I wrote this blog post about touring in Russia with Quinn Deveaux over a year ago and never got around to posting it! Better late than never, here it is:
It’s been 3 months since I was on tour with Quinn Deveaux and the Blue Beat Review and it still remains fresh in my mind. Russia was a whirlwind experience filled with planes, trains, and automobiles. We visited 11 countries in a little under 3 weeks. It was a surreal experience and I realized that I haven’t taken the time yet to reflect and tell you all about it. Well, here it goes… My journey started off in Yekaterinburg. A lovely town with a dark history. The town is centered around a beautiful lake with families strolling, children running around, and old men playing chess. Next to the lake was a gorgeous golden domed cathedral called “The Church of Blood” (a quick Wikipedia search will tell you why its called that). Yekaturinburg has an energetic blues scene and young people are really into American roots music. We got to play on a couple of radio stations and I wish I could have stayed longer to check out some of the live music in town. We were even on a Russian morning show! All to promote the free concert put on by the American Consulate in the town center. It was a 4th of July extravaganza and the décor was like America on steroids! Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures from Yekaturinburg as I lost my phone in the beginning of the trip, but suffice to say that there was a giant inflatable bald eagle, a woman dressed as lady liberty, and there was a man on stilts dressed as Uncle Sam. Oh yeah, and there were Russians dressed as American football players with letterman’s jackets throwing a football around. The appetizers consisted of mini corndogs and hamburgers.
Our next stop was Kalingingrad, Russia a.k.a. the Amber capital of Russia! It was formally German-territory and became a part of Russia after the Second World War. Fascinating history there as well. I barely had enough time in each town to scratch the surface.
Our gig in Kaliningrad was in a beautiful cathedral with outstanding acoustics. It was fun playing R&B music in such an ethereal setting. People got up in the aisles and did the twist. We even found a 3rd backup singer (she got the floral dress memo).
From there we headed to Rybinsk, which was only recently opened to tourism of any kind. It is a beautiful port town along the Volga River.
From Rybinsk we headed to Moscow where we headlined a jazz festival just outside of the city. We had just enough time to explore Moscow for the afternoon. Here I am in Red Square:
From Moscow we headed to St Petersburg for a music festival in the middle of town. I was only there for a day which was waaayyyy too short. St Petersburg reminded me of Paris. The architecture was stunning. I definitely want to go back and explore this beautiful city at length.
Then we headed to Kazan a glitzy city with a gorgeous mosque and cathedral. This also happens to be where I ate my favorite meal on the trip, in a jazz club! Not only did we eat well, but they had a jazz pianist playing us standards during dinner. The ambience was incredible. We headlined a Jazz Festival at the Kremlin and were treated like stars. The crowd was amazing and they danced with us all night long!
And my favorite experience of the tour was singing in a blues club in the far north of Russia in a town called Arkangelsk. If I hadn’t known I was in Russia I would have thought I was in a Blues club in the South Side of Chicago. The sun never went down. The midnight sun was beautiful and it was the farthest north I’ve ever been!
From there we explored Vologda and headlined a jazz festival at the Kremlin. We were given a tour of the town and got to check out the architecture, buildings with pretty and intricate wooden lace. The Tom Sawyer project in Vologda is doing great work, bringing the community together to protect the historic buildings. The crowd was amazing and braved the rain to dance with us!
Our last show was at a community center in the beautiful seaside Krasnodar area, Primorsk-Arkharsk. We were welcomed with a traditional song sung by young people dressed in traditional Russian Clothes. The offered us bread and fruit. It was lovely. We spent the day before the show swimming, soaking up the sun, and going for a boat ride.
I had an amazing time in Russia, I feel so lucky to have had the chance to explore so many cities and to learn more about Russian culture and history. I especially feel grateful to all of the locals I met along the way, who hosted us and made us feel so welcome. Spasiba!