Column 35: Those Ruskies love their indie; Weird War tonight; Slow Dazzle

Category: Blog — @ 12:30 pm July 28, 2005

A tip o’ the hat to Stephen Sheehan for this week’s column idea (among others). He was the guy who told me that Craig Korth had just come back from Russia with lots of good stories of depravity. Dr. Sheehan, incidentally, is the guy responsible for coming up with most of the headlines for my articles in the newspaper (though he didn’t come up with today’s column headline). He also pointed out that I didn’t mention Craig’s old band, Oil, in the column. Oil was one of better bands in Omaha, consistently recording some of the best non-Creek CDs in Nebraska. As far as I know, Oil is still around, though Craig isn’t involved anymore.

Column 35 — From Russia with Rock
Indie is anything but old hat in Moscow.
Imagine being back in the ’80s when indie music was just beginning to break. That’s what’s happening right now in ol’ Mother Russia, where an unjaded music scene is discovering new sounds not at their record stores or on the radio, but on the ‘net.

So says Omaha musician Craig Korth, who just returned after spending almost a month in Moscow with musician pal and local legend Tim Kasher (Cursive, The Good Life). The trip was a vacation of sorts, with travel and lodging provided by a close friend of Korth’s who works for an international brand management firm. Korth and Kasher spent three weeks soaking in the sordid tackiness of modern-day Moscow, a place where after 10:30 at night a typical bar becomes a brothel loaded with hookers. “After awhile, we didn’t go out much,” Korth said.

When they did, they frequented a movie theater/restaurant/night club called 35mm, where with the help of a promoter-friend of Kasher’s, they ended up playing a couple gigs toward the end of their stay. More on that in minute.

Korth said perhaps the trip’s biggest surprise was how the youth of Moscow have embraced indie rock. “It’s a new thing there,” he said. “They’re like sponges, soaking up everything on the Internet. They were telling me about American bands that I never heard of.”

Korth said the rock clubs — which resemble comfortable American dive bars — blare ’70s punk acts like The Ramones alongside cutting-edge indie music, while the kids discuss acts like The Constantines, Bloc Party and Dismemberment Plan. “They’re absolutely zealous about finding and getting this music,” he said. “They are explorers in every sense of the word, cut off from the rest of the music community except for the Internet, which is available everywhere.”
How pervasive is it? One evening while Korth and Kasher were having a drink outside a club a kid walked up and began singing one of Kasher’s songs. “That was weird,” he said, “especially when you consider Saddle Creek doesn’t have a distributor over there, and Russia is a wasteland when it comes to CD stores.”

Just as surprising were the more than 200 music fans that turned out at 35mm the night Kasher and Korth played a gig on the club’s main stage. Korth, who said he’s recently soured on the tired American music scene, was renewed by the crowd’s wide-eyed enthusiasm. “There’s no jadedness among them,” he said. “They weren’t standing around with their thumbs up their asses. They were into it and weren’t afraid to show their appreciation.”

Korth joined Kasher for about half of his hour-long set, playing Good Life songs he had learned while on tour with the band. “While we were playing, members of the crowd kept placing these little notes at our feet written in English with simple phrases like, ‘Please play longer.'” Korth kept the notes as souvenirs of a night that he won’t forget.

That gig, and a Kasher solo set played at the venue’s cafe the night before, were among the highlights of Korth’s trip. The lowlights included struggling with the guttural Russian language, the New York-style high prices and the endless search for decent food. Then there was the constant state of paranoia brought on by omnipresent police and military. His fear would end up being justified when Korth and another friend were shook down for cash by the police. Lucky Kasher was left unscathed. “The constant feeling of nervousness wore us out in the end.”

Korth is now back in the states, working on songs for a new album as well as trying to find a job. Kasher, meanwhile, is living in New York City. Neither plans on going back to Moscow anytime soon, Korth said. They’re just happy to get out of there with their lives and their memories. “I choose to forget about the stuff that I didn’t like.”

Tonight’s big show (seems like there’s been every night this week) is Weird War w/Bombardment Society and Brimstone Howl (formerly known as Zyklon Bees) at Sokol Underground. Weird War records on Drag City and has been compared to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Royal Trux (from which came band member Neil Michael Hagerty). $8, 9 p.m.

***CD Review***

Slow Dazzle, The View from the Floor (Misra) — What you’d get if Hope Sandoval and Bob Dylan had recorded an album together while strung out on pain killers. The Sandoval-esque songs, sung sensually by chanteuse Shannon McArdle, are better than the Dylan-eque ones, mainly because vocalist Tim Bracy stole only the worst parts of Dylan’s nasal delivery. As a whole, Slow Dazzle resembles Mazzy Star in its languid, loping, lazy, twangy melodies. Laid-back and warm and always densely gorgeous. Rating: Yes.

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