experienced before. We were alive from this energy and played a great set despite we thought we were going to die on stage five minutes before getting on there. After the show, the crowd didn't let us pack up as they were running on the stage either begging for a photo or approaching us nervously and humbly thanking us. It was a special feeling and again we were experiencing similar things in Europe yet this was different, there was a different look in their eyes. Now you might be thinking "ok, they're Russians and drunk like hell on Vodka", but this is the thing, our impression from Moscow surprised us, hardly anyone on the club was drunk! Really! A bottle of 250ml water was almost 150 Roubles which is almost $5 and hardly anyone had a drink in their hand 'cos it was so expensive. So it surprised us that they could be so wild yet totally sober. Then our tour buddies Adaen played a magical set. After the show we drove to the edge of Moscow to stay at the bass players' father's house, Sergey, who had a beautiful wooden house he built himself. Soon after, we passed out. We love Russia already and I'm sure each day will be totally different and I still have no concept of what's coming next
Post-Moscow gig. It's off to Sergey's house we go...
We woke up around 11am and we all finally got eight hours sleep - considering we only had max two hours sleep a day for the past four days in a row. I was woken by Sergey's voice as he was singing Deep Purple into his PA system, which is in his backyard. There was beautiful forest scenery past his backyard. We packed the tour van and had to reduce our load as there wasn't enough room in the van for two bands worth of stuff, so we had to carefully pick the bare essentials for 10 days, forcing us to select the bare minimum clothes, socks and jocks for a few days.
Anyway, off we were to the next city, Tula, which is not far, only a couple hundred kilometres. The traffic out of Moscow was horrendous as it was the eve of a public holiday, Victory Day, as people were leaving town. We finally arrived at the venue six hours later and the roads weren't too bad. However, I did hilariously see a man dragging a washing machine on the street with rope around is back. We arrived at the venue was called Irishman Rock Pub. I went to the bar to ask for a Vodka (c'mon, I'm in Russia) and guess what? No Vodka - they didn't have a drop of it, they only served beer. I asked the bartender, "Am I in Russia"', he smiled and then pointed to the Irish Flag in the pub and said, "this is Irishman pub… only beer".
The venue was small and fits only 200 people but it filled up very quickly. There was no stage in the venue, but we didn't mind, because it was chunky PA system that really had balls and a great sound. The audience were right up the front and in our face as the room was jam packed to the walls and when we started playing it happened again… a room full of smiling faces, flaying bodies pressed up against us. They started claps in songs and singing alongs - this was day two and this feeling of a room full of sober people in front of us, passionate as hell really has brought us a deep sense of happiness. After the show, the autographs and photos started again, this went on the whole night. Every single person in the room was very humble and literally all would approach us and really compliment us, the ones that could speak English would go into detail about the music and about certain sections showing they really paid attention and analysed us musically, the ones that couldn't speak English were really nervous and smiled a lot. There was a humble feeling around the room and again it was interesting, there were very few drunk people. It's still early days, but the impression I have so far, is that people can barely afford to get drunk, and so they seem to be searching for a high through music - that's my hypothesis so far anyway. But it's still early days and we also have had very little drink so far (unlike in our eastern Europe days).
Sober (we think), fuck yeaaaaahhhh!
Also, another interesting thing happened, when we were signing autographs in the foyer, a girl asked us if we believe the what the media says about Russia and Crimea and we told her we haven't been able to pay much attention as we've been on tour. She then started telling us her story, that actually she is from the Ukraine and that her siblings live there, she was curious to know what we thought and then she started to fire up and asked us to please have an open mind and not believe what is told. She seemed partly to be on the side of the Russians but also said there was a middle ground in the whole story as she told us about her family in Ukraine's experience. Her English was limited but she seemed very passionate about it, anyway, I suppose there's more on this topic that we will learn. We stayed in the support band's flat and again got another proper night's sleep with no hangover whatsoever, but feeling a deep level of joy from the experience that we have never felt anything close to before.