29 October 2011

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Flashback #3- duo tour with Paal Nilssen-Love, pt. 2- The 2nd leg of the duo trip with Paal took place in Russia, it was organized by the photographer, Carina Khorkhordina, and we had been looking forward to these concerts for months. I’ve only played in Moscow twice and St. Petersburg once, to have a series of concerts in Russia and some time to discover more of the country with the help of someone who lives there felt like an exceptional opportunity. Getting through customs in Kalingrad, the 1st stop of the tour, was a piece of cake compared to arriving in Moscow- just a quick look at the visa and we were in. The show on the 29th was part of a film festival and took place in a beautiful hall with superb acoustics. There was a bunch of equipment set up for the concert (I looked at the double smoke machines with concern), but we told the sound man that we wanted to play acoustic. He was convinced that it was a mistake and let us know this with his complaints in Russian, which couldn’t have been more expressive if they had been in English. The gig environment was made further strange by the stripper pole that was set up in one of the corners of the club (a 2nd one was added after we finished the concert), and the female staff that shared the backstage dressing room area (I didn’t know about this detail until a woman dressed up like a Victoria Secret model with wings walked out of “our” bathroom). As Paal and I set up our instruments we eyed each other, wondering what we were getting ourselves into. But the audience was huge, curious, listening. Our 1st set was thrown off center by the “light show” spinning all over the stage (we had insisted on no PA and just static lights, we won half that battle), but we further pissed off the sound man (who was also the light technician) by demanding that the lights be quelled, and the 2nd set lifted off and captured the crowd; people fully engaged and thrilled by the music. We finished 2 encores, packed our gear as the 2nd stripper pole went up, and exited as the Halloween extravaganza started. We dropped off our stuff at the hotel (Carina’s father taking us in his car, blasting Refused’s “The Shape of Punk To Come” on the car stereo- we definitely felt like we were in the right hands!), had a late dinner, and hung out in a bar that looked like the club from Kubrick’s “Clockwork Orange” until the sun came up; which was okay because the next day was off. Wanted to get to the sea but had to sleep instead. On the 31st we traveled to Moscow with Carina; this was the gamble of the tour. The concert was at DOM, where Paal and I had played before, but the club didn’t want to present the concert so we rented out the space from the owners and hoped that friends in Moscow would be able to get the word out to the fans that we were playing there on a Monday night. With luck enough people would come to the show to cover our expenses (the club, accommodations, travel); if things went bad we’d lose our shirts. The gamble paid off, all the pieces of the puzzle came together in perfect fashion- the room was full, the crowd psyched that we were there, there was advance press, info out through websites and Facebook, and we made twice the money we needed to make the trip to Moscow work. Better yet, the concert was one of the best that Paal and I played on the tour- everything moving right, playing itself, generating new tangents. Playing with Paal is completely exhilarating, I feel like I’ve run ten 10K’s in a row, mentally and physically. From Moscow we traveled to the twilight zone of Ekaterinburg, even Carina felt some cultural confusion. Moscow: