AlithiA (sadly) say farewell to the Vodka, lack of showering and shitting in holes experience that has been their Russian tour.
By this point, the names of cities and their geographical location was becoming a haze. These unknown cities to me more or less started to look the same. The road between cities was the same, basically filled with potholes and no lines accompanied by holes in the ground for toilets on the side of the road. The cityscape for these places upon entry was also repetitive, communist-era style high rise flats that look similar to commission flats in Australia, but covered with more concrete and more grey.
We left Lipetsk at 8am and arrived at around 3pm in Voronezh, another communist-era looking city. The venue was called Colosseum and was quite an awesome looking one. The room is quite large for a band of our size, with at least 400+ capacity and a high ceiling. The stage was massive, which we were stoked about because for the past three nights in a row, although we had the most amazing shows, experiences and responses of our lives, we nevertheless technically hadn't had a stage for three nights straight. This stage meant we weren't going to knock each other out while rocking on stage. There was also a massive screen for a projector and would make a fantastic multi-arts music, theatre, and installation space.
Doors open and again we have another support that blows our mind with innovative instrumental songs that take you to a dreamlike state. We hit the stage and again the audience all rush to the front of the stage. Although this time the room is at half capacity (it is a 400+ size room after all) but the front floor mosh area is full and we have another fantastic show. We finish our set with our track Sacrifice from our debut record, as it finishes with a full blown soccer type chant, the moment we finish the audience begins to chant the song and demand an encore. We finish and after our encore we're ready to collapse and again there's no time for that as we are hit by audience members again rushing for photos, autographs and merch.
With our Russian hosts Valentine and Alina.
A little afterwards, I went outside the venue for some fresh air, and just a couple mins to clear my mind after an intense and exhausting set, but as usual I couldn't do this as I had audience members approach me for a chat. A few Russian dudes whipped out a bottle of Vodka and we started slamming it down. Then for the second time on the tour, out of nowhere someone raised the Ukraine issue with me. A man in his early thirties who really dug the show started to talk to me about the issue out of nowhere. He spoke about his girlfriend who is Ukranian and living and working in Kiev and how they both are far more infuriated at the Ukrainian government and the portrayal of the situation by the media. Then he started talking about his feeling about Ukraine and Russia. “Why people try to make difference with Russia and Ukraine?” he said. “We are family!” When he said those words, the others standing around him seemed to agree in a way that resonated deeply. He also said he despises the Russian media and that it's purely propaganda, but my impression from his debriefing was that he felt that political and media agendas are incredibly distant from the sentiment of the people. That Ukrainians and Russians as a people don't see each other as enemies, but as one family, but there is a lot of hurt and frustration that both politics and media are working towards a division of the two. Anyway that's my interpretation, but I'm curious of the everyday person's interpretation. After the show, a Russian music TV show recorded a joint interview with us and with our touring brothers Adaen. The questions were very well researched and stimulated our thoughts and responses. Not long after, we had to pack down, and then we were off for an overnight drive to Saratov, which is around 100kms from the Kazakhstani border.
We arrived around 10am after a long and nasty drive - about 650kms of nasty potholes and glorious holes in the ground to shit in. Upon entering Saratov, this definitely didn't look like the other Russian cities, this place looked like we travelled in a mother fucking time machine! But it was a fusion time machine, the buildings either looked like they haven't been cleaned since 1931, or every other building looked like the wild, wild west, Russian style! I loved it! Trippin' balls, it really felt like we were not only in another time, but another form of reality too. Road rules didn't exist at all as people seemingly drove anywhere they wanted. We already long established that fashion was more or less non-existent on this land, however Saratov took the cake. I mean people seemed to wear the same clothes from the 1950s and it looked like it hadn't been ironed since then either! This was my kinda town for sure! We arrive at our accomodation and we all zonked out. It was quite a warm and sunny day, but essentially we were too rooted at this point to do anything else but chill 'til load in. We arrive at the venue, and this is a new type of venue we haven't played before – a hotel lobby room! Really that's what it was, but at least there was a stage, lighting and killer PA system, and Russians have not ceased to amuse me as to what they make their music venues from! The local support of the night are Gonnalon, who feature an incredibly enchanting female vocalist. The band sound like a cross between Katatonia and Porcupine Tree with mesmerising female vocals. The band plays very passionately with a clearly genuine and honest sentiment in their music. Performing with such high calibre of acts that play with so much passion and sincerity is incredibly encouraging and inspiring for us to step up our game each night.
Ok, ok - THIS is our new band shot!
Then it was our turn and once again, we churn out a set playing our hearts out and this small but full room (or hotel lobby, so to speak) also reciprocated. Audience photos and autographs then follow and sum up yet another special night for us. Adaen hit the stage after us and fire up the crowd with a crazy moshpit and crowd surfing. This is the fifth night in a row they get this reaction from the crowd, showing us the underground vibe is well alive and kicking in Russia unlike anywhere else in the world. Post-show we hit our accommodation as we are all well rooted and need a good night's sleep, - lucky tomorrow is a day off!
We snored our brains out 'til about 3pm. Jeff and I went walk-about for a couple hours and found a classic Russian Orthodox Church and bought some souvenirs. Yes all the Orthodox churches in Russia have a store at the back of the church and you can buy stuff like books, religious ornaments, religious jewellery and other such things. We returned by 5pm and the sauna at our accommodation was ready to go. We jumped in the sauna, then dipped in the freezing cold pool and back in the sauna. There was a dining area outside the sauna so we smashed some beer, chips and dried Russian fish - damn it was relaxing and much needed.
We then freshened up and went for dinner. But this seemed to be a complex operation, firstly, as the Adaen guys wanted to find a traditional Russian restaurant for us as they had seen we haven't yet had a taste of proper traditional Russian food yet. However there was not one in sight in the centre of the city. We wandered the centre for almost 90 mins looking for something Russian and also somewhere that had vegetarian food for our drummer, but both were near impossible to find. Everyone was getting cranky as we were all starving and all Jeff wanted to eat was Maccas or KFC, which were next to each other and singing our names, luring us to enter. Nonetheless, it was a pleasant fasting as the centre of the city was like an overflowing waterfall of the most beautiful women you have seen in your life. And it didn't stop, we couldn't stop turning our heads for a second so some of us didn't mind the starvation as the never-ending views were well worth it. We ended dining at a Kazakh restaurant that met everyone's needs from a plate full of mixed meats to great veggie options. Then we jumped in the van for another overnight drive to Nizhniy Novgorod, the town that in my opinion had the funniest name on the tour.
The name of the city literally means 'new low-town' and yeah it pretty much looked like every other typical Russian post-communist block of flats city. We arrive at the venue called Sin City Club and it was a rad venue. Awesome space, great vibe, stage sound, lights and the best backstage room in the world as it had a dancing pole in the middle, yeah, that's what we're talking about! We were hyped and excited that this venue would be the last show of the tour. But then something else happened, attendance wise this gig was a total flop, ha! Seriously after playing seven magnificent shows in a row to great crowds with lots of buzz and hype, this was the show that was an epic fail! There were less than 10 people in the room, and it was a fairly large room of at least 400+ capacity. The guys from Adaen felt really bummed and asked us if we wanted to play. We were like hell yeah, they apologised to us and said sorry for bringing us to a shitty gig. We laughed it off and said, “guys we've had the best tour of our life, 1/8 shows to suck is a pretty good ratio”. It's also the reality of touring, you're always gonna have those shows every now and then. We played our hearts out regardless and then invited all three guys from Adaen on stage with us to play The Veil and they played a tribal percussion section.
Adaen then got on stage and something weird happened, they started the set to an almost empty room and by the end of the set it was almost full. But it wasn't full because of them, the booker of the venue booked two shows to happen on the same night, So basically a bill of another three bands was going to start after Adaen's set, but it was so weird 'cos the other bill was just a bunch of three unknown local acts, so it didn't make so much sense to have that bill finish the night to a full crowd. Either way, Adaen's last song was a cover of Negative Creep by Nirvana and they invited all five of us on stage to join them and we created total chaos! So at least we sort of got some kind of exposure in that town even though the majority punters didn't hear us perform any of our own songs on stage. Anyway, it was off back to Moscow for one last overnight drive as we had to be there by 9am as we were scheduled to do a live set for internet TV for one of Russia's largest online music channels.
In the studio.
We arrived at Moscow at 8am and loaded into A-Lab Studios for a live screen performance for the popular Russian music web show Disgusting Man. We were all stinking street dogs once again with no showers and barely any sleep from an overnight drive from Nizhniy Novgorod. We were a little nervous as a live recording has you under the microscope, but not long after we played our set, we were quite happy with it. By then it was well passed midday and the exhaustion, stench and hunger had kicked in. Our percussionist Jeff and drummer Vel had flights booked for early evening, so they were taken straight to the airport for a flight back to Melbourne. Remaining was myself, our front-man Sparky and keyboardist Dannytron and we were taken back to where we began at the beginning of tour - the house on the edge of Moscow, which belongs to Sergey, the father of Adaen's bass player. It was a beautiful sunny day and we laid in his backyard on hammocks in the warm spring sunshine as they made us a traditional Russian barbeque of pork chops and sausages, followed by a walk by the beautiful lake and forest near the house. It was the perfect comedown from the tour and all passed out before 8pm.
The next day we said goodbye to the bass player of Adaen, Sergey, who had taken incredible care of us as well as his father for his wonderful hospitality even though he didn't know a word of English and we didn't speak Russian, but we had warm exchanges nonetheless. Then we went into central Moscow with Valentine who is the singer/guitarist of the band Adaen and his girlfriend Alina who had been our wonderful host and interpreter throughout the whole tour. They took us to Red Square and the Kremlin as well as the central University Park, which has a stunning panoramic view of Moscow. They then cooked us a delicious dinner of salmon steaks and salads and had us at their lovely home before driving us the next morning to Vnukovo Airport for departure.
A date with a Disgusting Man.
Before I conclude this tour diary there are two main points I want to make about our tour buddies Adaen. Firstly, they have become our soul brothers. It is thanks to this band that our Russian tour experience was not only a magical experience, but that it was possible whatsoever. They were definitely responsible for making the entire thing happen. They booked the tour, they did all the online promo, they let us use their backline, the took care of all logistics and planning, they let us use their tour van, they did all the driving on the tour, they arranged all the catering and accommodation, they ensured all the sound-checks met our sound needs, and all in all they gave us all their care and support with tender and loving hearts. Secondly, bias aside, this band fucking rocks hard. Musically, you need to imagine a frenetic three-piece, a Molotov Cocktail between Jeff Buckley, At The Drive In, Muse and Dillinger Escape Plan. Every single night they had the audiences going wild in the moshpit. They'll be visiting Australia in June/July so make sure to check them out on tour.
Russia, thank you for all your care and love. For anyone planning to visit Russia, then we highly recommend you do. Russia felt incredibly safe for us at all times, and most of all, majority of the Russians we met seemed like intelligent, tender and sophisticated individuals with creative imaginations and unique thoughts. We can't wait to return – it was the best ever experience of our lives! Spasiba!