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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Metalheads in Time-Warped Bliss

Skinny shirtless boys stood beside gray-suited businessmen talking on cellular phones. Ripped black T-shirts brushed past short-skirted mock Chanel suits. And balding singers pranced around like teenagers while belting out ancient hits onstage.


Rock dinosaurs Deep Purple had come to town.


The heavy-metal pioneers, best known for the '70s anthem "Smoke on the Water," were joined Sunday at Dinamo Stadium by some 25,000 rock fans -- and an estimated 5,000 security officers, including armed OMON troops. Also on the bill were British has-been rockers Status Quo and the Russian bands Machina Vremeni (Time Machine), Nautilus Pompilus, Neprikasamiye (Untouchables) and Moralny Codex (Moral Code).


The aging rockers went through the motions that made them famous decades ago. But the real show was on the concert grounds -- in the bleachers and on the stadium floor -- where a smoldering, silent battle was fought between the young rock fans and the often even-younger militia who kept order. The security muscle ranged from 2,000 troops from the Interior Ministry's elite Dzerzhinsky Division to about 50 bikers from Moscow's notorious "Night Wolves" motorcycle gang. But the crowd kept cool.


The well-behaved fans in the stadium did nothing more provocative than sneer at the militia and amuse themselves with the usual crowd games. They did "the wave," made famous by football audiences -- a sort of rolling standing ovation, with one section of the crowd rising after the other to create the image of a mass of water on the move. Girls sat on their boyfriends' shoulders holding out "horns" with their index and pinky fingers.


The camouflaged militia stood in contrast to the sea of Harley Davidson T-shirts that were the uniform of the day (sprinkled with the usual messages: "Born Dead," "You Fat Bastards," "Damn I Am Looking Goooood"). When confronted with what they considered unruly fan behavior, the militia would stand stone-faced, linking arms to hold back the throbbing onslaught of drunken metalheads.


One such fan, reprimanded by several guards for her behavior, was a woman named Marina who insisted on being referred to as Blacky Lewis. She wore precision-ripped black jeans, a black Harley T-shirt and a denim vest.


"There are so many militia men here and they don't let us do what we want to do," said Blacky, 20, wiping a long strand of brown hair out of her eyes and displaying a Confederate flag tied around her wrist. "We want to jump. We want to scream. Those stupid militia said we were crazy," she said, her voice squeaky with emotion. "They wanted to take us away. They said we were disturbing them. They don't understand that this is the natural atmosphere of a rock concert."


Her friend, Paulina Olina, 21, was a bit calmer. "There are many groups that are not so popular in other countries but they are here," she said. "In the '70s, there was a wall here. Not so many groups could present their music."


Olina said that the last time her favorite band, Status Quo, played in Moscow eight years ago, she was too young to go to the concert.


Nico Volensky, 18, also missed that concert. He was 10 at the time, he said. "My music taste wasn't developed."


But now, he knows what he likes -- rock bands from the 1970s like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. "There is more honesty to this music," he said.


While Volensky played air guitar with a strangely puckered expression on his sunburned face, girls twirl-danced nearby on the astroturf-covered tarmac, occasionally stepping on drunken couples making out at their feet. Periodically, a girlfriend stormed off in exaggerated drunken anger.


Volensky was unfazed by the drama going on in the stadium; he was caught up in the music. "You listen to modern music, like techno, and you don't get this feeling," he said pointing to his chest and momentarily standing still to feel the thumping bass blasting out of hundreds of speakers. "Hard rock music has improvisation -- like the guitar solos and the drum solos -- and these are very hard to play."