White City in Kazakhstan and Uzebkistan
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Surprisingly we cruised across the border hassle free and were soon in Almaty and lost in this mega-vehicle city: Petrol is cheap so everyone drives. Our first concert on Thursday was at a small club called Retrospective, on the outskirts of the city. We only managed to pull together a small crowd of 15, but it was obvious that they were all musicians or conersuers of music as they really got into the music and the night ended with both Ruth and I on the floor and Andreas leaping over his drum kit and landing on us [ouch!].
During our stay visit in Almaty we also had 2 gigs at an awesome rock club called Zhest, by far the best venue we have played in since starting this tour. They have a raised stage that sits over the bar. The owner Alex has set the place up real sweet with good amps, lighting and even a smoke machine. Both nights we had healthy crowds and support bands that helped us to warm the crowd. The only challenge was that we didn’t go on stage until 1 am, so we had to be diligent and keep sober until then. The crowd really enjoyed our music and many commented that all they got was metal in Almaty and they were refreshed to hear something ‘new’. Here is what Ru says about Zhest: “Our gig home for the next two nights was Zhest. It had a raised, 360 degree stage, surrounded by the bar with strippers on poles. It was very Dusk till Dawn liker. One of the ‘go-go girls’ (a Russian, who was born in Uzbekistan) fell in love with me and would not leave my side all night. I am now wearing her favourite bracelet and have, so far, not spouted fangs.”
Our last concert in Kazakhstan was at a bikers Fest 80 km outside Almaty in a lake side town call Kapchijay. The term no sleep till Brooklyn really made sense after Andreas and I stayed up till 9 am belting out tunes in a suburban karaoke club. But we pushed on through and drive at 200 km an hour with a mad taxi driver to the bikers fest. We arrived at the fest and in true White City fashion took over the place [even though we were only the support act to Russian rock legends: Aria] The fest was well set up with the stage on the beach and villas on the hills for all the bikers to use. The crowd was a mixture of hardcore bikers, part time bikers, families and even some car drivers. There was 4 local bands that played before us and the highlight was a band called Storm that had a lead singer that obviously idolized Kiss. We played the best set we could considering the cold conditions: both Andreas and I got cramps in our arms. Again the crowd was into it, with loads of people saying it was nice to hear something else besides cock rock on the bill. The main act Aria may have been old bastards but they still rocked in true Iron Maiden like sound. The crowd was obviously there to see them and therefore went crazy.
Ru: Our set was cut short by a billion hair-metal bands before us, but we enjoyed our first festival. It was fun to play a really big stage and do lots of foot-on-the-monitor poses. Seen the pictures and I look like a massive show-off. Hello to the White City Angels and thanks for getting everyone dancing. All in all it was a great experience to play at a bikers fest and too meet loads of bikers, a big hello to the guys at the Almaty chapter of the Nomads!
We met these three lovely young ladies in Bishkek at our concert at Zeppelin Bar, they proceeded to come more of our concerts. As with everyone else we connect with, we invited them to join us in Almaty. But of all the people we invited, only these 3 dedicated rockers actually made the trip up and joined us for the bikers fest. So after some drinks and dinner we all decided that they should form the fan club. And seeing that they had very similar traits to the girl of Charlies Angles, we all agreed that they should be called the White City Angles. Introducing: Aigul, Olah and Regina. They will be starting a group on face book and have promised us to have 100,000 members in five years time. So help them out and join! Visit White City Angels Facebook page here And to prove that they were the ultimate WC fans they also flew to Tashkent a week later to see us perform at the Iosis Festival, wow, well done girls, respect!
Kazakhstan has been a damn cool country and we really look forward to coming back here and rocking it again. Next stop: Uzbekistan! After all procedures and checks with documents and visas we finally got to Tashkent, where we were supposed to give 2 gigs in local clubs and perform at Ilkhom Rock Fest and Iosis Rock Fest, the biggest Rock events in Uzbekistan.
Apart from planned gigs we organized guerilla gig on the streets of Tashkent. This was a cool guerilla gig, we were told by loads of people you will not be able to play in Tashkent, you WILL be arrested if you tried. Even when we were walking to this park we must have passed 100 police on the streets at different locations. But for some magical reason they never interrupted our little gig. We played for an hour, jammed with locals and probably had 30-40 people getting into it. Even when we yelled out “Police come and bust us!” they still didn’t come…. We love Tashkent.
We also played at the VM bar on our 2nd night in Tashkent, the bar was a biker and snow-boarder hang out and had some great interiors. Thanks to the help of Tyler and Dimitri we had some sound system brought in. The crowd was a 100 people strong and were well drunk by the time we came on stage. We even had a few people from Kabul in the crowd. We played a good stinking pub gig and the crowd appreciated it.
As I mentioned before, our main activity that has been planned in Tashkent, was Ilkhom Rock Festival. What can I say… for me, it was the best stage experience of the tour, yes our last concert at Cotton Club was wilder, but Ilkhom had class, sophistication, concept and flavour. There was video projections, live video projections, dancers, sounds scapes, a mezzanine stage and awesome lighting. The show was split up into a semi acoustic and electric set and we really mixed up the set, both for us and the audience. It was a little weird to play to a sitting down crowd, but I made up for it with a lot of running around the theatre with my wireless system. The highlight of the night was a cameo appearance by Cheburashka, a small fluffy soviet icon. We ended the night with a in depth Q & A with 40 or so audience members that stayed behind to learn more about Big in the Stans. So a big thank you goes out to Tyler and all the people involved at the Ilkhom theatre. Also the Uzbek musicians who played with us and lastly to our great friend Nikita and to Munira who dressed the band in her original designs. Take a look what Ru has to say about her experience at Ilkhom:
Ru: “Our gig at the Ilkholm theatre was a series of firsts for me. It was the first time I’d played in a theatre, the first time I’d played to an audience that stayed seated throughout, the first time I’d been dressed as a ‘girl’ in a dress and heels, the first time I’d come onstage to smoke and dancers and the first time I’d experienced the kind of creativity, care and dedication to a show that the Ilkholm team gave us. To be honest, at first I was nervous and a little out of my comfort zone – my voice was less than perfect from weeks of touring, I couldn’t move around the multi-levelled stage in the heels and was terrified my strapless dress would fall down leaving me VERY exposed through the multiple video cameras producing live feeds of our gig on a big screen. But I soon settled into the flow and enjoyed playing to a rapt audience and jamming ‘Piva’ and ‘Honey Goliath’ with local musicians on flute, sax, keyboard and mouth harp. I come from a punk-rock background, where down and dirty gigs in sweaty bars are the norm, so to play something progressive, artsy and sophisticated was a new and very interesting experience. But, as always, for me it wasn’t about the music, but the people. And they were fantastic, from the set-designers, MC and soundpeople to the audience who stayed afterwards to ask us questions. As Trav has said above, we’re a very lucky band to be given this kind of opportunity. Thanks to everyone involved.”
Straight after Ilkhom we had to perform at Iosis Rock Fest. I will leave you with comments from Ru:
“WOW. WOOOOW. Rarely at a gig have I felt so at home. My voice may have been shot, I may have been half-dead from the constant touring and I may have been sweating more than an overweight kid in a sweetshop supermarket dash, but with the help of the hundred rocking kids, White City found that last bit of energy to make a show to end the tour properly. There were stage-dives and fights, there was clambering on the speakers and a sea of hands making the devil’s rock sign. We were playing with a bunch of other rock and metal bands as part of the Iosis one-day rockfest. Our stagemates were very impressive, from the growls of local band Termin Vox to the pop rock of visiting Kazakh band, Deepresssonic. Thanks also to Deema from Formalgayt, who organised the night and our Tashkent recording session (but more of that later… ) We’ll miss you Tashkent. Wait for us!”
All in all it was great experience beyond our wildest dreams, since being back in Kabul and answering the same question over and over again: How was it? I keep answering: “Possibily the best 6 weeks of my life.” Not saying that it was all highs and no lows, but it was really like a dream come true, we headed off with little knowledge of the countries and what to expect from the people and what we got in return was continuing appreciation and energy from the audience. They kept saying; “thank you for coming to our country, no one comes here, no one makes the effort to rock our world.”