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Russia, part III - Moscow - October 17, 2009


Moscow. To those of us who are old enough to remember the cold war, Breznjev and things like that, Moscow has a very special ring to it. It’s a city where the weather is always gray, nobody smiles and the KGB lurks around every single corner. And James Bond is constantly battling the evil reds and their plans to aquire world domination. Even though St Petersburg is a nice city well worth seing, I think we all looked forward to Moscow the most.

We woke up less than refreshed, none of us having slept for more than 30 minutes without interruption but still on a buzz. Everybody squatted down and tried to see as much as possible of the surreal suburbs of Moscow – giant gray blocks of concrete that made ‘our’ suburb in Petrozavodsk seem like a cosy little place; these ones must have been at least 20 stories high, minimum. We finally stopped and got off at the three station square, which rumor has it is the most criminal place in Moscow. Nice.

While waiting for the guy we were staying with that night (this was the only night we were not spending on a night train and we were quite looking forward to it), we browsed the kiosks and stalls of the station for food (well, I did at least, using my entire Russian vocabulary of about 10 words) and picked up a few interesting food items, among others two bottles of Ayran – salty, runny yoghurt, which unfortunately behaved like carbonated drinks when shook – Ove got it all over himself and most of our bags. Anyway, the guy showed up and we got on the subway.

There’s another thing you’ve heard about all your life – the Moscow subway, with its beautiful stations. We couldn’t have gotten a better start – the station at the train staition square is spectacualar, and in contrast to St Pete, they don’t have a problem with you taking a few snapshots of it. All of us behaved like stereotypical Japanese guys on this trip, taking insane amounts of photos, landing us with a collective photo pool of about 2500 pictures or so to wade through upon our return to Sweden. What the hell, digital photo is cheap, right? To make things more interesting, the subway was crawling with cops – apparently there was a soccer derby in town and Moscow soccer hooligans are not to be toyed with.

We didn’t have far to go this time, the flat we were staying in was very conveniently located at Aviamotornaya, and close to it too. Not only that, but it was also a very smart flat with two rooms and all mod cons (except a microwave oven – have you ever tried thawing out a beer you forgot in the freezer over a gas burner?). Apparently our host – a 17 year old economy student – had a electricity company bigwig for a father, who used the flat once a week, leaving him the rest of the week to fill it with assorted foreign bands and Russian youngsters who were there to drink and gawk at said foreigners. Nice people, most of them. Everyone seemed very content with settling in, Max started showing off his culinary skills by slowly heating four pale hotdogs in a pan of water and everybody hit the beer like it was going out of style. Only the oldtimers in Massgrav were restless.

Hell, we didn’t come to Moscow to watch some sort of high school kegger, we wanted to see the sights. Finally, we managed to drag Max out of the apartment and we were also accompanied by one of the guys from the flat. Enter big Anton! (Big Anton is pretty tall, and since little Anton was already in our minds and hearts… “Big Anton” it was). Now, looking back, I know that Anton is a pretty softspoken guy, very educated, almost an intellectual, who knows all kinds of stuff about all kinds of shit, but this particular morning… Maybe it was the excitement of haning in Moscow with a bunch of old guys, I don’t know, but Anton gulped down two big bottles of Mead and a few beers for breakfast. As we reached our initial destination, the red square, Anton was a fucking nuisance. I feel like an asshole for writing this, but there’s no denying it. After he’d started shoplifting babushka dolls for us and screamed at a Russian wedding party, we did the best we could to distance ourselves a bit from him, to no avail. Anyway, big and drunk Anton or not, it was cool to be in the red square. If I’d had it my way, there would have been a military parade, with truck after truck loaded with nukes, driving down the square, but I guess you can’t have it all – just catching that first glimpse of the St Basil Cathedral… cool.

Also, if I’d had it my way, the Lenin mausoleum would have been open, but what the hell. We walked across the square, took a million photos and then Max wanted to head over to Arbat for a nice walk, maybe lunch. We, however, had different plans.

All the way, we’d said that if there’s one single thing we HAVE to do when in Russia, it’s “follow the Moskva, down to Gorkij park”, like in the lyrics of “Wind of change”. When Max heard this, he gave us a very very strange look. He also claimed to have no idea where Gorkij park was. Luckily we did and we had a nice walk through a rather seedy part of central Moscow, behind the Kremlin and beyond. Nice day for it too – perfect James Bondesque Moscow depressing cloudy day. Once we’d had our way, we let Max lead the way again and we just had time for some pizza before heading back home to pick up the gear for tonites gig.

Arriving at the club was a bit awkward. There was a large group of mowhawked, studded punky punx standing outside, doing normal punkish stuff (drinking) and we were hailed like Americans freeing Europe from nazis or something. We hurried inside the club. Or, rather, we TRIED to hurry in, but were stopped by a huge and rather scary security guard who demanded to go through all our gear, bags and pockets. He was mainly looking for knives and guns, but since he missed two bottles of booze in our collective packs, he can’t have been all that good at his job. Unless his job was just to look scary – in that case he was a fucking natural. He looked like he ate kids and not because he liked the taste but because he knew how it would make others feel.

You may already have guessed, but the Moscow venue was not your average crusty bar – it was a rather swanky coctail bar, very unacustomed to our kind of music and our kind of crowd. And the beer was as expensive as the amps were small. What the hell, we refused to soundcheck and set up our merch table and got into the normal flow of flogging crap to unsuspecting people and taking photos with them – there must be HUNDREDS of photos of various Russians with an arm around their favorite Massgrav member. Flattering but slightly weird. We also hooked up with Matze, a German guy who’d travelled to Moscow to see our gigs and do an interview for Trust Fanzine. The guy is a spitting image of Per Thunell from Bruce Banner/Protes Bengt/Filthy Christians and a truly, spectacularly nice guy. The interview was a lot of fun, unfortunately it’s bound to be translated to German so we’ll never be able to find out what we said, but we were asked to comment on a lot of Swedish bands and we tried to be as nasty as possible.

The opening acts did their stuff and there’s not much to say about that except the fact that the vacany left by Distress was filled by a rather uninteresting metal band and the last band befor us played a cover of ‘Bite it, you scum’ by GG Allin, which is always appreciated. To our great surprise (the sound guy didn’t speak more than a handful of English words), the sound was ok and the crowd was of course fantastic – by now, we’d come to expect that – it may be hard to return to playing all ages shows to sober, nailed-to-the-floor, arms crossed swedes. Lots of aggressive moshing, blood everywhere, lots of fun! We played pretty much every song we knew and ended with our Swedish version of Limp Wrist’s “I love hardcore boys”; “Vi gillar hårda killar”. Another great great show. We love you Russia!

The moment after you’ve played a show is a bit weird. We’ve done so many gigs where we open for other bands or play at festivals with tight schedules, our minds are programmed to pack up our stuff and clear off the stage super fast, so that’s what we normally do. At the same time, a lot of times people want to come up to you and talk, which is also very nice. This time caputered and distilled this to the maximum – at the same time as we tried to talk to all these sweaty and happy people (some guy came up with shots of vodka for all of us to thank us for the show – much appreciated, take note people!), taking pictures and exchanging email addresses, we were also pretty stressed as most of the crowd cleared out instantly and an asian lady started mopping the floor right by the stage, sending a very clear message that it was time to leave. We cleared out, feeling pretty good, having sold all our shirts we’d brought to Russia and what little vinyl there was.

As we reached the subway, we noticed Ove was gone. Not good. Despite the expensive beer, we’d managed to get a bit drunk and nobody could remember quite when we’d last seen him. A few confused phone calls later, it turned out Ove had gotten sidetracked too, talking about Vomitory with some natives and turned the wrong corner. What the hell did people do before they had cellphones? Must have been hell! Anyway, Ove was reunited with the group and we went back home. Being quite hungry after the show, we just dropped our stuff off at the flat and hit the streets again in search of food among the kiosks by the subway station. Our hosts were a bit nervous about this, since it was soccer derby night – we were warned that the streets were not safe. Safe schmafe, we hardly saw a living soul except for the poor people working the construction site that seemed active 24-7 so we loaded up on beer, pizza and other delights and went back.

Having a shower just a few hours after a show (instead of our customary 15 hours and a train ride) felt very luxurious. Finding out we’d be sharing a rather narrow sofa bed felt… not quite as luxurious. What the hell, we drank our beer, watched a gazillion youtube clips and went to bed. I had to sleep with one hand on the floor all night, supporting myself in order not to roll off the bed. At six in the morning, I woke up and sat up to check the time. This prompted the most annoying and drunk inhabitant of the flat, some punk as fuck dude from some band, to try to lay down between Ove and me and nothing we did or said would convince him this was a bad idea, his friend had to grab him hard and drag him out of there. We are forever grateful to our saviour! Thanks. All in all, the night off the train didn’t quite live up to our expectations.

In the next and hopefully final part of the Russia giglog, we travel so far out of Moscow you’d think we’d end up in Khazakstan, to play at the most unlikely place ever. Stay tuned.

Russia part I - Russia part II - Russia part III - Russia part IV
Photos Russia I - Photos Russia II - Photos Russia III - Photos Russia IV

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