Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mumiy Troll (mis)Adventures

I make no promise to be coherent.

I'm running on two and a half hours of sleep. My feet hurt. My back hurts. I still have purple ink on my hands that will require some sort of magic-erasal later tonight. (Spell check tells me that erasal isn't a word. But I like it. So I'm going to use it.) I'm having a hard time forming coherent sentences in my mind, let alone in writing.

Even so, I have to blog.

Because last night, I found myself on 6th street, at midnight, crammed into a cinderblock warehouse with a bunch of drunk people, listening to Mumiy Troll.

No, I am NOT talking about a Halloween costume cross between a Mummy and a Troll. 

Yes, I, did spell it right.

Sort of. 

It's actually spelled Мумий Тролль, but you all get mad at me when I start typing in Cyrillic. That's right. Mumiy Troll is a (THE?) Russian rock band, and last night, I abandoned all my senses and went to see them.

I know what you're thinking. 

What's so special about that? You live in Austin. It's the live music capital of the world. Going to see a concert is no big deal.

And you might be right. For most people, going to see a concert is no big deal. There are certainly a lot of them downtown. But you're talking to me here, and you seem to be forgetting some important things.

1) I don't like crowds
2) I don't like drunk people
3) I don't tolerate sensory overstimulation well
4) I had NEVER been to 6th street at night
5) I have an 8 AM class on Thursdays
6) I don't like crowds

I know, I mentioned that one twice. But I really mean it.

So, knowing all of these things myself, when I first heard that Mumiy Troll was going to be in town, I kind of smiled and nodded and thought, well, I can catch em on the radio. If I had a Russian radio.

But the more I thought about it, the more I was able to rationalize going. I told myself things like,

1) It's only one night
2) You're a 20 year old college student, for God's sake, be NORMAL for a change
3) It'll be good Exposure-Response Prevention - lots of germs, no sinks!
4) How often does a Russian rock band that you know and love come to Austin?

The last one finally won it out. And I started to get excited. I planned my week around going to the concert. I told people about going and tried to convince them to come with me. I listened to as much Troll as possible, trying to pick up any Russian that might be useful to me.

And when last night came, I couldn't wait to go.

And then I panicked.

OHMIGOD! Where am I going to park? And how am I going to get there? And what if I don't know where I am? And what if the people on 6th street are all rapists and muggers and murders? And will I need cash? And what if I don't know anybody? And... and...

What the HECK do you wear to a Russian rock concert?

So I called my friend Eric. He's a great guy. Took a class on Vampires with me. And another one on Drama. And directed a play I was in. He knows me pretty well. So when I said all of these things to him, he laughed.


Suggested that maybe 6th street wasn't too terribly dangerous. And that I could always park and take a bus.

Did he want to come, I asked.


Of course not.

But he did promise to call the police should I go missing or be murdered. Great friend, that Eric is.

After hanging up with him, I did what any sane person does. I went to the next name on my phone list and hit send.

It happened to be Erica. And okay, I didn't randomly call her. I knew she might be helpful.

So I said OHMIGOD! Where am I going to park? And how am I going to get there? And what if I don't know where I am? And what if the people on 6th street are all rapists and muggers and murders? And will I need cash? And what if I don't know anybody? And... and...

What the HECK do you wear to a Russian rock concert?

Then she laughed, and said I haven't seen you all summer and this is why you call me?

Well, no, she didn't. But I was thinking that. Still, it isn't my fault. She went to Croatia this summer. And Croatia is close to Russia. Well, closer than Texas is. So obviously, she was the right person to call.

I asked her how to take the bus. 

I heard her roll her eyes. Don't ask me how, I just did. Kind of like I'm hearing you roll your eyes now. But it was a valid question. The last time I took a bus that wasn't on campus, I was in Australia, and I ended up lost in Adelaide. It was great.

Still, 6th street at midnight didn't seem like a good place to practice getting lost. So I asked. 

Smart people ask for directions, right?


Anyway, Erica rolled her eyes and laughed and wondered how on earth it was that I didn't know how to take a bus or find a bus route, then she got online and found me a bus route. And then she offered to ride down with me to make sure I knew where I was going.

I should mention here that Erica is a year and a half younger than I am, and way more City Savvy than I'll ever be. You just don't get City Savvy growing up in the hills of North Carolina.

You learn to make biscuits from scratch and how to fully appreciate banjo music. Both good things. Neither helpful for attending a Russian rock concert.

After Erica solved my bussing problems, we turned to my other issues. She assured me that they wouldn't kill me on 6th street. She told me that she didn't have a clue what appropriate Russian rock attire was, but that I could send her a picture. 

I told her I loved her and would be her best friend, then we hung up.

Then I called Kelly.


Uh... I don't know. Jeans and a T-shirt?

I grumbled and complained and bemoaned the idea that I was going out for the first time in a long time and my wardrobe options were t-shirts and jeans.

So I called my Mom.


Uh...comfortable shoes. And jeans. And a t-shirt.

But I want to wear the pink dress.

No, you don't. Wear jeans and a t-shirt.

Then I decided that I needed to make some fashion conscious friends. 

And I changed out of the pink dress.

And put on jeans. But not a t-shirt. I couldn't stoop that low. I may not be Carrie Bradshaw, but I do have some fashion standards. I opted for a belly-bearing black tank top.

Because I'm 20, and I can. And because when I'm 30, I won't be able to go around showing off my tummy at will. So if I don't do it now, when am I going to? 

Dressed and in the car on the way to campus, where I would park and then meet Erica to get on the bus, I called Kelly again.

Are you SURE they aren't going to kill me on 6th street? If they do kill me, you'll come get 'em right? 

I think at that point, she may have actually hoped they WOULD kill me, just so I'd shut up about it.

So, I got to campus. Parked in Dobie - the overnight parking garage. Met up with Erica, and promptly got on the bus. She handed me a piece of paper with the directions, and informed me that we would be getting off at 6th street. Which seemed logical enough.

We started talking. She told me about Croatia. I told her about the guy in Russian I have a crush on, and about how I couldn't find him on facebook.

The guy sitting next to us looked over and called me a stalker, and he and Erica exchanged some witty repartee. 

Does it make me a stalker to want to friend someone from my Russian class? I don't think so.

Then I looked up. 

The bus was driving under Cesar Chavez. And even with my limited knowledge of downtown Austin, something said to me, Bobbi, this is not right. And I pointed it out to Erica.

Shouldn't 6th street have been before CesChav? Isn't Cesar Chavez the equivalent of 1st street?

She said everything was fine. So we kept riding. And ten more minutes later, the bus stopped at a place that was CLEARLY not 6th street.

No. We found ourselves at the South Congress Metro Center. It was beautiful, with perfectly manicured grass, and vine covered trellises. And a full sixteen or so stops past 6th street.

So we read the signs, turned around, and hopped on the north-bound bus. And we decided that we'd blame the guy who made the stalker comment, because clearly, it was his fault. He distracted us.

We did eventually make it to the venue, Emo's.

I convinced Erica to come in with me for a little while. She might like Russian rock, after all.

And then, the first thing they did as we walked in the door, was coat the top of our hands in purple ink, signifying that we were under age.

And inside, my stomach twisted into 25 knots.

Ink. INK. On my hands. And I was downtown, with no hand sanitizer, no wipes, and no anxiety meds. And NO WAY was I going to that bathroom.

Then I told myself to deal with it, and we went in.

Sometimes, you just have to do that.

As it turned out, Erica did not like Russian rock, and as such, departed about half an hour after arrival. Which really, was okay. Because well, not everyone does like Russian rock music. 

And honestly? At that point?

I was really questioning my sanity.

It really is pretty much a cinderblock warehouse. With big speakers. And a lot of people. And what's worse, the sign on the door was very clear: No Re-Entry for Under 21. 

I was in, and I couldn't go back out again. And we still had two hours to go before Troll came on stage. First, we had to get through the two openers - Reba and Run Run Run.

Here is a sample of the things that went through my mind, as I stood there listening to these opening bands.

I don't know anyone here. I wonder if these people are going to kill me.
Good LORD it's loud.
I can't understand anything they're singing.
I wonder if the purple ink will ever come off my hands...
STOP thinking about the purple ink, you obsessive-compulsive nutcase! (I'm allowed to say these things to myself.)
I wish I could drink.
I wish I could go outside.
I wish the guy from Russian had shown up.
I wonder if my professors will be here?
Good LORD, it's loud. According to last semester's CSD chart, I'm doing permanent damage to my hearing every second I'm here.
Oh oh oh! I understood a word! Спасиба балшой! Thanks a lot! Wow.. maybe my Russian is getting better.
That girl looks like the girl from our Russian Language DVD.
Would it be weird to go to her and ask Вы Таня?
YES, that would be weird.
Good LORD, it's loud.
Wait... this band.. the second one... they're singing in English!
My feet hurt.
The drummer is really cute.
I wonder if I look as stupid as that guy, who is dancing and clearly drunk?
Why didn't I bring any hand sanitizer?
I need to pee.
But not here!
It'd be great to sit down.
Is Troll EVER coming out?
The Run, Run, Run drummer really is cute. He's totally losing himself in the music.
I'm going to be deaf tomorrow.
And sleepy.

Continue, et al. These thoughts more or less cycled in my mind for the next two hours. Don't get me wrong, I was having fun. But it's the kind of fun that you have when you, say... run three miles. It's fun you have to work at having.

Really though, I was surprised at how comfortable I was. Even after the drunk guy spilled beer down my front, I didn't freak out. I didn't panic at the close quarters. I occasionally even got lost in the music.

And then? When Troll came out?

I remembered why I was there.

Because folks, Mumiy Troll is freaking AWESOME. And I mean that in every way possible. They're freaks. They're awesome. They're awesome freaks. They're freakishly awesome. They're awesomely freakish.

And I love them.

The lead singer gets a look on his face that's a cross between Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp - the illegitimate child of Roald Dahl's writing and Tim Burton's movies. It's a look that says, "I'm crazy, I know it, and I like it." A come hither look that might scare small children.

Dr. Garza says he's a really nice guy who is also fluent in Chinese and English.

I'm not sure that any of these pictures truly capture his mood, but they were the best I could do under the circumstances. I had been afraid to take my real camera, and thus took my point and shoot. Which would have been find, had I realized that I had more than a 128mb memory card in it. That last one almost gets it.

But I think you'd have to have been there.

Either way, when Troll started playing, I suddenly understood exactly why I was there. It didn't matter that I didn't understand most of the words - though I understood more than I expected. It didn't matter that I was surrounded by people who were speaking in Russian, by a band singing in Russian, when really, my working Russian right now consists of, "Please, Excuse me, where is the bank/hotel/bathroom/store, thank-you very much," and "Hello, nice to meet you! Is this your purse, or is it mine? My mother is a veterinarian. Is this the bank/hotel/bathroom/store?"

I am, of course, exaggerating. I am amazed every day at how much we are covering in our intensive course. But for all intents and purposes, my ability to understand rapidly spoken native Russian is still only marginally better than my ability to understand Elfish. (Elfin?) (Elflishness?)

The POINT is, that it didn't matter. Because when they play, they go somewhere. That place musicians go. And as a musician, whenever I see that, I can't help but go along.

Before long, I found myself bouncing up and down with all of the Russians.

I did not, however, attempt to sing along.

I don't yet trust myself not to be insulting.

There is just something really amazing about going to a concert where you don't know what they're singing about. About immersing yourself in a foreign language. As a musician, I think it really enabled me to go with them... to appreciate the syllables, the vocal nuances, that would have been lost on me in English.

As a Russian student, it was just really cool to stand there and imagine myself in Moscow next year.

The band finished a bit before 1, and I headed out to attempt to get back home. With some text message guiding from Erica, I made it onto the bus and back to the parking garage. Thinking that I'd managed the hard part, I went to pay. But the machine wouldn't take my ten dollar bill. So I walked to the ATM to get another. But the ATM was broken. So I kicked and screamed.

Then called security and made them let me out.

Then I got a cheeseburger. 

It's nice that there's 24 hour food downtown. We just don't have that in North Austin.

I made it home by 3, then showered, and fell into bed for my two hours of sleep before having to get up and go to class this morning.

Exhausted? Yes. Coherent? Barely. But worth it?

Da. Ochen balshoy Da.


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