Moscow Music Week - the only showcase festival in Russia, based loosely on the European model of mixing a conference with curated line-up and a strong delegate list that could influence a band's career - is under way.
Gigwise arrives on Friday (31 August), the second day of the four-day event. Bands such as Inturist, Lucidvox shine out like diamonds on the line-up having caught wind of them from fellow music fans. This weekend's event showcase focuses predominantly on bands from Russia, with a peppering from the Baltic states and other neighbouring countries such as Belarus included, too.
The day's events start at The Moscow school of architecture, aptly situated in the city's design quarter. The best of what's happening on panels is on whether Russian music is about to integrate across Europe better; and whether non-English language music in an Anglocentric industry be less isolated. Thankfully, with the current crop of emerging bands plucked from myriad submissions by the Moscow Music Week team, it's difficult to see how greater integration can fail: the level of inventiveness and conviction in the performances from bands, who happen to mostly sing in their native tongue here, is obscenely good.
The plumpest looking fruit out of the swathe of showcases that are dotted throughout the city is the ‘experimental showcase’ at the venue named Pluton. Pluton is a large multi-purpose arts space characterised by its 25 metre (ish) tall ceiling, tiled walls, and large windows. Though commercially managed, it keeps a DIY squat feel. Skeptics reading about the idea of an experimental showcase and fear tuneless, beat-less abstraction that would require a healthy dose of Ritalin to find any connection with needn't worry: what's been put on here tonight has more to hang on to than a beginner’s bouldering route; there’s grunge-y psych with a folk twist, no wave/indie with free jazz, and warped electronica that you can dance to lined up.
First up for Gigwise at Pluton are thrilling DAF and Liquid Liquid-inspired live boy/girl electronic duo Marzahn. Mincing hard-hitting beats from a sampler with filthy synth runs and a myriad live percussion sounds, it's a warped disco for outsiders and the bass claws at you and rumbles through your entire body when emanating from the speaker stack. The location of the venue is inspiring – it feels deep in the middle of nowhere. We've walked past countless disused factory buildings, and windows are all blacked out around you. Miles from the plush orthodox church gold glittering the decadent city centre, there's a sense that the rest of the city doesn't have a clue what's going on, and this eerie outpost appears to facilitate uninhibited expression.
Following Marzahn, who've keep their set short and sharp, is the punk energy of Lucidvox - a four-piece all-female guitar band from Moscow - pack a punch live with a succinct well-rehearsed set and mosh pits erupt. Tight overdriven metal grunge guitar runs mix with acid-drenched feel of psych rock and pagan folk to create an immersive soundscape that captivates. Great from the edge of the crowd, it's a whole other buzz getting stuck in the mosh where the youngest give back as much as the band's tight, trippy rock sounds deserve.
The night hits a high when the wide-eyed thrill of Inturist,who’ve the chaotic appeal of no-wave legends James Chance & the Contortionists, hit the stage. The four-piece are made up of jazz-schooled and rock musicians and make music that you can either flail about like a loon to or be healthily astounded by the technical proficiency of. Their shared confidence with rhythm and the way the academically trained sax soloist can read where everyone’s going means they are able to break the structures they’ve built for themselves and create a daring musical passages that testing the physical limits of each other as musicians. In terms of musicality, not style, they’re Badbadnotgood good – you know that American band who everyone bangs on about. Inturist are easily strong enough to be on main stage of any big festival or David Letterman. Feels an absolute coup to see a band on this level in such an intimate space – unforgettable stuff.
Moscow Music Week continues this weekend with highlights set to include Glintshake. Keep an eye on Gigwise for more reports.