Guest blogger Allen Whitman, is the founding bassist of the instrumental trio The Mermen. HFezguys. When not on the road he manages Gary Brawer’s Ste also writes about Internet audio with Ji (Chime Interactive) as
ringed Instrument Repair.
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. Russians apparently are very good at queuing and not always for a good purpose. Naturally we walk right up and offer tickets to those in front* to let us take their place, to no avail. We return to the hotel only slightly disappointed. Like traveling to Paris, having one day for the Louvre and, it being a Tuesday, the museum is closed, I name the experience of not getting in to The Hermitage as proof that I will return. For a transcendent cinematic experience of this place see the movie, Russian Ark with the subtitles on.