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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016


Ah ... it almost makes you go squiggly inside. What started out like a bunch of rubbish, ended up pulling at my old and somewhat frayed heart strings.

Last Sunday, in an effort to educate myself, I went to a concert by Mashina Vremeni, or Time Machine, one of three classic bands that were quick out the gate in the early to mid-'80s -- classic in Russia anyway.

Music was as quashed as everything else by the old system, but as these things go, it still managed to thrive in an underground scene. People would gather in cellars and whatnot to listen to people like MV and Vysotsky carp away about how crappy life was. And they loved it. The punters would make tapes that they passed to their mates and these people became really famous. Oooh. ... All very seditious. With this extremely right-on political credo I was expecting something a bit more pugnacious than five overweight and slightly balding blokes, standing about on an empty stage, smiling inanely and occasionally tapping their feet to their music.

Show? Zero. Spectacle? Zip. Wild frenetic energy as the beat wormed under your skin and rattled around your brain? Uh uh. It was more like a muzak gig for retired elevator operators (and their families), than a radical and politically persecuted band's once-in-a-blue-moon respite from retirement. But the hall was packed.

They were a strange bunch, the audience. Here we were out at the Olympic Village in the middle of nowhere and seated in the hall were rows of hippies and their mums: a student with bowl-cut hair, a drunk fat bloke with a construction worker's bum hanging out of his trousers, another man in the wings prancing about (the only dancer at that point) with yards of curly beatnik hair and several rows of senior citizens with their grandchildren to fill up the middle. Not very inspiring.

I patiently waited out the first few songs, and I was beginning to get a bit bored. Nothing was happening. I can only guess that MV were doing their new stuff first as after about half an hour people began clapping more, and the drunk fat bloke had to be told to sit down by one of an army of babushki that stood guard at the edges of the hall.

The next song was a popular one and several people were on their feet in the central aisle waving their arms in the air. The fat bloke was now at the front of the stage doing what looked like a demonstration of the crawl, and it took two visits by the babushki to get him to sit down.

Then it all went a bit crazy. The next song, even I knew. Something about novy povorot, which means "a new turn" or something like that. The people went ape. The central aisle filled up with dancing people. Two young girls stood up right in the middle of the seating and began a formation groove, swinging their arms together in time to the music.

By this time the front of the stage was awash with people jumping about. The fat bloke had leaped onto the stage and was doing a thrashing freestyle stroke until he fell over, while the babushki steamed in to try and restore some order. On the far side of the throng one of these enforcers was bashing the more recalcitrant of the dancers, while the one near me went for a young boy's ear. (I hated it when Mr. Jones did that to me in Physics.) Through all this the band seemed to be oblivious to the furor and carried on singing with soporific smiles on their faces, occasionally tapping their feet. It was all very weird.

Finally it calmed down a bit and, after the babushki cleared the autograph seekers off the stage, they began another quieter number. Half the people in the audience lit their lighters and began swaying.

The flame of freedom burns bright!