It's not often that you get to experience international superstars on an intimate level. But thanks to discrepancy in musical trends -- and the sheer amount of distance between here and Russia -- fans of Russian mega-band Mumiy Troll rocked out up close and personal with them at the Record Bar Monday night. As the Russian population of Kansas City (who knew we had one?!) descended into midtown, a line formed outside the bar, and the excitement was palpable.
Since I was already at Record Bar prior to the show for Robert Moore's Sonic Spectrum Music Trivia, I had the unique advantage of watching the band's pre-show habits as well as the swell of fans steadily grow. And the mystifying cross-cultural phenomenon only got better as the night went on.
On tour with Mumiy Troll is L.A. band Run Run Run, and they opened the show with some loud, standard rock 'n' roll that the crowd seemed to enjoy despite so clearly being there for the Russians. Prior to the show I chatted with drummer Francisco DeCun for a bit about being on tour with a band that's so internationally popular but has yet to catch on -- at least to the same degree -- stateside. Apparently every city has a large enough Russian contingent to consistently sell-out the smaller venues; the bands head to Russia together later this month for a couple weeks of shows at some of Russia's largest venues.
Between slinging back Olympia cans and the constant buzz of Russian spoken all around me, things began to get a little surreal. Mumiy Troll took the stage to loud applause and thick anticipation. Frontman Ilya Lagutenko is an attractive, animated, and slightly androgynous character known for changing his hairstyle for each show and his distinctive, clear voice that's reminiscent of Freddie Mercury or Jake Shears (of Scissor Sisters). Mumiy Troll's sound, at its core, is half glam-rock and half pop, but with an intelligent, international twist anchored by heavy drum beats and bass riffs.
The band's hometown of Vladivostok is situated near a port, and thus the overall look and theme of the band is somewhat nautical, including the logoed sailor's bibs the band sells at its merch table. Bass player Eugene "Sdwig" Zvidionny was dressed up in a hot pink blazer, black and white striped sailor's shirt, and a sailor's hat, and throughout the crowd as men hoisted their girlfriends up on their shoulders, I spotted nautical-themed outfit after outfit.
The first couple songs the band played were newer tracks, and as I chatted with some new Russian friends of mine, it became obvious that Mumiy Troll hadn't been through town in a while. When they started their third song, "Muzikant" off of their 2009 release Comrade Ambassador, the crowd threw their hands in the air and jumped up and down, happily singing along. By the end of the set, girls had climbed on top of tables and booths, and people were dancing with their arms around each other.
Mumiy Troll ended the show with a cover of Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love", an older and internationally famous song that every Russian fan in the room knew and sang, loud and drunk. It's the life of a music journalist to attend every live show possible, but I can honestly say that I saw the Mumiy Troll show mostly by accident. And it was the happiest, most surprising accident I've ever had.
Critic's Bias: I am in the throng of my full-week 27th birthday celebration, and am committed to doing the craziest thing possible every night.
Random Notebook Dump: One girl who was dancing on a table was positioned directly under a ceiling fan, and I was certain she was going to land her head right in between the blades. She didn't.
Dobroe Utro Planeta
Eto po lubvi / Takie Devchonki
Somebody to Love (Jefferson Airplane cover)