Guest blogger Allen Whitman, is the founding bassist of the instrumental trio The Mermen. He also writes about Internet audio with Jon Luini (Chime Interactive) as The Fezguys. When not on the road he manages Gary Brawer's Stringed 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.
|The cook (L) and the waitress (social archetypes of a Higher Order) are obviously interpreting a request with different levels of understanding which they will argue about momentarily. (Sardinia Restaurant - St. Petersburg)|
|Lindsay Long (chief logistician and tour humanist) displays her fabulous Russian tchoches|
Our voluable St. Petersburg promoter (L) w/ his friend and his cook. "Slade? Uriah Heep? Elton John? Those are all my shows!" (Sardinia Restaurant - St. Petersburg)
|Catering is uniformed! Arthur Rosato (R) - (former ass't. to Bob Dylan for ten years and now our overqualified drum tech) chooses wisely.|
|Tech room graffiti, St. Petersburg style (St. Petersburg - BKZ Oktyaborsky)|
|Thank the Maker for these signs posted by our crew. We'd still be wandering the halls, Spinal Tap style, otherwise (St. Petersburg - BKZ Oktyaborsky)|
|Mike Keneally (L) keyboardist extraordinaire and Mike Manning, Joe's longtime stage right guitar tech suss out yet more audio anomalies during soundcheck. (St. Petersburg - BKZ Oktyaborsky)|
|Galen Henson (L), rhythm guitar & tour manager and Jason Cook, stage left tech, attempt to root out sonic gremlins from the Kremlin during soundcheck. (St. Petersburg - BKZ Oktyaborsky)|
The red phone, backstage (St. Petersburg - BKZ Oktyaborsky)
|One last shot from St. Petersburg -- walking down the street we notice this advert which we immediately examine for anatomical accuracy.|