TOTAL ABANDON. – Generation P: Edward Crabtree’s blog.
My first live encounter with Altpop/rockers TOTAL/CHERKUNOVA in Moscow’s relocated Mumy Troll Music Bar.
TOTAL/CHERKUNOVA, a pop rock sensation who sent up a flare at the beginning of this millennium, have been sprinkling Russia with soulful songs for two decades now, but are not yet ready for the anniversary gig routine.
At first known only as TOTAL (the addition to their moniker began last year), the band represent another brainchild of the ever-fertile composer and music manager Maxim Fedeev (who can also claim Linda and Yulia Sachayevo as amongst his discoveries).
Marina Cherkunova is his cousin and they both emerged from Kurgan, the `capital of the Trans – Urals` in Southern Russia where they each received a musical education. At the age of thirty Mariana became the lead singer of the new band.
TOTAL’s idiosyncratic trip-hop
influenced alt pop-rock sound – and corresponding urban shaven haired image –
found a ready audience and with it came a popular studio album and a string of high-profile
festival appearances. Proud Russian magazine columnists likened them to the
overseas Guano Apes and Skunk Anansie.
They came my way in around 2007 in the form of their second album TOTAL2: Moye Mir (`My World`). Injected with real feeling and with not a dud track on it, the band climbed high in my hierarchy of affections. (It helped too that that Cherkunova both has a role in and provides some of the music for, one of my favorite recent Russian films – Lost Island ( 2019) ). )
I had not, however, managed to catch them live before.
There was not much notice about TOTAL
CHERNUKOVA’s show on January 14th: I only got wind of it at the last
It was to be at the Mumy Troll music bar. But wait…didn’t that place close during the lockdown?
It turned out that the venue had
teleported to the less salubrious but more populous environs of Novy Arbat.
The new Mumy Toll – as much as it
strains to keep up the appearance of continuity (with all the nautical bric a
brac) – is more commodious and feels somehow seedier and more `street`. The
security is till as stiff as ever. No, I couldn’t take my rucksack in. The bar
too remains as sluggish in its service. I only managed to get in two German
beers all evening, being forever walled behind higher priority parties of
The establishment finds itself torn
between the different demands of its demographics. There are those who come to
in groups partake of the seafood at tables, caring not a whit what band may be
playing. Then there are those to whom the place is a nightclub and are there to
dance after the band has packed up. Then – oh, excuse us -there are the actual
music fans who have, sort of, come to see a live band in a live music venue.
The latter congregates bit by bit
near the stage. Twenty to thirty somethings for the most part, they seem about
two thirds female and a collision between glam girls and specky hipsters.
The first ripple of excitement comes when Anastasia Cherkunova – Mariana’s daughter and now director of the operation – comes on stage to deliver the water bottles and tape down the playlists.
The enter TOTOAL/CHERKUNOVA in their 2022 incarnation. This is a four piece with some new blood. The youthful Ilya Andrus supplies the guitar, Konstantin Mikyukov the DJ on the turntables, with the percussion being meted out by the chunky shade-wearing Stanislav Aksyonov .( They seem to manage to do without a bassist). In baggy jeans and floppy headgear, they exude a Nineties aesthetic.
Marina herself spots cropped peroxide-blonde hair in place of her more familiar bald pate (and looks better for it, if you ask me). Otherwise she combines knee length black dress with sturdy Gothic type boots.
Throughout their regulation two-hour set, this quartet guide us all their most loved tunes -`
Hits the Eyes, Sparks, Karamasutra...with much upbeat banter between the songs from Marina. The fans, made somnolent by the January slush begin to thaw out and to jump and sway and to cheer and sing.
Even the attentions of security as
they make sure we all keep are masks on at all times (compensating, no doubt,
for a lack of QR code entry requirement) cannot dampen the conviviality.
What functions as the dynamo behind the whole experience is Maria Chernukova herself. I have not seen someone work so much at a performance since seeing Julia Volkova at the previous Mumy Troll some years ago. Embodying the joys and angst of life she puts in a writhing, impassioned full bodied, erotic performance like some sort of female Mick Jagger.
That she functions as an
unacknowledged icon is evidenced by the excess of raised cameras all around me
the whole time.
The musicians augment the operatic
delivery with some tongue-in-cheek `rockist` stadium gestures such as dragged
out finales to songs with sections of drum and guitar solos.
TOTAL/CHERKUNOVA can boast one rather effective trick and it consists of clothing power pop ballads in a more urban, modern trip-hop stylistic.
They have a lot to live up to this
night. I am seeing one of my most cherished acts for the first time and it is
my first gig of the new year too.
They do not disappoint.