KIS-KIS BANG! BANG! – Generation P: Edward Crabtree’s blog.
The saucy Mumble Rockers draw an oversized crowd at Zhest Club in ….KAZAKHSTAN.
I now reside in Almaty, the largest
city in the Russian speaking former Soviet nation of Kazakhstan. This is the
first experience that I have had of seeing live rock music here since arriving
here just over two months ago.
Kis – Kis (their name, rather than being a
reference to sucking face, has the sense of `Kitty Kitty`) originated in St
Petersburg. Throughout their four years in business they have already amassed
(as I would discover) a dedicated following.
The four-piece personnel consists of Sofiya Somuseva who supplies most of the vocal element and her buddy Alina Olesheva hits the sticks while Yuri Zaslonov (`Kokos`)grinds out the chords and Sergei Ivanov (`Khumny`) pumps out the bass.
Their 2019 album, `Punk Youth`, alerted the Russian rock public to their existence and their latest release, of this year, glories under the title of “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living`.
Of late the quartet have been hawking
their wares in the major cities of Central Asia. Before I caught them on the 26thNovember
they had already entertained the kids of Astana (Kazakhstan’s capital in the
North of the country) and then done the same on Karaganda in the central
region. Then, after playing for me, were due to make their way to Bishek, the
capital of Kyrgystan and Tashkent of Uzbekistan.
I had already expected that by
getting to Zhest Club by 8pm – the time given on the ticket – would provide
me ample time to chill with a glass of Line Brew, the local beer, and find a
good spot to get some visual record of it all.
In the event, on reaching the
unlikely street, with its endless rows of eateries and food stores, I gasped on
seeing a queue coiling down the street. This would be my home for the next
hour, as a diverse set of punters, not all ethnic Russians, joshed each other
with bonhomie while concerned looking members of staff, walkie-talkies in hand,
emerged from the club to see how their clientele was burgeoning. For the first
time that year, it began to snow and we were all well dusted with it by the
time the line had inched its way to the entrance.
`Zhest` means `tin` and, indeed, this twelve-year-old venue resembled a huge sardine tin, and, as the supply had exceeded demand (reaching a thousand rather than in the hundreds), we were to be the sardines.
Some had opted to leave their coats in a pile in a corner but I opted to keep mine on. Getting to the bar involved more tortoise like movements and getting anywhere near the front proved impossible as the true fans, taking the precaution of having got there early, had long since squeezed up to the front.
Kittens and heavies.
I was adjusting to all this palaver when the brassy and copper haired Somuseva strutted onto the stage wearing an asymmetrical skirt, one side being longer than the other. Flanking her were two identical men, built more like roadies than the string section that they were, hidden behind ski masks (a la Moscow Death Brigade).
The modelesque Olesheva sat on a raised platform behind her drums and a wind generator rippled her pink hair as she drummed. This was a blatant bit of theatrics but she did look very fetching and provided much of the ensemble’s most memorable visual impact.
Only Rock and Roll.
They ran through their hits and other songs “Girlfriend`, `Kirril`, `Mincemeat` – and so on with some impressive synchronized pogoing throughout the two hour show. The crowd was kept engaged, anticipating each song as it came.
The two girls talked a lot. They sprayed the crowd with water. They collected the bras that fans hurled at them. They encouraged us to chant
Rock! Rock! Rock! They told us to crouch down and then to all leap up on command.
Then Kokos took over as the drummer
and another guitarist materialized so that Olesheva could launch herself into a
sea of upraised hands. They quaffed some cognac (The rules must be more relaxed
here as I never saw the like on a Russian stage).
Then Alina and Sofiya went for a
clinch in a show of `spontaneous` affection for each other.
Of course, this stunt calls to mind the faux-lesbianism of tATu in the early noughties and no doubt they are already tired of this comparison. (The frisson that this had at that time is hard to recapture now, but the band are doing their best by, for example, recording an audio version of Maxim Sonin’s `queer` novel Letters Until Midnight of 2019).
For a four- piece, the band bang out a full sound, albeit they add some prerecorded keyboards to the mix. This is garage rock with elements of rockabilly and alt -rock, but all spun on a power pop framework. They are competent players well versed in their own upbeat genre and yet have no signature style of their own. (Kis-Kis have been bracketed in with a supposed rock trend dubbed `Mumble rock` which was initiated in Ukraine in 2016. However, it is difficult to say what the defining features of this journalistic invention are apart from a general cheekiness of attitude). For all their show of street rough-and-readiness the band aim straiight at their teen demographic, leaving nothing to chance.
Like Zveri before them they
offer up a world which is cleansed of depressing oldies and which is full of
parties, crushes, friendships, experiments and adventures.
A Kick to Kill the Kiss.
On this tour, perhaps Kis-Kis are playing at being cultural ambassadors to Russia. If so they are doing so at a time when many Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan in particular, are drifting away from the belligerence of the Great Bear. What can these two vixens, and other bands like these, do to bridge the gap and offer the youth of the former Soviet countries?
The thrill of transgression? Maybe so, yet the band’s insolent naughtiness is ever more out of synch with the direction of the new wartime Russia and it even remains to be seen for how long it will be tolerated in their own country. Teen spirit? That’s a closer fit, yet the pair are now well into their twenties and I wonder how long they can sing as though they are in their first flush of youth. `Female empowerment`? Yet they appear accompanied by two body guards masquerading as guitar players. Rock and roll? This is the best suggestion, although the closest musical and stylistic comparison I can come up with is that of the Canadian teenybopper from the noughties – one Avril Lavigne.
Lead image: Mobilelegends.net