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Leningrads Legends of Beat

Published: October 23, 2013 (Issue # 1783)



  • Leningrad beat groups like Avangard included wind instruments alongside their guitars to comply with a government decree.
    Photo: Alexander Petrenko / For SPT

A gala concert called Rock Beat Leningrad 63 will reopen an obscure page of St. Petersburgs rock and roll history by featuring a number of bands that formed in the 1960s. The man behind the concert is Alexander Petrenko, the founder of the pioneering local band Avangard (Russian for both avant-garde and vanguard) that came into existence in Leningrad, as St. Petersburg was then known, in 1963 the same year The Beatles debut album Please Please Me came out.

The 1960s are a strange and little known period in Russian rock music history. Khrushchev was removed in October 1964 and replaced by Brezhnev, while authoritarian ideology strengthened with the Sinyavsky-Daniel trial in 1965, effectively putting an end to the Khrushchev Thaw, the liberalization started by the dismissed leader following the death of Stalin.

But while censorship became more severe in literature, cinema and visual art, rock or beat bands were looked upon as innocent entertainment for youth.

At the time, the Kremlin even supported rock music, according to rock historian Andrei Burlaka, who co-organized the concert. As Soviet baby boomers grew up, the authorities sought ways to occupy young people.

In 1965, there was a special governmental decree on youth leisure activities, and a network of youth cafes began to be developed. They usually had a stage and rather cheap prices, he said.

For, say, 50 kopeks a man could have some salad and a cutlet, listen to music, dance and meet a girl. This was a purposeful policy on the states part. For instance, the Leningrad Metal Plant curated the Evrika café on Prospekt Energetikov, which was on the edge of the city then, because there were collective farm fields beyond. Despite this, it became a fashionable place because the coolest bands played there, and trendy young people from Nevsky Prospekt all went there.

Apart from Evrika, the most popular youth cafes included Beliye Nochi on Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa and Rovesnik on Ulitsa Karla Marksa (now Bolshoy Sampsoniyevsky Prospekt). Each such cafe had a youth council that had some funds to book bands, sometimes from other cities.

There were no restrictions about the repertoire, singing in English was allowed and you could perform whatever you wanted, Burlaka said.

Other venues available to Leningrad bands from the 1960s were colleges and universities that booked them for parties as well as dozens of clubs that held dance parties outside the city. The concerts in the countryside frequently resulted in fistfights between those who had come from the city and local rowdies. The bands were also occasionally involved in the brawls.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Sept. 17


AmChams Investment and Legal Committee Meeting convenes this morning in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center at 9 a.m.


Learn more about the science of teaching English at todays EFL Seminar hosted by the British Book Center. Revolving around the topic of learning styles, the workshop will help attendees better understand the different effective learning methods that can be implemented to learn English more effectively.



Thursday, Sept. 18


Get your nerd on at Boomfest, St. Petersburgs answer to the United States popular ComicCon. Starting today, this international festival of comics will take over venues throughout the city center and includes exhibitions of comics and illustrations, film screenings, competitions and the chance to meet the genres authors, artists and experts.



Friday, Sept. 19


SPIBAs newest addition to their Cultural Discoveries events is Handmade in Germany, an exhibition featuring unique handmade objects of a significantly higher quality than mass-produced items. The work of over 100 German manufacturers will be displayed during the event, which opens today in the Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Paul on Nevsky Prospekt and runs through Sept. 28.



Saturday, Sept. 20


Starting on Sept. 18 and ending tomorrow is the Extreme Fantasy Wakeboarding Festival in Sunpark by Sredny Suzdalskoye lake in the Ozerki region of the city.


Those after something more laid back can instead head to Jazz and Wine night at TerraVino with legendary jazz guitarist Ildar Kazahanov. 12/14 Admiralteyskaya Emb.



Sunday, Sept. 21


Learn more about African culture and get some exercise during todays Djembe and Vuvuzela, a bike ride starting in Palace Square that includes several stops where riders can listen to the music of Africa or watch short films about the continent. The riders plan to set off at 4 p.m. and all you need to join is a set of wheels.



Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK-Fest, a five-day festival that starts on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of todays round table discussion on Interaction with Trade Unions being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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