The Big One of Rock and Roll

They came from all over the place -- Rostov, St. Petersburg, Vladimir, Moscow and the Moscow region -- bandannas with the names of their favorite bands tied around their heads, their rucksacks filled with loafs of rye bread, tents and guitars on their shoulders, here and there a bottle of vodka smuggled through the police cordons. They flooded onto the early morning commuter trains from Kazansky Station. Unnerved Muscovites leaving for their dachas glanced at them with suspicion and hostility over gardening magazines, remembering it was THAT time of the year again.

For the third year in a row, some 100,000 people last weekend raided the small town of Ramenskoye, 50 kilometers southeast of Moscow, for Russia's largest annual rock festival, Nashestviye. The musical program was chosen to satisfy as many tastes as possible -- some 50 bands passed through the giant venue and offered a bit of everything on the domestic music scene, from soft pop to alternative to hard rock.

The public praised the sound quality, many were happy with the choice of music offered, but the majority put their social interaction above everything else. "The music is just a pretext, we came here to be with our friends and meet more people like us," said Katya Anokhina, a 23-year-old advertising consultant from Moscow. "In a day or two, we'll be in our air-conditioned offices again, wearing suits and ties, but today we're pure rock-and-roll people."

The festival's organization, however, left a lot to be desired. By the second day, large areas around the toilets were uninhabitable, and garbage was overflowing from the large trash cans nobody had bothered to empty. The police couldn't prevent all the fights from flaring up. "Still, if you take into account the quantities of beer drunk, I think we were all incredibly quiet and very nice to each other," said 20-year-old Misha from Kaluga, who declined to give his last name.

And despite the controversies that have surrounded both Nashestviye and its main producer, radio station Nashe Radio, the participants seemed satisfied. After giving one of the best performances of the festival, St. Petersburg band Nochniye Snaipery summed it up: "No coquetry, no false modesty. The festival is in both our and the radio's interest. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here, would we?"