What crosses the mind of the common-or-garden Brit when they hear the name Russia? World Cup host nation, political powerhouse which elicits caution at our every move, and possibly, not a great deal else. And yet, as naïve as we must concede these beliefs to be, Russia remains, to an outsider, an unassailable mass with a reputation as imposing as its stature. It's a tragedy that the misgivings of a minority in power can blind us to its myriad cultural treasures. What a pleasure it is, then, to introduce four of the nation's most exhilarating acts; all wildly different stylistically, but united by a mission to showcase a wild, carefree side to the World Cup host nation which often gets overlooked in the service of the socio-political moment.
Hailing from St. Petersburg, SADO OPERA find inspiration in the most illustrious of places; Parliament-Funkadelic, Prince and Liberace. Now based in Berlin, this queer collective's ecstatic and eccentric live performances have earned them recognition as far afield as the US, where Conan O'Brien selected them as a musical symbol of Berlin and invited the band to join him on stage for his TV special about the German capital. SADO OPERA can be found playing all across Europe spreading their message of unrestrained, genderfluid love when not enjoying their position as residents at Berline's Wilde Renate. For SADO OPERA, love is the ultimate act of subversion in our globally compromised political climate. Here, they kindly introduce us to what St. Petersburg has to offer in terms of nightlife, as do Shortparis and Wet Red. The former hail from Siberia originally, before a 2010 relocation to St. Petersburg ignited in them a drive to form a new project. Shortparis was born a year later, and now, in 2018, they describe themselves as "a mixture of ancient Greek tragedy with the sensuality of puberty". In practice, the collective's work quite literally defies comparison. A moment endowed with synth-pop revivalism's most potent signifiers à la Lust For Youth is at once subverted and satirised by the next, which might feature a soaring, operatic tenor or an animalistic screech.
Wet Red deftly tackle the same points of influence but with a different tack, choosing to capitalise upon - rather than subvert - already laid groundwork, and come dangerously close to mastering. Hear Caroline for proof. With only five singles under their belt and a debut album slated for a release later this year, their audience looks fit to explode. Last, but by no means least, Kirill Richter opts not to overlook Moscow, and walks us through some of the city's points of interest. Before starting a career in music, Richter studied nuclear physics, and later fashion design. Lasting only a year, his musical education was a short-lived but crucial experience that made this predominantly self-taught artist one of Russia’s most celebrated neoclassical musicians, with credits in film, theatre and TV as well as critical acclaim for both solo piano compositions and orchestral pieces. If St. Petersburg is, to many, Russia's city of culture, Moscow is its city of politics and business; as such, he deemed it worthy of greater exploration.
SADO OPERA on St. Petersburg
"As the football championship is happening in Russia partly at the same time when the Pride Month is celebrated across the globe, we want to tell about a place that we consider one of the most important ones in the country at the moment - the office of Russian LGBT Network. This non-governmental human rights organization promotes equal rights and respect for human dignity, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. They provide social and legal services and are big and brave supporters of the LGBTQ people in Russia. Needless to say, they have lots of jobs to do, and we encourage you to visit them and/or make a donation online.
After that, let's take a walk through the 'Dostoevsky neighbourhoods' to a very unusual place at the Griboyedov canal embankment: Pif-Paf. This is an 'all-in-one' space: bar, cafe, restaurant, second-hand designer store and a barber shop. However this diverse range of activities does not affect the quality, each component is great and worth a try! Locals also like to come to Pif-Paf to have some pre-party cocktails as all the key clubs are pretty nearby.
One of these is Stackenschneider - a club that promotes various underground electronic music and hosts weekend parties with emerging Russian and foreign independent music talent from around the world. The club was named after Andrey Stackenschneider, a Russian architect who lived and worked in Saint Petersburg in the 19th century, and who designed and built the house at Millionnaya street which was the first home for Stackenschneider club. Another techno destination would be BLANK, a club space located in the historical building of the Arsenal factory. Or, the new underground and pretty much Berlin-inspired КЛУБ.
Tired of techno? Then Tancploshadka is the place for you; a nice club playing disco and house with a great interior in a 60s/70s style. If you like to sing AND dance then go to a gay bar Blue Oyster. It's one of the few spaces where queers can be vocal. They throw fun karaoke parties and serve nice drinks! For classical music lovers, we definitely advise you check out the beautiful and elegant 19th century St. Petersburg Philarmonic. They also have a very nice buffet there! For more food, try Russian doughnuts at Pyshki. It's a must-do for 50s-era Soviet kitsch and a canteen atmosphere. Another affordable place with tasty local food and a huge choice of traditional Russian pancakes (bliny) and stuffed buns (pirozhki) is Kolobok. For homemade smetana (sour cream) and sweet honey, go to Kuznechny Market. For a lovely vegetarian restaurant - Botanika. For delicious halal bistro with authentic Uzbek cuisine: Aylo-Halol. Open 24 hours."
Catch SADO OPERA this Summer:
13/07 - Bankito Festival, Hungary
21/07 - Wilde Renate, Berlin, Germany
04/08 - Vogelball 2018, Hamburg, Germany
09/08 - Ant Bangos, Vilnius, Lithuania
Shortparis on St. Petersburg
"Tancploshadka is a new fashionable place in the very centre of St. Petersburg, from the creators of the famous bar Mishka. A dance floor with great DJs at night and a bar length in life. And also: cocktails with freshly squeezed juices, plants, installations, six subwoofers, and finally, the best yard in the city with garlands, a bar and a basketball ring!
The island of New Holland - a contemporary of the city of St. Petersburg. Created for the needs of the Admiralty, it was always used by the maritime departments as an economic and test territory, and was closed to the public. On the island, they would test innovative systems of storage for ships, experimental models of ships were developed, the first spark radio station in Russia and the first marine prison of the European model both also appeared. The organisation of space on the island involved leading architects and engineers of different eras creating a complex of buildings which is now considered a masterpiece of early Russian architectural classics.
In the twenty-first century, the island of New Holland was transferred to the city administration. After the first tender, won by CT New Holland alongside the Norman Foster project, the reconstruction of the island that had already begun was stopped because of difficulties with investors.
On November 15, 2010, New Holland Development won an investment tender organized by the city of St. Petersburg to further develop and preserve architectural monuments on the island, and from that moment, the company acted as the sole investor and developer of the island of New Holland.
The key tasks of the project investors will be the restoration of the monument of industrial architecture, which is a contemporary of St. Petersburg, as well as the creation of a multifunctional complex that will become an important object for the city's residents.
Berthold Center is a multifunctional project aimed at popularising the creative businesses and developing the cultural component of the city's life. Supplementing the life of the centre with an event program, the project seeks to unite the various spheres of the creative industry.
The Berthold Center team creates the most comfortable infrastructure for its residents and a diverse place for locals and visitors to the city. They also implement the ideas of the organizers of events and city activists.Synergy of the three components together with modern design makes Berthold Center an interesting place to visit.
Bar 8: a small wine bar in place of the former front door. The institution occupies a space that used to be part of a grand dwelling house - an oval room decorated in the spirit of the beginning of the last century. The menu here is really small, only snacks and a selection of wines from different regions by glasses and bottles.
Rubinshteina Street is the main restaurant street in St. Petersburg, and possibly in Russia. There are forty houses and more than fifty cafes, bars and restaurants for every taste. Rubinstein has already become both an independent brand and meme at the same time: it is here that the taxi driver from the most popular clip of the 'Leningrad' band tries to bring passengers, finally fixing the main tourist specialisation of St. Petersburg. Over the past two years, the street seems to have reached saturation limits. This Summer, it seems there are almost no free places for new bars or clubs.
Sevcable Port is a promising site that unites different projects and, if you're lucky, a mild view of the Gulf of Finland in the city. It's open in a test capacity, but you can persuade security to allow you to look at the city from this previously inaccessible perspective. In terms of functionality, it is similar to the Berthold Center, but the atmosphere is completely different
One of the best bookshops on the narrowest street in the city is Svoi Knigi (address: Repin Street 41 - in the yard). It is interesting to check out the unconventional choice of books, drink free coffee and hug with the wonderful Zuleika Dobson (a cat who lives in the bookshop). In the third room a month ago a small gallery was opened, one of the artists of Vasilievsky Island is exhibited once a month. The store does not have a sign, so I advise you to look in advance on the map!
Xroniki boasts absolute minimalism of design and items on the menu - it's part of another bar called Chronicles. It's got a Scandinavian style with some native motifs that prevail in the interior of the Chronicles. Here, there are round, small, and unpainted rectangular tables, solid grey walls, original black and white paintings, unobtrusive mirrors and a polished floor. From the menu, things are also minimalistic. There is not really any food, only alcohol. There are only small sandwiches, which are called Smorrebrod (the name implies bread with an unlimited amount of various fillings). Drinks are only strong: vodka, port wine, gin, liqueur, tequila and rum. There is beer, but only one kind, and there are no cocktails at all. But, on asking to be mixed something classical, you will not be denied. Due to the fact that the Chronicle bar is strikingly different from the majority of its kind, you will never mistake where to go if you want to sit in an atmosphere that does not escalate and focus on your thoughts.
Bolshe Coffee is a small cafeteria in the old grotto in the Alexander Park. Here you can drink an excellent cheap espresso and have a snack with a hearty sandwich after a walk. Nikolai Gotko and Nikolay Yalansky, the place's owners and some of the best baristas in the city, are committed to frying the beans themselves, using special mixes of their own. The menu also features homemade desserts, breakfasts and salads. It's a small room with only a few tables: in Summer, most guests prefer a cosy summer terrace by the pond."
Catch Shortparis live at the following dates:
10.07- Zentralcafe / K4 in Nuremberg, Germany
12.07 - Festival de La Cité in Lausanne, Switzerland
13.07 - Yachtklub Frankfurt on Main, Germany
14.07 - Big Rivers Festival Dordrecht, The Netherlands
15.07 - Valkhof festival Nijmegen, The Netherlands
17.07 - Worm Rotterdam, The Netherlands
18.07 - OCCII Amsterdam, The Netherlands
20.07 - Welcome to The Village, The Netherlands
21.07 - Kult41 Bonn, Germany
22.07 - Moertelwerk Leipzig, Germany
4.08 - Potok festival, Russia
9.08 - Haldern Pop, Germany (TBC)
11.08 - Yaga festival, Lithuania
17.08 - Pop-Kultur festival Berlin, Germany
25.08 - Entremuralhas festival, Portugal
Wet Red on St. Petersburg
"Duo Gastrobar: the most delicious and unique food in the city. You have to reserve a table in advance.
The Clean Plates Society is ideal for a hangover breakfast. The burgers and smelt sardines are a must.
Ryadom Bar (Ryumochnaya) is known as a bar for 'honorable people from different classes of society'. Cheap vodka and more with the members of the local intelligentsia!
El Copitas: a half-secret Mexican bar. Serves amazing tequila cocktails of all kinds and rare mescal. You should register before going there.
The Hat is the best jazz bar in St. Petersburg, with live music and excellent cocktails.
Animal Farm: perhaps the funniest and most stylish dances on weekends and some on weekdays, too."
Kirill Richter on Moscow
"Patriarch's Ponds: Old Moscow has many curious winding streets, and the Patriarch's Ponds one of the most beautiful pearls. This is a place with the history and atmosphere of the old town, perfect for relaxed walks. There are many nice restaurants and cafes with delicious coffee here.
The observation deck of the OKO Tower: Here you can see a completely different Moscow - business, fast, modern and going in step with the times. One of the futuristic towers OKO can be climbed to view the entire city from a bird's eye view.
Moscow River water routes: What could be more romantic than walking along the Moskva River on board a motor ship with panoramic glazing. The view of the city opens with a completely different perspective. Highly recommend to do it in the evening.
To make a trip to the past and to get to the non-soviet Moscow of the XIX century is possible on the territory of the legendary Mosfilm film studio. A full town with pre-revolutionary buildings and without motor transport was built as a scenery for historical filming.
For fans of looking more than buying, there are two places for shopping: a tea house on Myasnitskaya Street and the Eliseevsky Store on Tverskaya Street. If you are already amazed by the beauty of the Moscow metro, from these interiors you will definitely lose the gift of speech."