To call Moscow a bustling metropolis would be an understatement of a degree similar to calling the Grand Canyon a pretty big hole in the ground. It is expansive, uncoordinated, confusing, massive and daunting. It’s bleak, dirty, unforgiving, noisy, unrelenting, and often unfriendly. I should mention that it has pockets of unequalled beauty. The areas that are intended to be attractions are indeed attractive, but the parts in between compete with the worst any city in the world has to offer, that is, as far as my experience.
Our show was at a club called Tochka, which looked as thought it had been co-decorated by Genghis Khan and Trent Reznor. Like many places in Moscow, it was nearly impossible to find. Even with the address, our driver had difficulty but finally discovered a driveway (unmarked) that went for about a quarter mile through construction, industrial buildings and warehouses (you would think you were lost), finally dead-ending at (what you might not have guessed was) the club. We asked if this was the back door, thinking surely there must be some easily accessed entrance (or attractive façade) for the benefit of the patrons. “No, this is the entrance all people must use.” No wonder the place wasn’t packed.
Next was a day off. We decided to do something different, having already seen many of Moscow’s major sights on previous trips. We opted for a museum, the State Tretyakov Gallery. They had a massive collection (over 150 thousand pieces) of Russian Art, mostly painting and iconography, ranging from the 9th century to the 20th. It was nice to slow down the pace of the day. On tour, life seems to happen in much smaller, hyperactive chunks, and to spend a few hours in a tranquil, quiet and inspiring environment is a pleasant change. After the museum we took the subway to a restaurant of Kazakh and Uzbek cuisine recommended to us by one of our guides, Dennis (drummer for the band Leningrad). Again, the pace was slow. Dinner probably took three hours. We really only did two things in that one day – went to the museum and ate. But the quality of existence was high, and was the more important measurement.
But don’t relax yet, it’s time for an early morning flight to Vienna. Another stretch of whirlwind routing, continuing with consecutive shows in Bildein (Austria), Zambjeira do Mar (Portugal), and Berlin. After all we’ve been through, Berlin felt somehow like home. It’s a familiar place, with friends, good memories and favorite spots, not to mention its being one of the greatest cities in the world. Of course it didn’t hurt that we united with our bus and our own gear, a reunion that had been greatly anticipated and discussed with fervor.
The show had a similar emotion. The band is incredibly well received in Germany, and the crowd at Lido gave us a welcome possibly greater than we would have in Santa Barbara. It’s a favorite venue (featured in the Peter Fox video for “Alles Neu”), located in the heart of Kreuzberg, our favorite area of Berlin. So all was good (and familiar) for a little bit, and the collective stress level took a little dip. It never lasts for long, as people adjust and react against the new “normal,” but it’s nice to soak it in while you can.