The Red Club seemed more packed than I had yet seen it – and I was there when Epica played that venue –when I came in from a clammy November 11th evening to witness [Amatory] strutting their stuff.
The scene recalled an American shopping mall on Black Friday. The expectant fans had congregated in rows before the stage well before the 8 pm official start of the concert. In faded Slipknot t-shirts and lumberjack shirts but with sensible short hair, many of these twenty-somethings still had backpacks on their backs as though they had arrived direct from their colleges. Some looked a good decade older: perhaps these were the ones who had followed the band since their 2001 beginnings.
On the way in I had observed gangs of them downing quick beers on the streets outside. I soon realised why: with the price of a Budweiser going for the extortionate price of 390 roubles inside the club who could blame them? Most of us spent the evening taking delicate sips from our plastic cups, hoping that our beer would be strong enough to see us through the evening.
The unaccredited support band – I never got their name – helped us however. Four jovial body-builder types whipped up a cheerful brand of rock-and roll/rap fusion that hit just the right note for the festival like atmosphere: exciting but with a light-hearted touch.
The musicians churned out their hits like detached factory workers a lot of the time but the multitudes got what they had come for. Behind all the fuzzy vibrating bass sounds there is a thread of melodic catchiness running through their anthems. Russians enjoy a singsong rather more than their Western counterparts and these kinds of power ballads allow them – young men in particular –to join in a chorus without feeling silly or sissy. Solokov did not have to work so hard, so much backing was he getting from the audience, and I feared that the floorboards would collapse beneath us owing to all the stamping and jumping around me….
After the hour and a half long set finished and we were getting cattle- prodded out of the venue as one big gelatinous mass, many fans continued to chant and sing. As I was ejected – free and gasping – into the damp air I felt that I had just attended a football match – without the football.