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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Homage to Rock Icon: DDT Marks 15 Years

The band DDT is 15 years old. A huge five-hour show in Petrovsky Stadium on June 25 was attended by 20,000 people, with an hour-and-a-half of the proceedings broadcast live on St. Petersburg television.


It marked a first for Russian show business: It was the first full-fledged stadium show with a Russian act as a sole headliner. As diligent learners, the entire band had attended the Rolling Stones concert in Helsinki just a few weeks before. Complete with balloons, airplanes, helicopters and fireworks, the Sunday night show was a festive, joyous and fitting celebration for what is currently the country's most popular, loved and respected rock band.


Celebrations started earlier in June with two concerts in Ufa, a provincial city in Bashkiria close to the Urals, where 15 years ago, a maverick schoolteacher of art, Yuri Shevchuk, started a band with an insecticide for a name.


All the difficulties rock musicians had to endure in Moscow and St. Petersburg were multiplied tenfold in the remote inland city, where ever-vigilant KGB watchdogs had neither foreigners nor dissidents to mind, and therefore channeled all of their ideological zeal against the rebellious rocker. One day the local Komsomol committee even demanded that Shevchuk sign a document saying he would "never again write, perform, record or distribute new songs."


Shevchuk's husky voice and harsh lyrics soon made DDT a cult band. Their first homemade tape albums -- "Periphery" was a standout -- spread fast and soon reached the capitals. It would probably be fair to say that DDT was the forerunner of the massive rock wave which would follow a couple of years later from the Urals and Siberia.


Staying in Ufa in the early 1980s was impossible. After trying Moscow for a while, Shevchuk settled in St. Petersburg, where he formed an entirely new band. Although a relative newcomer, he and his new band soon became an integral part of the St. Petersburg rock scene and overall cultural landscape.


DDT rose to prominence with simple, driving music and touching, if somewhat straightforward, lyrics. Dozens of musicians have played in and with DDT. The DDT Theater, their organizational structure, has united the community.


DDT today plays a role somewhat similar to the one Boris Grebenshchikov and his band Aquarium played in the 1980s.


Shevchuk played leading parts in a few movies, and his image as a thoroughly honest and principled artist is unassailable. In a recent poll of the most respected citizens in St. Petersburg, Shevchuk was among the top dozen.


Rock music is an art form in which trends and values change more often than elsewhere. Fifteen years in rock is a tenure worthy of respect.