October 26, 2004
Here in Nizhny Novgorod, we find out that this is the 3rd largest Russian city in this tremendously spread out Country. It used to be called Gorky, and then after the fall of Communism, was renamed back to Nizhny Novgorod.
Visitors weren't allowed here from the West during the Cold War, because they apparently have many manufacturing plants. In fact, our hotel is right next door to an automobile factory which also may make aircraft parts, depending on who I talk to.
More and more, I see the young people as indistinguishable from any European city. They are patient, articulate in English, and inquisitive about other styles of music. You could easily imagine being in Germany as you speak to them. Naturally, it's an opinion formed only by the people I come into contact with. In fact, everything that I'm told may be different than what the common wisdom holds to be true.....but I don't think so.
A few days ago, I waited in the longest line I've ever waited in just to get a McDonald's burger. Russian food is OK, but I really wanted to see what a hamburger tasted like. The burger and fries were virtually the same, the fountain drink was way different........ Here in Russia, I keep trying the classics, Stroganof, Borsch, Blini, and they are always good. And always pretty different, as well. Like any place you go to, your experiences can vary depending on the luck of where you go, and who you come in contact with.
In a few short weeks I have gone from being amazed that an expensive hotel doesn't have high speed internet, to just giving up on any sort of communication from them whatsoever. Moscow was a nice exception, with wifi through most of the hotel. More typical is a single PC in the business center, which is closed, or not online. Phone calls to the States go from a low of about 3 dollars, to well over 8 dollars per minute. In some cases, it costs the same to use your phone card, if you can find one that works from all over Russia. This would be a snap for someone who knew the language, could roam freely until finding a pay phone, etc.
On the brightest side possible, the people here really love music. They applaud and cheer for all the expected places, for sure. But when there is a very quiet moment, they hold the most amazing silence. Don't know the reason for that, but as a result, in my opinion, they get the full impact of the dynamics that we put in certain tunes. This is definitely the place to play if you're in a band that is told that people just want the hits, keep it simple, blah, blah....here is proof that an entire crowd can listen and respond to both high and subdued energy moments.
The same thing almost happens in every Country, but there's often a few voices, sometimes more than a few, that breaks the beauty of a very quiet moment. Not trying to, but irritating the people that would like to listen to the quiet section.....it proves that the majority of people are the same everywhere, but it's the fact that the few impatient people here don't ruin it for the rest that amazes me. In the Orient you will find perfectly behaved audiences everywhere, but much more reserved in the straight up rock and roll portions.
Last night, we were taken to dinner as a group, and at the restaurant, they had set up a large LCD screen TV so that the band, (a predominantly British band) could watch football. By football, I mean soccer. There was a game between 2 English teams somehow being broadcast in Russia, presumably because there are World League implications with the outcome. So, the sound was turned down, and we watched it while turning our necks at 90 degree angles to see the screen for 2 hours. It was a refreshing change, and an example of the tremendous hospitality we have universally gotten.
© stevemorse.com 2004