The Massgrav giglog. Click the images for more photos
|Russia, part II - St Petersburg - October 16, 2009
We woke up surprised. It’s unclear whether it was exhaustion or beer consumption that had done the trick but we had slept quite a lot during the night. We got off the train and got even more surpised, as Max was not there to meet us, as he had promised. Weird. Figuring he was probably just a little late, we went into the station to wait for him. After half an hour, we decided to contact him, only to discover none of us had bothered to put his number in our phone books. After an hour, Max had still not appeared and we started to wonder whether he’d taken the argument about the snare drum harder than we’d thought and decided to abandon us. Was this the end of the tour?
Suddenly, we realized we had Sashas number, so we sent him a text message, asking him to hook us up with Max, and maybe that worked because about 90 minutes after we arrived in St Pete, Max sent a text, saying there was a traffic jam. Eh… ok. We did the only politically correct thing and waited for him in a McDonalds.
Once again we were brought to Nikitas flat and this time Max managed to get us lost, we must have walked for about an hour. When carrying 25 kilos of junk, that’s not the greatest way to start the day. Hanging out with Nikita and little Anton is much better, and that’s exactly what we did next, along with some much needed shits and showers. Time for another youtube marathon, Ove having a drum clinic with Nikita and Nikita telling me horror stories of when Tervet Käädet played there a month earlier, when the gig had to be cancelled since four carloads of shotgun-armed skinheads attacked the venue. That made me a bit nervous, to be honest, but Nikita said he was pretty sure that wouldn’t happen tonight. Great.
We were anxious to see St Pete and this was our only chance so we wanted to go downtown as soon as we’d showered but things got very confused. Nikita had Zorka rehearsal and needed to fit that into the schedule. Max also had some stuff to take care of, plus he had to pick up the snare and give it to Zorka. Finally, we got on a bus to take the scenic route into town.
The initial idea was to go to some sort of dive bar for vodka, but after Max left us, the plan was altered, without us really understanding why. This was a pretty confused and confusing day. Suddenly, some hobo tried to stop me and shake my hand but I avoided him and slipped past. Looking back, I noticed that the rest were shaking hands with him – this was Dennis, drummer of Zorka. Dennis and Nikita brought us to Castle Records (all letters in “castle” must be pronounced or nobody in St Pete understand what place you’re talking about) – the oldest metal store in town, founded back in the distant nineties sometime. Finding it involved crossing a few rather scary looking courtyards, going through a tunnel and ducking in under a piece of sheet metal covering the stairs. There is no sign. Norse bought a SOD dvd for peanuts and we left it at that.
We walked around for a few hours and ended up by the Hermitage – one of the oldest and largest museums in the world. Impressive place from the outside but since it’s recommended to spend at least 2 days in it, we settled on a raincheck, watched some enterprizing kids to wheelies on their customized mopeds and kept walking. Suddenly, we spotted a bear. Behind the stinking rows of porta potties south of the Hermitage, on a small, worn spot of dead grass, sat a crusty looking girl and her pet bear. Ove was thrilled and walked over for a chat and a photo. The rest of us watched from a safe distance. Small it may be, it’s still a natural born killer.
The main subject of discussion was where to eat. I hate to sound like a rich asshole, but a lot of russians had a tendency to not listen when you said things like “we would love some pizza” or “what about this place”, refusing to stop repeating things like “there is a good place for students, very cheap. You can have soup”. Anyway, we turned down the veggie café and once Max rejoined us, Nikita left and the rest of us went to the S’Barro pizza place instead like the heathens we are.
As we arrived at the venue, we were really happy we’d scrapped the initial plan of touring in a van, since that would have meant we’d have brought amps and drums and Flat Club is situated on the third floor, with a rather serious looking security guard placed at ground level and some very steep and nasty stairs leading up. At least this gave a sense of security. The club itself was pretty cool with lots of little rooms, a nice bar, perfecly shaped stage room and a room for the fussball table. The only weird thing was that the PA speakers were so huge, you felt like the Berlin wall was between you and the crowd.
Anyway, we were bullied into soundchecking, set up our merch (this night we sold a bit more stuff) and started on the drinks. The punk as fuck crowd started spilling in and the first band (I think they were called Eroguro or something like that) started playing. Not to be mean or anything, but trying to sound like Tragedy is very very popular in Russia. Fine with us, that just makes us stand out more. Next up were Zorka, easily the best band we came across on this trip – do yourself a favor and check them out. And we were not the only ones that were impressed; the view from the side of the stage during this gig was purely insane! Floor to ceiling wall of mosh! Cool!
Some of the people in Distress were present and gave us some bad news. We were supposed to play with them the next night in Moscow, and it was a big deal for everyone since they hadn’t played Moscow in five years and they are hugelyl popular in Russia. However, they were embarking on a european tour 4 days later and their van had just broken down, forcing them to stay in St Pete to try to fix it. Major disappointment for everyone involved! In addition to this, Komatoz got on stage and seemed hell-bent on staying there until they died of old age. I’ll try to be nice, especially since one of them played in his brand new Massgrav shirt, but we always find it’s better to leave people with the feeling “wish they’d have played longer” than the opposite. To make things even worse, someone stole our beer (and since we had to stop her from taking our beer later that night, we suspect the girlfriend of the Komatoz drummer). Also, the bass player of Distress got a bit carried away (and drunk) and crawled around with his pants around his ankles, ass first – rubbing himself against things. Yay!
Finally, it was our turn (yes, of course we had tried to swap places with both Zorka and Komatoz but apparently it’s mandatory for the foreign band to play last) and things instantly felt a lot better. Last night in Petrozavodsk was great because it was so unexpected to get any people at all, let alone such a crazed crowd. St Pete was great just because… just because the place was jam packed with lovers of all things short, fast and loud and they were not afraid to show it. Lots of crowd surfing and circle pits again and a few indecent proposals to top it off. Great, great gig!
We got off stage and stood around, talking to all the nice people, waiting for the sweat to dry so we could put our clothes on, changing our underwear in front of 20 strangers – the usual joys of touring, when things suddenly got very rushed. Max and Nikita made us wrap up in a hurry and ushered us out of there. Apparently, there had been a knife fight at the entrance of the club (some people attacked a female member of the st peta punx and the rest of them came to the rescue) and since we had a train to catch (not to mention our slightly faulty paperwork) we didn’t want to get tangled up with the cops. And we didn’t want the non-punk party of the knife fight to come back with friends while we were still there. Accompanied by a bit of an entourage of mohawked punks and Max’s girlfriend, we half walked, half ran to the bus stop and took off for the train station to head for Moscow.
Max told us he’d gotten the best beds on the train that night – the one closest to the end of the car, and subsequently closest to the toilet. He was however unable to explain why these beds were the best, which is totally understandable since they sucked! Ove and Johan got beds that were so short they had to sleep rolled up into balls. Me, I got a short berth by the door, so that every time I fell asleep and relexed, my feet extended over the edge of the bed, which meant that every person that went to or from the toilet opened the door onto my feet. A few of them opted to get angry at me for this instead of apologizing. One guy, I had to get rather hostile to get rid of. This was another bad night on the train, but what the hell – who expects to get a lot of sleep on a Russian cheapo night train?
In the next part, we follow the Moskva down to Gorkij Park and manage to lose Ove in the Moscow night. Stay tuned.