A few years ago I met in Estonia the guys from the Russian rockabilly band The Phantoms. I was impressed by their passion of playing and the authentic style of music. I convinced myself to see them play one time in St. Petersburg in Russia. I always wanted to sea the Hermitage (one of the biggest museums in the world), taste the atmosphere of the city of this capitol. Since 2005 Iíve been in Russia three times to sea different Russian rockabilly bands.
The first band I ever saw in St. Petersburg was the Neva River Rockets. These guys are named after the rocket boats on the Neva river where they transport tourists and passengers to Peterhof. The style they played in 2005 was Hillbilly music. With acoustic guitar, lead guitar and double bass they played a lot of hillbilly originals and self written songs. The sound was good and the music was played without any mistakes. For me it was funny to discover the typical Russian voice. I think this is the charm of Russian Rockabilly. In 2006 they changed the music to the more popular bopping sound. They changed the acoustic guitar for drums and now they sound more like those other great bands from Russia like Phantoms and Spootniks. Meanwhile these boys already played on the Rockabilly Rave!
The next band I saw was Ready Teddy in the Elvis bar. Try to think your in the middle of a very beautiful city in Russia thereís a club where you can hear constantly 50ís music. Seven days a week! On Friday and Saturday thereís live music. I think Ready Teddy was the band I didnít like too much. The most popular Elvis and 50ís songs are played and the musicians donít work very good together. Although the musicians are all very good on their instruments. The singer is working very hard to get a good Elvis imitation. The audience having fun anyway.
In St. Petersburg the fans thinks that The Spootniks are one of the best Russian Rockabilly bands, only Big Livers are more favourite. These guys are pro. They play 4 a 5 times a week, mostly in club Money Honey. Money Honey is centred close to the Nevsky Prospekt. In this neighbourhood you still can find the scars of the old system. Young people are going out here and they like these rockabilly bands a lot. I saw The Spootniks one time in Holland and I didnít like their performance at all. They looked drunk and not interested to perform at all. I have to admit that these guys are all very good at their instruments. Their guitar player is just amazing. One fine tune after the other, wow! In Money Honey I had a better view on what this band is doing. They play very easy any old authentic 50ís classic and made it sound if it was their own. Still I think they would do a lot better if they tried to leave the alcohol for after the gig. I was lucky enough to survive a drinking party with Sergey the singer of the band.
Big Livers, I saw them to in the Elvis bar. The Russians think this is the best they have. I canít say that I was impressed. The singer, also playing the lead guitar, is doing his very best and his voice is good. The other musicians are good on their instruments. But all together they miss the driving, stomping beat of the other Russian rockabilly bands. I think Spootniks and Phantoms are much more interesting.
Since a short time there is a new band in St. Petersburg, The Sleeping Bartenders. I canít say anything about this band. I only know that the young singer as a talented voice, maybe even the best voice in the Russian scene. I saw him performing one song with Phantoms and it sounded very good.
In Money Honey I also I saw The Phantoms for the second time. For me this is the rockabilly band from St. Petersburg. These guys are also professional musicians and play each year around 250 gigs. I was very fortuned to spend a couple of days with them. With this I saw how they are living, breathing and performing rockabilly music. People this is a band who plays so perfectly, maybe you can compare them with the Dutch Tinstars, but more danceable than the Dutch. All classics are served in a straight tempo. Each week another group of young Russian people are being pleased with perfect Russian rockabilly, and they are loving it!
I should say the Russian rockabilly scene is a big fun. And everyone loving rockabilly should experience this special atmosphere in this amazing city!