Music That You Shouldn't Miss
- By Alec Luhn
- Dec. 09 2010 00:00
Winter in Russia is a playground of both sights and sounds. But don't let the whine of the subway, the whoosh of traffic or the silence of snowfall be the only sounds to fall on your ears this season. A host of music awaits the intrepid listener in Moscow's clubs and concert halls, whether you're looking for holiday classics, bleeding-edge artists or a show for the whole family. Here, the Moscow Winter Guide presents you with our picks for this winter.
Torba-na-Kruche. St. Petersburg pop veterans Torba-na-Kruche hold the dubious distinction of being a rock band that even your mother could tap her toes to, but don't let that throw you off. Their Brit Pop-influenced melodies and lyrical poeticism come alive with old-fashioned rock'n'roll energy in their live show. Their fan base is fairly rabid, as well, so expect a good time when Torba celebrates its 12th birthday with an "abundance of surprises" at club Shestnadtsat Tonn on Dec. 11.
Shestnadtsat Tonn, 6 Presensky Val, Bldg. 1. Metro Ulitsa 1905 Goda. General tel. (499) 253-5300. Ticket office tel. (499) 253-1550. www.16tons.ru
Pendulum. Although electro-pop has been in vogue for several years already, Australian outfit Pendulum takes the trend a step further with breakbeats too fast and synths too processed for most groups in the rock/pop game. The electronic slant is hardly surprising given that the band started as a pure drum-and-bass outfit before incorporating stadium-ready choruses and live instruments to form a kind of Aphex Twin-Muse love child, with moments reminiscent of Chromeo or even Justice. The results of such genre bending don't require the ear of a DJ to appreciate; this is syrupy pop-rock inside a hard electronic shell. Find out how many licks it takes to get to the center of the concoction when Pendulum plays Arena Moscow on Dec. 15.
Arena Moscow. 31 Leningradsky Prospekt, Bldg. 4. Metro Dynamo. Tel. 258-0000 www.arenamoscow.ru
Fruktovy Kefir. The Last.fm biography for Fruktovy Kefir, a quintet originally from Rostov-on-Don, describes the group as an "oxymoron." But the group is less an oxymoron than a carefully selected blend of complementary styles: Melodic meets dissonant, funk jam meets radio ditty and straight meets swung in the group's highly listenable jazz-soaked brand of pop music. This is what you get when hardened jazz hands turn their carefully honed grasp of sonic nuance to the more black-and-white world of pop, and indeed most of the group has musical training in jazz. Although all the musicians are more than competent, whether playing a simple refrain or stretching out in an extended jam, the true standout is singer Alexei Busurin's nimble tenor, a kind of a choirboy-meets-Tina Turner warble that will surprise you with its dynamism. Catch him and the rest of Fruktovy Kefir at Shestnadtsat Tonn on Dec. 16.
See above for Shestnadtsat Tonn's address and contact information.
Animal Jazz. These days, an overblown MySpace description is almost as common among rock'n'roll bands as dark-washed jeans and sculpted windblown hair. Animal Jazz, however, actually delivers on its MySpace metaphors. On the site, the band explains its sound as a mix of the "vanity, chaos" of jazz with animal energy, and this description fits the music of the band's latest album, "Egoist." Guitars and the ensemble's signature keytar sidestep each other playfully behind a solid beat, only to give way to a full-blown rock chorus displaying the group's animal side. See this interplay of light and dark for yourself when Animal Jazz celebrates 10 years of beastly music in the historic palace of culture CDK MAI on Dec. 17.
CDK MAI. 4A/1 Dubosekovskaya Ulitsa. Metro Voikovskaya. Tel. 223-3226. www.cdk.ru/news.php
Yevgeny Grishkovets. We probably shouldn't be recommending two different concerts on the same night, but we just couldn't leave out Yevgeny Grishkovets. The Kaliningrad-based playwright and performer returns to Moscow with his musical project Bigudi, ready to blend not only different genres but different disciplines of the performing arts at the show. In the vein of Grishkovets' breakthrough one-man show, "How I Ate the Dog," which mixed elements of drama, comedy and memoir, his Dec. 17 appearance at B2 promises to feature elements of spoken-word and musical performance.
B2. 8 Bolshaya Sadovaya. Metro Mayakovskaya. Tel. 650-9918. www.b2club.ru
Those acts should keep you up-to-date on the best new music on stage in Moscow this winter. But if you feel like going for a more classic sound to get in the mood for Christmas and New Year's, the following shows will set you right:
Mikhail Shuftinsky. It's difficult to determine all of the musical styles that Russian chanson actually incorporates, but one end of the spectrum surely is Mikhail Shuftinsky. The emigrant artist is less a mortal being than an abstract ideal, from the blinding sheen of his ultra-white smile to the flawless production of his songs and performances to the not-a-hair-out-of-place uniformity of his beard, which rounds out his face like a chrome bumper on a classic car. All joking aside, however, Shuftinsky is a fixture of Russian chanson and second only to Vladimir Putin in terms of his romantic appeal among aging housewives. On Dec. 18, Shuftinsky will present a show titled "Chanson Before Christmas" at the concert hall of the luxury boutique shopping center Crocus City Mall. If past performance is any indicator, the concert will be a well-produced "show" in every sense of the word, as well as the perfect way to experience the essence of Russian chanson, whatever it is.
Crocus City Mall. Crocus City. Moscow Ring Road. Metro Myakinino. Tel. 727-2424. www.crocus-city.ru/eng/mall
Christmas Gala Concert on Ice. Music is only one-half of any good concert; if there weren't anything to look at you could just as well get a souped-up stereo and listen at home. Luckily, this season is peppered with visually stimulating musical spectacles, the most grandiose of which may be the Christmas Gala Concert on Ice produced by former Olympic figure skater Ilya Averbukh. The show is hardly a one-off, as his company has been putting on figure-skating shows in Moscow for several years. Averbukh promises both musical and skating feats from stars of the ice and of the stage at the concert, which runs Dec. 25 and 26 at the Megasport Palace of Sport.
Megasport. 3 Khodynsky Bulvar. Metro Polezhayevskaya, then Bus 48; or Metro Dynamo, then Bus 207. Tel. 643-1825. www.hockey-palace.ru
New Year's Eve Concerts. Russian New Year's is traditionally spent za stolom, or at the table, but wouldn't your champagne and Salade Olivier taste that much more satisfying after your ears have already been gratified with a New Year's Eve concert? The first two of our picks will tire out your feet as well as gratify your ears, as DJs will be spinning well into the night. Radio DFM's New Year's Spark at Arena Moscow will feature enough Western and Russian hits of the past 20 years to bring you to a dancing fervor and, according to Arena Moscow's web site, make you say, "Heppy Nyu Yea!" Meanwhile, across town at Shestnadtsat Tonn, German group De Phazz will be playing jazz, lounge and house music. Tickets are pricey but include free alcohol and food to get you into the New Year's spirit. Finally, for those who prefer a good old-fashioned rock'n'roll celebration, well-established St. Petersburg outfit Billy's Band will ring in the new year with its blend of rock, jazz and blues at Tochka.
Tochka. 6 Leninsky Prospekt. Metro Oktyabrskaya. Tel. 737-7666. www.newtochka.ru.
See above for information on Arena Moscow and Shestnadtsat Tonn.