Taking dubstep to Moscow in 2009
My first visit to Russia was in October 2009 when a booking came in for my management client Caspa to dj at a venue called 16 Tons. Caspa and I had been in sunny California only a week or so before and the chill in the air bit the instant that we stepped out of the airport terminal. Busy travelling DJs are used to such climate shifts on the regular but those of us who travel slightly less can find such differences a real shock to the system so I was happy to get a nice hot drink on the go as soon as we got to the venue for a sound check. After a quick bite there and a swift shower stop at the hotel we were back at the venue and it was almost time for Caspa to play.
Now if there’s one key unwritten rule of warm up DJing worldwide it’s that the support DJ must not play the big hits/productions/remixes that the headline act has become famous for. The crowd have paid to hear the headline act play those tunes and for the support DJ to play them 10 minutes before the headliner comes on is a cardinal sin. Unfortunately tho I guess the DJ playing just before Caspa on this night didnt get the memo and thus “Where’s My Money [Caspa remix]”-one of Caspas biggest tunes- came booming through the sound system as he prepared to go on stage. Not a good start. I made a note at that point to amend our contracts with international promoters to include a heads up that such behaviour would be frowned upon. The explosion of the dubstep genre online meant that the gig itself was packed with an enthusiastic crowd who knew their music and responded with gusto.Pocketing the balance of the fee due on the night was a more bumpy affair.
After several promises to sort out the sum due during the night delivered nothing, I resolved to closely shadow the promoter as the event came to a close to avoid any chance of him disappearing off and leaving us financially adrift. At one point he shot off into the venue kitchen and I sprinted after him.Swerving past the fridge and the sink he made his way towards the store room. I tailed him with determination, snaking past sacks of potatoes and onions.With no opportunity to evade my presence,eventually we settled up standing outside a rather odd 24 hour currency exchange booth at 4am or so where he paid us in a combination of US dollars, pounds and euros — a result of the exchange booth supposedly not having enough available of any one individual currency…a circumstance that required some brain straining maths at such an hour. Could it have been part of the plan?…who knows?
Once payment was received we found ourselves outside with the icy city streets bereft of traditional cabs. In Moscow it’s quite common for regular cars to offer you a lift in exchange for a fee but English was in short supply from the somewhat wizened 1970s Lada driving veteran who pulled up and despite the potentially problematic hour we decided to try our luck and wait for something a tad more reliable. Fortunately a young web developer who most conveniently had also been at the gig pulled up soon after with a similar offer tho with much better English and this time round we went for it, arriving back at the hotel relieved and thankfully completely unscathed.
Whilst Caspa shot off the next day to do another gig in another country I chose to stick around and explore some tourist sights solo.After ticking off some more traditional landmarks, one of the places on my afternoon hit list was a traditional and rather ornate old Moscow spa. I remember seeing a Michael Palin BBC TV travel documentary as a kid where he visited such an establishment and I had an itch to follow in his footsteps. Apparently there are several deaths per year at such places…no doubt the combination of freely available vodka and scorching temperatures ain’t ideal for anyone with a slightly dodgy ticker. The somewhat unusual job of several dudes in the sauna was to thrash sauna attendees with a handful of leafy branches — supposedly it has been the tradition for many years and helps to get the circulation flowing(though if you’ve had too many vodkas I imagine that could easily be the very thing that actually brings a final halt to the circulation!) It wasnt pleasant but at least the vodka helped numb the pain.If that doesn’t do you in tho do beware of the freezing shower afterwards -it may well.Fortunately I’m pleased to say I survived and I returned to the hotel.I was now 24 hours into my Moscow stay and needed a quick nap before venturing out once more into the night to see what other aspects to the cities nightlife I could uncover.I was not to be disappointed…
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