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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cobain Tribute Hits Rock Nirvana

The kids could not be deflected from their purpose: to mosh in memory of grunge rocker Kurt Cobain on his birthday, Feb. 20. When the hip Hermitage club was shut down by police at the last minute, the alternative youth tusovka rallied and made the long trip by subway to the Fort Ross club, buried somewhere near Vodny Stadion.

"Born in Nirvana," the concert was called. Five hundred teens stomped through the slush and piled into the club, loving Nirvana singer and guitarist Cobain, who shot himself in 1994. But everyone was a little too cool to say it, especially the musicians.

"We're here because Kurt Cobain is one of the most intense representatives of contemporary music. Not that we like Nirvana so much, but we feel the mood in the air and we understand it, so it's probably reflected in our music somehow," said Andrei Sergeyev, 23, the lead guitarist for Nad Vsyei Ispaniei Bezoblachnoye Nebo (The Sky Is Clear Over Spain, a Nazi World War II code phrase).

"Nirvana isn't our favorite group, but we recognize that Cobain is a classic in rock culture," said Dima "Ozzy" Osipov, bassist for Crocodile TX. "But you have to give the man his due. That's why we're here." That, and the chance at a paying gig for a change.

Five bands took the stage at Fort Ross, all complaining about the sound system and then providing what Henry Rollins of Black Flag and later the Rollins Band called some hard volume. True to their word, none of them mimicked the grinding, grating songs of Nirvana, serving up a blend of original industrial, hip hop, punk and, to be sure, grunge music.

A little more face hardware, a few more tats and a wider spectrum of hair color and this could have been any teen club in London or Washington. The same warehouse of a building, the charged intimacy between the musicians and the audience which inevitably leads suburban youth to hurl themselves from the stage like lemmings. And all five bands sang in the same language -- the tongue of Washington State's native son Cobain.

Yevgeny "Jo" Lysakov, bassist and vocalist for Chicotilo Bulls, said that English was to rock music what Italian was to opera, and that Russian word endings rendered it too unwieldy for the barking cadence of the Bulls' "angry rap and hardcore" mix.

Igor "Chikadi" Malashkevich, keyboardist for Console, offered a more nuanced explanation. Groups who sing in Russian immediately reach a wider audience, he said, but he didn't care much for that mass audience. "Those people want to hear about Yeltsin or perestroika or how I'm unhappy in love. They don't care about music," he said.

It came down to this. Nirvana brought something new to the Russian music scene, a proud refusal of commercialism (although some purists believe they sold out in the end), and a spirit of musical freedom that inspires their goateed successors in Moscow who soldier on in a society that, they say, just plain doesn't like them.

"Russians are melodic people, they listen to pretty, melodic music," said Alexei Kozlov, 22, vocalist for Crocodile TX. "Our kind of music isn't likely to take off here. They look at us like we're crazy."

Chicotilo Bulls' Lysakov added: "With all the stuffy old Soviets in Moscow there's no show business at all. You'll never get rich playing music like this here. We just love to play." And then Lysakov broke down: he loves Nirvana, has for years. "They hit the Moscow music scene like Metallica did earlier, like Deep Purple probably did years ago, but that's a little before my time. The New York hard-core bands are more popular now, but Nirvana fans will always be around."