We arrived at Igor and Red's flat in the early afternoon. They made us beans and rice with loads of dill in it. Dill, by the way, had been the most prevalent flavor in all the food we were given in Russia. Dill mushroom soup. Roasted potatoes with dill. Lentils, bulgar wheat, and dill. It was a flavor I'm unaccustomed to and not super into, but Dave and Pierce loved it.
We had just enough time to shower and pack our stuff back up before Kiwi and another dude that plays in Igor's band took us to see Moscow. After our first day in Russia when Kiwi had told me about getting jumped by Nazis, I had spoken a bit about Nazis during our set every night and sent songs out to Russia's anti-fascist movement. I had been unsure if that was ok with him, or safe to say (I had heard stories- and continue to hear as I write this through a drive in Romania- about Nazis attacking shows, street brawls, and deaths. This is a very serious matter here), so I kept it pretty mellow. As I combed my hair in front of the mirror, Kiwi came over to me. "Dah-vin, May I have a word?" My stomach dropped, but my gut, for once- and thankfully, was wrong.
"I would like, very much, if tonight you could say more about Nazis... especially those in hardcore. We have straight edge nazis here, and they may be at the show. I want them to hear from you that they are not welcome." Oh hell yeah, talking shit to racist scum? Not a prob. I asked if there would be trouble tonight. "There may be a fight." He smiled, bashfully, though I wasn't sure why. I told him that he could count us on their side. "No, you stay inside. This is our fight."
I thought all day about what I wanted to say at the show that night, and I realized I had a huge problem. How do you talk shit to racist scum when you don't speak their language?
From Igor's, we took the subway to Red Square. It was absolutely breathtaking. Buildings bright as candy towered over us and I felt like a tiny, pasty spec. We took a zillion photos, and videos.
There was a lady in a port-o-potty, sitting on the toilet with the door open, all her clothes on, doing her make up. A block later, we walked by another lady sitting in an open bathroom, clothes hanging inside as if she lived there. What the hell? Kiwi said the toilet cost money and those ladies worked them. Oh. Shitty job.
From there we walked to the venue, the Tochka Club. This place was fucking HUGE. A line waited outside the entrance, hours before doors. We walked past it and it was very weird. I felt like such an asshole. "'Cuse me... VIP here... in a band... comin through" (For those a bit dense, we didn't actually say this. We uncomfortably and silently walked past the line.) Inside Igor and the 2 other promoters gave us the tour. 2 backstages. One for our things and to hang in right before we played, and another on the 3rd level with a glowing sign above it that said "CHILL OUT ROOM". The walls were carpeted in white shag. This is where we were fed. "Our chef is a great at cooking vegan food." Waitresses brought us our meals. I asked if there was coffee around anywhere. "If you need it, we will find it." (Stop being so nice! No... don't stop, please?)
The venue, I realized as I walked around, was a concert hall. Spotlights. Tiered seating above the floor. A stage as tall as me. A private stage entrance. Guards watching the back stage door. Back stage passes. I was very grateful to be playing in Moscow, and to have such a big show, but it felt very... off. Like the time we covered a Minor Threat song at a huge club and strobe lights and fog machines went off in the middle of it. Fucking weird.
The doors opened and line outside poured in. "Dah-vin! I make photo with you?" I struggled through conversations with lots of kids who spoke with very limited english. They were all super nice, and so excited that the antipathy I felt toward playing a club that size quickly began to wane. "I came very far just to see you play. We will be stage diving whole set." I nodded at the stage, "Pshhyeah, if you can even get up there." I'm such a whiner sometimes, so busy being a baby that I'm unable to see how totally sweet things are. The kid grinned broadly. "For you, we find a way."
Tthe moment had come for me to address 500 Russians about their trouble with nazis. As I stared into the blinding spotlight the only face I could make out was Kiwi's. I had wanted to tell a story about having an Anti-Semitic stalker when I was very young, how hardcore had been a safe haven for me in so many ways (like it has been/is for so many people)- including as someone persecuted for being from a Jewish family, but as I looked out I realized it was pointless. I ditched my plan and spoke from my heart, with very little eloquence. I shouted that Nazis and white power have no place in hardcore. That if they saw it, they should kick it out by any means. That they were in control of their scene, and they got to decide what kind of scene it was going to be, and I sure as hell hoped it wasn't going to be a place where racism was condoned. I went on, I don't remember exactly what I said, buy in the midst of it a chant arose from the crowd. "FUCK NA-ZIS! FUCK NA-ZIS! FUCK NA-ZIS!" Fists shook in the air. I saw Kiwi smiling and screaming along. It was spectacular. I realized I had stopped pacing (as I do when we play and when I talk on the phone) and was staring, mouth agape, at the crowd. I joined in the chant. We all did.
After our set I headed from the backstage to the merch table. I was stopped by a dude in the stairwell. He was beaming. "Thank you for show! Um. My English. Um..." he made huge sweeping motions and said, grandly, "Hardcore is #1! Hardcore team is my.... is my whole life!"
The rest of the night was more photos, more hugs, more autographs. That night we sold more t shirts than we ever have. I guess that's what happens at concerts. It came out to around $900 American dollars. Can you believe that?! I don't even think we made that much on our entire first tour and that shit was like a month long.
This night ended like most others. We were hungry and soaked in sweat, packed into the van like sleepy sardines, waiting to cross yet another border.
Russia, financially- which people always get weird talking about (but when you're touring all the time and using your rent money to fund it, hoping that you at least make back enough of the money you've sunk into your band not to get evicted, it becomes an important issue)- with many thanks to that cr00sh merch night in Moscow, was a break-even venture. No extra money to pay our merch debts, or our label debts, or our pockets back. But, and here's where people get comfortable again- it was an amazing experience and we would do it hundred times over. To Igor, to Kiwi, to Red, to the Ukrainian girl and the Granddaughter, to all the kids in Petrozavodsk- we cannot thank you enough. We can't wait until next time! Russian hardcore is #1!
some Russian hardcore bands to check out:
What We Feel (Moscow Anti-Fascist HC)
Next Round (St Petersburg Allstars)