Rocket to Russia: official hymn of the conquerors

Joe feels the (slightly scary & very vocal) love (Moscow Arena)

Our second and final show in Russia happens in Moscow, at a large black box called The Moscow Arena. Inside of the building walls, floors, ducting, integral support beams and even lighting and plumbing have an unfinished feel, as if the the venue is meant to be temporary. Pieces of tile are glued haphazardly onto cinderblock walls assembled without enough mortar. Light shines through the separation between the concrete and air moves through, too, mostly reeking of cigarette smoke.

Forty minutes before showtime the rapidly growing crowd in front of the stage is clearly audible from the dressing room, loud enough that it becomes challenging to hear myself speak or hear the notes on my unplugged bass as I warm up my fingers.

When we arrive on the stage the crowd howls with one demonic voice as Jeff counts us in to the opener: Ice 9. The audience claps, jumps, waves their arms, sits on each other's shoulders, even cries. I am drenched in sweat in four minutes and stay that way for the entire two and a half hour set, the drops moving continually from my head to my shoes. Elegant and surely expensive flower bouquets are passed hand to hand from the back of the hall to the people on the wall eight feet in front of us who then attempt to throw them on to the stage. They invariably miss, which is sad. Read the rest

Rocket to Russia: 100 rubles per jug

The correct gate (Pulkovo airport - St. Petersburg)

(Moscow local time: 7PM.  Weather, colder and rainier)

The morning's shuttle through light snow flurries to the Pulkovo airport near St. Petersburg is effortless. At the airport we are thankfully without instruments, as they've been shipped a different way.  

Security is tight, and the examination area is packed with travelers, including a young mother with her baby having a tearful goodbye with Grandma directly inside the metal detector frame.  A couple of minutes wait and this emotional scene is sorted out.  

Down and through several escalators and moving walkways, none of which are functional, we finally emerge in a small round glassed-in waiting area and, after a wait of no more than ten minutes, have our final boarding pass check and walk out on to the tarmac against the frigid wind.  

On the plane I'm seated next to a mother and her young son who is carefully reading aloud from a Russian publication of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  He is diligent in his pronunciation and his mother only corrects him when he looks up at her inquiringly, testing a new word.  It's a short flight with a mysterious sandwich. Read the rest

Rocket to Russia: "Feel 10 - Show 1"

Encore (St. Petersburg - BKZ Oktyaborsky)

As bassist for electric guitar icon (and extremely nice person) Joe Satriani on a European tour I thought to regale you, dear Boing Boing reader, with the exploits of an American rock band touring in Russia.

(Dateline: St. Petersburg. Local time: 11pm. Weather: raining and cold.)

Despite (or possibly because of) a soundcheck rife with technical challenges, the show in St. Petersburg comes off swimmingly. Though stiffly seated for the first several songs of the set the crowd maniacally rushes the stage as soon as the block-shouldered and packing security agents (complete with tiny coiled earbuds) usher the photographers out of the way.

The rest of the set (a total of two hours and twenty five minutes) is a joy, with audience members singing along to well memorized guitar melodies, head-banging furiously or doing the dark Russian poet thing: standing motionless with a maniacal intensity, a sort of "Feel 10 - Show 1" approach to existentialism. After the show the promoter, resplendent in groovy bling, treats us to dinner at his Italian restaurant nearby, and I marvel as our waitress (there is no other word that can most accurately be used to describe her) and our cook bicker animatedly but quietly into the face of each other about opening wine bottles and the timing of serving our meals. The food is very good but I can't finish the mountain of spaghetti carbonara on the plate. It's 1am.

During the day prior to soundcheck a group of us walk to The Hermitage, a world destination museum with over 1000 rooms and 3,000,000 paintings (not all of which are open or on display at any given time) but, as it's a holiday of some kind here (the name of which we're unable to divine) the lines across the wind-swept central square are pushing the length of three football fields. Read the rest

Rocket to Russia: Russian Airlines lunch!

(St. Petersburg local time: 7:30pm.  Weather: cloudy, cold and raining) Our shuttle from the hotel in Prague to the airport outside of town is spent in silence, punctuated by the occasional hacking cough. Read the rest

Rocket to Russia: Day 0

Seeing one's name in cyrillic script is slightly jarring.

Dateline: Prague Local time: 9:11am.  Weather: slightly overcast and cool.

As bassist for electric guitar icon (and extremely nice person) Joe Satriani on a European tour I thought to regale you, dear Boing Boing reader, with the exploits of an American rock band touring in Russia.

We've been traveling around Europe with two buses (one band and one crew), one tractor trailer loaded with tons of audio and lighting gear, and our crew of about 20. But we're stripping down for this leg: no buses, no truck, and only 13 of us are making the trip. Everything besides instruments (which must fly with us as checked baggage -- what could possibly go wrong?!) is being provided by the venue.

Because of severe weight restrictions and their attendant costs, we've been valiantly pitching overboard anything not absolutely essential for this leg.  Astonishingly I was able to drop at least twenty pounds of road accretion onto my bunk in the bus (that we will be returning to in Budapest in four days).  I will attempt to post as regularly as connectivity and time allow, sometimes from a Blackberry, and hopefully more often using a real camera and laptop.

(Ed. note: While we are waiting for Allen's next dispatch, why not enjoy this live performance of Soul Surfin' by The Mermen.) Read the rest