Tuesday, February 4, 2014

It's A Mod Mod Moscow...

3 days in Russia with French Boutik & The Riots!

The Moscow Dream Team
(l-r) Denis, Kirill, Serge, Iky, Sasha, Terry, Zelda, Gabriela, Alex, Maria, Oleg, and me

Russian Visas in hand and fighting a lack of sleep after battling our suitcases in Paris, Serge and Gabriela and I left for the Charles de Gualle Airport at 5am, arriving like clockwork to meet Iky, Terry, and Zelda at the check-in counter. French Boutik was in full formation and bound for Russia! Our bags were securely tidy and tagged and we made our flight without a hitch. The flight was stopping first in Austria where we'd change planes, just enough time for a quick nap en route, and a little breakfast at the Vienna Airport before our final leg to Moscow. We arrived at the Domodedevo Airport at 6pm, extremely fatigued but high on adrenalin...amplified slightly by our passage through Customs. Once through the pearly gates, we collected our baggage and headed out, greeted by our mate Kirill from The Riots. After a little laughter and hugs, we hopped in two cabs and motored into downtown Moscow...

The Domodedevo Airport was like another planet for us.
Unable to read anything and completely freezing when we stepped out the doors.

After a 40 minute drive, we arrived at our apartment for the weekend, greeted enthusiastically by the other two Riots, Alex & Sasha, and Oleg aka Mobkid. It was a happy meeting to say the least! We dug into our suitcases and pulled out some celebratory gifts from Paris for the occasion, Some nice French wine and cheese, saucisson sec, and a bottle of Calvados. After a couple hours of revelry and good music we headed to the 16 Tons Club to scope out the gig for Saturday night. We arrived to a full spread of amazing food in a special little room adjacent to the main bar, the club pulled out all the stops to take good care of the Frenchies... Merci! Oleg's wife Maria and The Riots right hand man Denis joined us just after dinner for drinks and nonsense... annd...our party continued into the wee hours. We closed the club and made tracks for our apartment, too excited to sleep and high on laughs and friendship. More cool tunes and French wine ensued and as the sun was coming up we all bedded down for the night.

Tiger Prawns - 16 Tons style.
And of course it wouldn't be a proper visit to Moscow without taking part in...
a little recreational vodka digestif session. (or 44)

We woke up on Saturday a little rough around the edges but super happy. Dudes. We are in Moscow!
My morning ritual of expediting showers for the group and fueling them full of coffee kicked in, we were to be at the club at 2pm for sound check and it was already noon. As the Boutikis prepped and packed, I stepped out on the balcony for a smoke and soaked in the ambiance.. it was absolutely bone-chillingly cold outside! Halfway through my cigarette it began to snow.
Tick tock-tick tock, it was time to leave for the club.

The view from our apartment in downtown Moscow 

Once at the 16 Tons Club, we filed in with our gear and ordered a round of espressos. We set up on the stage, The Riots sound-checked first followed by French Boutik, and two hours later, the levels were dialed in and we were set for the show later that night. Zelda, Iky, and Terry left with Maria to have a look at Red Square, and I stayed with Serge, Gabriela, Alex and Sasha for lunch at the club. A quick bite down and a round of beers, and we left via taxi at 6pm for a live radio show at Moscow FM. Right out of the cab, we passed through security at Moscow Media and were escorted to the studio, miked up and debriefed and were live on air before we knew it. The hour long feature on The Riots and French Boutik was brilliant, the duos each played an acoustic song and chatted with deejay Maria Bravikova, covering everything from the symbiosis of the two groups, the history of Mod, tackling the language barrier, and the electricity of the current independent music scene... 

Maria Bravikova hosting Alex, Sasha, Serge and Gabriela for the live session on Moscow FM.

Leaving Moscow Media HQ
I forgot my gloves and my hat. After 5 minutes I couldn't feel my fingers or my ears!

Back at the apartment, we had a couple of hours to kill before leaving for the show. Half of us took a power nap and the others powered through with a little coffee, snacks and wine. Once we were all up and assembled, we left the pad and entered onto the freezing streets again, this time taking a different route. We had all heard so much about the notorious Moscow Metro, and this was our only opportunity to see it first hand. A 15 minute walk later, we were buying Metro tickets and descending down the escalator, rubbernecking and pointing right and left. The reputation of the Moscow Metro holds true. Beautiful indeed.

Headed to the club... Serge and Sasha in fine form.

A nice example of the beautiful Metro stations in Moscow. Like nowhere else in the world.

In a half hour we were back at the 16 Tons Club, right on schedule. We were escorted through the rear entrance to the backstage area, once again impressed by the attention to detail from the club. Bowls of fresh fruit and beverages were at the ready, I poured some drinks as the groups tuned up and changed clothes. On the main floor people were spilling onto the stage area at a solid pace, already dancing thanks to Oleg's prowess behind the turntables. The place had filled up and it was time for The Riots to have a go. This was my first time seeing them live and they absolutely killed it, Sasha's voice is one of the best around, Alex is a machine behind the kit, and Kirill's casual effortless bass style completes the equation perfectly. Their set is powerful and utterly perfect. The dance floor was ablaze and the girls were mad for it, but before long The Riots were finished and Oleg kicked it into high gear on the decks again, spinning soul classics and obscurities to the delight of the crowd. A half hour later, French Boutik took to the stage with an eruption from the audience, everyone was excited to have an intimate look at this French import they'd heard so much about. French Boutik did not disappoint! Their hour-long set was tight and energetic, full of style and class but with a unique playful stage persona... despite their impeccable appearance, these cats don't take themselves too seriously and are never afraid to cut loose and have a blast. For their encore, the floor was full and everyone was dancing like crazy, so when French Boutik finished, Oleg picked up the torch and never let go. We were all on the dance floor, sweating and grooving until 6am ...and we would have been there well into the next day if it wasn't closing time at 16 Tons. We all said our goodbyes and staggered into taxis, and were shuttled back to the apartment... 

Super set by The Riots at 16 Tons (l-r) Sasha, Alex, and Kirill 

DJ Mobkid, giving the people what they want!

Gabriela, Terry, Iky, Serge & Zelda... French Boutik on fire in Moscow!

Gabriela being interviewed for a documentary on The Riots and the Moscow music scene

We managed to get a couple of hours of sleep in before leaving the apartment at noon. We relocated to Sasha's flat a few minutes away with just enough time to relax for an hour with a cup of tea. There was a knock on the door, it was Oleg, Maria, and Kirill aka the Moscow airport express, ready to transport French Boutik for their flight back to Paris. We walked down the stairs with luggage in tow, loaded up the two cars and it was time for them to leave. A bittersweet moment for sure, I had to say goodbye to my French family for the past four months! Needless to say, it was a little emotional for me watching the cars drive off into the distance. Not missing a beat, Sasha, Oleg and Denis picked me up by my bootstraps and shuffled me down the street to see some sights and we ended up at a cool cafe for drinks and a bite. This time wandering about was precious, my only little glimpse of the city outside of our club schedule. Moscow is like another planet, cold and mysterious and completely intriguing. I know I'll be back here in the future to check in on my new mates. So so great to get to know these guys better, so much in common despite our different geographical worlds. The Russian hospitality continued that night back at chez Riots and unfortunately was difficult to stop our momentum! The result was none of us hearing either of the three alarms we'd set, until Alex rustled me awake at 12:30pm, DUDE! My flight was at 2pm. Neither of us thinking so clearly, they poured me into a taxi to the airport, which finally arrived at 2:20pm. The rest of the day was spent at the Domodedevo Airport wheeling and dealing for a flight out the next day, after which I returned to the dudes pad shortly before midnight...which was... Sasha's 30th birthday!!  We had a laugh and some drinks but kept it civilized, and without fail the next morning I was on my train for the airport, showered and sussed with a head full of incredible memories...watching the icy Moscow scenery... en route to San Francisco.
What an unforgettable 3 days... See all you dudes again soon. Thank You!

Family Portrait - The Moscow Crew on the last day

Tripping around in downtown Moscow

View the entire photo gallery here
French Boutik online
The Riots online
Mobkid's Moscow Mod Scene
Rolling Stone write-up

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