AlithiA learn the art of shitting in a hole and finally get some Vodka into their systems.
Even though it was only our third day in Russia, it was a much needed day off for AlithiA as it was our 12th consecutive show in a row, including the EU shows. We had a good sleep in until about 3pm. The touring party was split in two groups. The AlithiA crew was sharing a room of the support band's flat and our touring buddies Adaen stayed at another flat.
The Adaen guys came to collect us at about 3pm to go and see the Victory Day celebrations. Victory Day is one of the most important national holidays of the year as it commemorates the defeat of the Nazis in WWII. We went to a square near our accommodation and there were tanks on display that you could sit on or climb over and take photos. There were lots of marching soldiers and we visited the eternal flame monument, which is essentially four really tall sci-fi looking poles (likely a design element) with a flame at the bottom that is always on. A local told us the flame represents the fallen soldiers from the war and that it's a very significant monument because almost every Russian family has a family member that is touched by this war and has someone that either fought or died, so it's a very personal symbol for them. Later that night there were fireworks through the city, but in random places. We were in the main square and not even 20 metres away from us, fireworks were being let off from behind some trees next to the square, so they were blowing up pretty close to our face. After the fireworks, we jumped in the tour van for an overnight drive to Belgorod, which is less than 20kms from the Ukrainian border.
Possible gig venue?
We arrived in Belgorod at around 7am and went to the house of one of the members of the support band for that night called Indievision. We were totally rooted from the overnight drive and we all conked out pretty quickly. 2pm wake-up call for a shit, shower and shave and straight to the venue for sound-check. We arrived to the venue Roxbury Bar and upon arrival there were two cameras rolling. One was taking shots of us, paparazzi style, as we were stepping out the van and unloading, while the other camera was simply filming us. We were told that day that in the past 48 hours a lot of Russian music portals have been hyping us up like crazy as word was getting out about this crazy band from Australia with shit hot live reviews from the past two nights, hence the cameras upon arrival. We also had a good dozen people ask to get a photo with us at the front of the venue as we were unloading, the rock star buzz was beginning! We loaded in and the venue seemed quite cool with a nice backstage area also. However, as we were loading in the promoters were blowing up black and white balloons, they also set-up a disco ball and in no time the venue looked like the classic 21st birthday party.
Before doors opened, we were told about half the capacity of the venue worth in presales had already been sold and they were expecting a full house. Then we got on stage! And holy shit, just as we thought the shows couldn't get any better, we had a full room packed to the front right in our faces, dancing, moshing and screaming insanely through our set. There were also three cameras rolling. One of them was a go pro on a handle. The photographer had the camera literally an inch from my bass and I think I accidentally knocked his camera to kingdom come a couple of times. There was also another photographer who had a ridiculously large foil flash that was about half a metre large and he was shoving that right to our faces as we were playing, was bloody old school and hilarious! Also, there was the promoter of the night who was drunk like crazy. After the first song, he jumped on stage shouted some stuff in Russian randomly and then asked us if we were still playing more songs. I laughed and said, 'yeah man, that was just the first song' and he shouted “yeeeeeeeahhhh!”. Anyway, this crowd was fucking phenomenal, they shouted and cheered 'til our ears bled and went nuts in the crowd and chanted obsessively for an encore.
Danny's personal fanclub.
After the set, it was impossible to pack down, people jumped on stage asking for photographs and it literally didn't stop! It was pic, after pic after pic, and the poor band after us had to wait 20 minutes before we could start packing down as we didn't even have the chance to walk off the stage. But it didn't stop there, they treated us like rock stars and yes, finally the Vodka started flowing. Guys would constantly be approaching us and would shout us a round of Vodka, but as soon as we'd slam it down, literally the next guy would come up and get us another round and I tell ya, this happened the whole night long without stopping 'til we passed out. We drank like hell without buying a shot and yes, finally we had a drunken crowd too. Then a kind of pimping started, well not real pimping and no prostitutes, it was more like the guys who were buying us shots, then started introducing us to female fans saying which female likes which member of the band and which ones are single. It was a hilarious kind of merry go round 'cos as we'd get introduced to one set of girls who were taking dozens of pics with us and asking for autographs and giving us their phone numbers and emails, we'd get dragged to another group, and it didn't end there. It was the classic night of rock n' roll fans and groupies all round which ended up with us finding that a number of them were waiting for us at our accommodation, and so of course there was a classic drunken after party 'til about 7am. What a phenomenal night and for the first time in our lives we really felt like the classic cliché rock stars and naturally, we were loving every moment!
We all woke up hungover and yet feeling pretty damned rock n' roll good and had to rush for a 9am departure, as for some weird reason the promoter from Orel had planned a 5pm doors open, which just doesn't make sense, but whatever. By now we learned some essentials about being on the road in Russia, always bring your own toilet paper! In this part of the world a normal functioning toilet between cities is a rare luxury as you mostly are faced with holes in the ground. Our mighty front-man Sparky took it with all his glory and still was smiling while doing a number two into a dreadful hole in the ground.
'Atta boy, Sparky!
We arrived at almost 4pm to the venue, which was pretty late for the schedule. Then it happened again, in front of the venue cameras were rolling and there was a good dozen people already waiting to get a photo with us as we stepped out the van. We were told that word is really spreading through the portals in Russia and particularly through Russia's main social media site vk.com (facebook is not really used much here, people use VK instead of Facebook). We loaded in and as doors opened, the requests for photos were already starting from the audience. They knew who we were, what we looked like and they even knew our names, some serious celebrity status was happening here, and sure we were nowhere near used to it, but nonetheless, fuck it, we were loving it, wouldn't you?
We hit the stage to another packed room. There was no stage at this venue, so the audience was again right in our face. The venue also had a mezzanine, so we also had audience watching from above, which we always love when there are venues like that. Another wild audience who screamed, danced and moshed with our flow like crazy and it was hard to tell which crowd was more intensely passionate, whether it was in Belgorod or here, but we were finding a consistency in adoration for our music which really was touching us. Once again, upon finishing our set, pack down was near impossible for at least 20 minutes with fans rushing to the stage for photographs and autographs. People were humbly thanking us for such emotional music. It was special to hear so many compliments and we tried our best to reciprocate our gratitude. Of course, the night continued with fans constantly asking for autographs and photos and at the end of the night we were quite exhausted, packed the van and left for an overnight drive to Lipetsk.
Our new tour van.
We arrived around 6am, but it didn't seem too harsh as we all pretty much slept through the drive. We checked into the hostel and all passed out for a few hours. We arrived at the venue for a 3pm load in. The venue was called Acropolis Café and at first looked nothing like a music venue. It was a really shiny and done up Greek restaurant, somewhere you would take a sweetheart on a date. Our front-man Sparky loved the place as he has Greek parents and reminded him of home. The band room was quite a big one with dining tables and chairs at the back half of the room and a small stage with decorations that make it look like a Greek wedding band would play there. At first I wondered if the owners had any idea what kind of music we would be playing and if they let us play. After load in, three teenagers snuck into the venue and came into our dressing room. They told us that because they are 15 years old they can't come to our show, so they wanted to at least meet us and get some autographs as they said they were big fans. At first I thought they were like 10-years-old as they looked so green and sweet. We signed autographs for them and then we gave them some free CDs as I suppose we felt sad they were too young to be let in to see the show. Then a journalist waltzed into the dressing room, she was from one of the main Russian music portals and asked if she could do an interview and of course we accepted the kind offer. Oddly there was no promo done for this tour except through Russian social media vk.com, however at every show we had reviewers and photographers, I think I could get used to this self-fulfilling form of PR.
Jeff, smashin' it in Lipetsk.
Before doors opened, we walked up the street to the grocery store and a girl waiting at the bus stop smiled at us and told us she was coming to our show and waiting for a friend and was really looking forward to it. We set-up before our set with a line-check and we encounter a fairly serious technical problem, the screen on Danny's keyboard has stopped working. This creates a fair bit of nervous energy as despite several attempts to resolve the situation by finding different power sources, ultimately we are without screen, meaning we have to cut Thirteen Revelations from our set because our keyboard player Danny uses 12 different sounds on that song. It's a real shame because the video for the track has clocked over 7k views in a fortnight and a lot of our fans at these shows know the song.
Not long after we hit the stage nervously and as we're walking on stage the crowd starts roaring and the room sounds like a stadium. From that point, the nervous energy melts into oblivion and the love from the crowd energises us like crazy. When we thought the crowds couldn't get any roudier, this one took the cake, and it was just a Monday night! They moshed so fucking hard and danced to every groove so sexily and as we thought we couldn't be deafened any more, these audience roars almost split our ears. The crowd intensity has also been pushing us on stage. By second song, we had so much sweat dripping from our faces, making me think, 'shit there are cameras literally centimetres from my face, well this will be flattering'. We finish our last song Sacrifice and before we can even put our guitars down, the frenzy of fans running on stage for photos was like shoppers in front of Myer on Boxing Day. Girls would literally jump on the stage and throw a tight gripping hug right onto us and then get a photo and it simply wouldn't stop, one after the other and other and other. What a night, we're really treated by fans like royalty and it's just relentlessly never ending, so yeah we like it! Three more shows to go and though we are three weeks into touring now, and exhausted like fuck, we really don't want this to ever stop!