Copyright 1996 The News Tribune

News Tribune

September 28, 1996, Saturday

SECTION: SoundLife; Pg. SL11

LENGTH: 635 words


BYLINE: Karen Ogden; For The News Tribune


VLADIVOSTOK, Russia - Standing stiffly in his Russian militia uniform, Alexi Pashkov could not stop his foot from tapping as Seattle’s raucous band the Supersuckers took the stage at the "Vladirockstok" music festival.

In front of him, Russian teens sporting combat boots and tattered flannel shirts reveled in their first taste of live American rock at the "Dynamo" sports stadium in Tacoma’s sister city Vladivostok.

The Supersuckers and fellow Seattle band Goodness played last week in a lineup with legendary Russian rock bands Aquarium and DDT as part of the 12-hour rock festival organized to improve cultural ties between the Pacific Northwest and the Russian Far East.

"It was less than a decade ago that we had missiles pointed at each other," said Terry Elwell, international director of the Washington Apple Commission, which gave $ 25,000 to the event. "Even though the walls came down there was still a cultural barrier, and I think that’s eroding here."

Friendships were blooming backstage where Goodness vocalist Carrie Akre was signing autographs for musicians in Balogne, one of several regional bands that opened the festival. Goodness was a hit at the concert, but Akre said some of her best moments were on a small stage in a local club.

"We got up on stage with the guys from a Russian band," she said.

While Vladirockstok was a hit with those who showed up, it did not draw as many fans as organizers had hoped. Only 5,000 of the 20,000 available tickets sold, according to Dave Poritzky, one of two young American expatriates who launched the festival. Poritzky would not comment on whether there were losses from this year’s festival but said he wants to organize a Vladirockstok ‘97.

At 75,000 rubles ($ 15) for adults and 50,000 rubles for students, the tickets were out of reach for many fans who listened from outside the stadium. Another disappointment came when Seattle band the Posies pulled out at the last minute because of a scheduling conflict. And the presence of 1,000 militiamen, who confined crowds to the bleachers during the opening bands, put a damper on the festival for fans of local groups.

Alexander Tsyganok, chief of Vladivostok Internal Affairs, said police presence was extreme because local officials didn’t know what to expect from an international rock festival. "We are learning," he said, adding that aside from a few minor incidents, the crowd was well-behaved. "These are younger people, and they are more difficult to control," he added.

The ice broke at midday when legendary Russian rocker Boris Grebenshikov invited screaming fans onto the field to hear his band Aquarium play its classics and some folksy new songs that incorporate sounds from ancient Russian and Celtic music.

By midafternoon many of the uniformed overseers were dozing in the sun.

"I don’t like this music, but it’s fun," said Pashkov, a 19-year-old militiamen as he listened to the Supersuckers. "People should have fun."

Yuri Shevchuk, vocalist with Russian rock giant DDT, wanted to inspire local bands to stop singing in English and Russify their music. "The country is flooded with dead music - the cheap pop stuff," he said. "It’s spiritless. It’s soulless. It absolutely cannot reflect what is going on in this country."

He said Vladirockstok was a priceless opportunity for small bands to play in front of a big audience.

"Russian bands are sitting in the basement," he said. "They don’t have any access to an audience. They can’t test themselves against the sky, the grass, the sea."

For Grandy, bassist of up-and-coming Vladivostok group Karamazoff Bike, the festival was a taste of stardom.

"When we walked by the stands, people were very good," he said. "They screamed, ‘Karamazoff Bike,’ and we got to know what fame is."

LOAD-DATE: September 28, 1996