Massgrav goes to Ukraine.
Ukraine. How many bands do YOU know that have played there? When we were asked to play the Zverovision fest in Kiev, we knew of none, but a quick look on their previous posters told us Birdflesh played there in the past, so before saying "hell yes", we asked Adde whether he'd advise against going, which he didn't - apart from getting the shits for four days after eating bad pizza, everything had been great. THEN we said "hell yes".
When the tickets were booked, it seemed like a great idea to get the earliest flight there and the latest one home, to get the maximum time in Ukraine. When we got up at 3 am to head for the airport, it seemed like a fucking stupid idea. We were met at the airport by Artem - the brother of Dennis who set up the show - who took us to a shopping mall for lunch at a very Ukrainian buffet restaurant where you had to pick your various dishes without really knowing what was in all those assorted deep fried lumps and odd pastries (meat, usually - Fenok had to cheat and have Artem help him pick out what little vegetarian food there was).
After the meal, Artem drove us into town (there was enough stuff to look at to keep us wide awake at that time), then continued out to the gigantic high-rise area where he lived, where we rode a fucking scary and twitchy elevator with blinking lights to the 16th floor, where we pretty much immediately crashed and had one hell of a mid day nap. We must be getting old or something.
After a couple of hours, we got up and headed into town. The Zverovision fest started very early but we were told we didn't have to be there for a while, so we walked around another shopping center (this time in the middle of town) for a while, feeling lost, before we found some sort of micro brewery pub on the top floor, where we spent the next hour or so.
The venue must have been a Chrustiov-era theatre or cinema, rebuilt into a night club (and when we say night club, we mean a very Ukrainan combination of casino, live venue, pool hall and strip club) - a grey behemoth with a pretty odd blend of interior decorating, mixing eastern European charm with some sort of Mexican hacienda feel. Everything seemed pretty good; there was a decent row of merch tables, quite a lot of people, a professional-looking sound and lights setup and a nice backstage room with a fridge full of beer and booze - hell, there was even a lock on the door, and we only had to share it with some Italian bizarro grinders. Great!
So we set up our little table and started peddling our goods. Since Dennis had been nice enough to pay for extra checked in bags, we'd been able to bring a whole bunch of shirts and cds and even patches. We chatted with friendly Ukrainians and the other merch vendors and watched the very diverse crowd as they walked and staggered by. Beer was cheap and plentiful, we were playing pretty early and we sold quite a few shirts and even some cds. Things were good. As we got ready to go on stage, a guy who'd introduced himself as Sid (and also as a big fan), jumped up on stage and gave some sort of mega speech about how totally fantastic we are. Not that we don't agree, but it got a bit embarrassing after a while.
Anyway, we did what we do best and although a few porn grind crazy suckers stood at the back, not knowing how to act, a good part of the crowd did their part and made a lot of noise, started big circle pits and whatnot. Had the stage not been about 50 meters high, this would have been total chaos! As it was, it was still a lot of fun and we got called back for encores, twice, which always makes you feel extra loved and superior.
After the gig, we set up the merch again and hung out with more nice people. Quite a few years back, a guy named Eugene from Kiev emailed us, telling us he couldn't afford buying shirts from us - could we send him a hi-res logo so he could print his own shirt? For some reason, we obliged, and felt kind of rewarded when he not only turned up in the front row at the gig, but also turned out to be a really nice guy.
As soon as the wrestling mask-clad Italians finished their last song (called "Bukkake, bukkake" - presumably their biggest hit), people slowly started leaving. A guy we'd earlier dismissed as another one of those "damn, I'm so crazy" grind freaks you see all the time at OEF, turned out to be a pretty smart and funny guy, who tried to give Norse his white fur coat. The guy wore nothing but a red bra beneath it and whether Norse refused the offer because he felt sorry for the guy, should he have to walk home wearing only a bra or if he didn't feel like wearing a sweat-drenched white fur coat, we'll never know. What we do know is that some of the more sexually insecure, homophobe Ukraians did not appreciate him, to the point where we had to tell a guy to get the fuck away from our table - buying our stuff does not give you the right to be an asshole, ok?
We hung out for as long as possible backstage, finishing all the beers and drinking horrible screwdrives made with chili vodka strong enough to burn your tongue right off until we were thrown out of the venue. We headed back to Artem's place, and though he insisted he had everything we needed for an after party, we demanded a stop at the 24 hour super market next door (we happened to know that Artem's beer stash consisted of dark, flat beer, kept at room temperature - which is probably all the rage in Ukraine, but not our style). We stocked up on Budweiser and Ukrainian beer and spent the next hours getting drunker, listening to great music and making Artem show us his skillz on the harmonica (and there was plenty to show!).
For some reason, we didn't feel so bad when we woke up. Since Artem was fast asleep, we walked around the apartment, watching the rain from all his three balconies and staring transfixed at all the alien-ness of the area, where 30-floor apartment buildings were everywhere, where people parked like they were all blind and where playgrounds seemed almost as lethal as the Ukranian traffic. After a while, Artem got up and we grabbed a cab into town, where we hit another buffet for brunch, very similar to the one we'd been at the day before, but with much more homeless people among the other guests. Luckily, the rain had all but stopped and Artem took us for a great walking tour of Kiev, showing us the famed central square, but also a lot of landmarks nice parks and popular suicide spots before the rain had gotten so bad again that we had to seek shelter in a café. After a while, Dennis, his wife and some friends joined us, and since nobody was in a hurry, we hung out for a while, drinking coffee, beer and brandy, respectively.
The one thing we really knew we wanted to see in Kiev, was the monstrous Motherland statue. Nicknamed "Iron maiden" by the locals, it's a 100 meter high titanium amazon woman with a sword and a hammer and sickle-adorned shield (the latter holding a viewing platform). When in Kiev, you catch glimpses of it all the time. We all piled into Dennis' car and drove there.
The first thing you notice when you walk into the park that surrounds the statue (and the World War II museum it sits on top of) - apart from the gigantic statue, of course - is the nationalistic Russian choir music blaring from speakers everywhere, giving your walk a slight surreal feel. When we got closer, we started seeing a few old cannons here and there, and suddenly when we turned a corner, there were about eight tanks and an Afghanistan-era chopper. An outdoor armor museum! Anyone who's read our Finland giglog knows how much we like visiting these things! For a ridiculous low amount of money, you could sit in the chopper, but Dennis told us to wait until we got to "the bigger part of the museum". Hot damn!
After walking around a small hill, we hit that bigger part. Holy crap, there was all kinds of armored vehicles, tanks, amphibious vehicles, MIGs, a bomber, a submarine and a couple of mobile nuclear warheads. Call us what you like, but we walked around there for ages, loving every minute of it. We were in such a good mood, even the bad news that the viewing platform in the Motherland statue had been closed to the public due to all the suicide jumpers didn't bring us down THAT much.
Well, that' was pretty much it. The rest is just boring stuff like picking up gear, saying goodbye, trying to change our Ukrainan money into euros in a herculean battle against Ukranian bureaucracy, Norse having his bottle of Red Stag confiscated by airport security and us getting home waaay too late, rendering us pretty useless to our employers the next day.
All in all, a very good trip. If you ever get the chance to go to Kiev, take it. We'd love to come back one day, hopefully with enough time to see more of the country (after all, Kiev is just a few hours from Chernobyl) and maybe play a few more shows. Thanks to everyone who talked to us and hung out and extra big thanks to Dennis and Artem of course!
Fenok, obviously not thinking about airplanes crashing. Yet.
Classic Ukrainan buffet. Rustic as fuck, inside the mall.
If you don't look too closely, it' looks really classy.
These people proabably feel really stupid in their work costumes. They sure don't appreciate getting their picture taken... Like we care.
Deep fried food and beer - a match made in heaven.
A... boat? Presumably, this is because Kiev was founded by vikings. It could also be an attempt to make this place even odder.
Here's what happen when you order food from the looks of it... Some sort of pineapple schnizel, deepfried something (potatoe?) and (naturally) Chicken Kiev! When in Rome...
Real food for real men.
Welcome to Casa Artem!
This elevator, with it's jerky movement, blinking lights an professional labelling of buttons felt TOTALLY safe to ride.
After all, you could always call for help if it broke down. Presumably, if you press that button, 1964 answers.
The veiw from Artem's balcony. There's a lot to look at!
For instance, Ukranian parking habits. This is not even closely the worst or weirdest of it!
Had it been possible to get anything but incredibly loud static, this would have been a fantastic invention.
Hair of the dog?
Ukrainians... they never miss the chance to brighten up a dull spot with some lush greenery and an old tire.
Ukranian women are normally a LOT better looking than this.
Fenok and Artem, hanging out in a parking garage, watching the rain.
BINGO - Casino, Disco, Billiards. For some reason, there's no mention of the striptease. Or us.
DAMN, it's good looking!
Ukrainian wishing well, or something.
Nota bene: VIP!
Italian masked grinders Ultimo Mondo Carnivale (or something like that)
Hail to the Tsar!
Get your freak on!
Norse, mixing drinks for everyone backstage.
Fenok, picking up some blow for the afterparty.
Deserted Ukrainian supermarket late at night. We did not go unnoticed by the few other shoppers (or the security guard).
New day, same view.
Main drag, Kiev - pedestrianized on Sundays - great idea!
Ok, so this is that square where they had that orange revolution of theirs before all politicians went back to their regular backstabbing and pocket lining.
A statue celebrating Russian/Ukrainian brotherhood. Not that Russia hasn't tried to eradicate Ukraine umpteen times, but still...
That island in the river Dnjepr is THE beach spot in the summer. How to get there though?
By some sort of abseiling across the river of course! And why the hell NOT bring your dog?
Throw darts at balloons, win prizes - so far, everything is fairly normal in the park. The great thing though is the prizes. For those who are not intersted in stuffed toys, there's also a sixpack of bud and a bottle of Bailey's.
Lovers' bridge, covered in padlocks.
This is also a very poular suicide spot.
Kiev's got talent. What Kiev lacks though, is an audience.
Damn, they knew how to build them back in the day!
Soviet era speakers hipsters would pay a month's wages for, pumping out old Soviet choir music as loud as they possibly can.
Boom, there it is! The motherland statue!
And the tanks!
Napalm to the bone,
Because, you know we do it right,
A mission every night,
It's a Bomber
Like something straight out of Spies like us!
This photo has everything!
If you absolutely HAVE to build churches, they do look better when you slap a golden roof on them.
Brutalist, Soviet architecture at its best, WWII memorial museum, Kiev.
This is how you design a statue!
I just want to see your blood, I just want to stand and stare.
More of that Ukrainan way of spicing things up with flowers.
If anyone can translate this into human speak, feel free to email us!