Vladivostok is 6,500 km away from Moscow - but the flight from Japan takes only an hour. Korea and China are even closer. Every restaurant has sushi and Chinese rice on the menu, and street vendors sell traditional Korean hot pies. But there is very little Asian music; the city’s airwaves are dominated by Russian pop catering to a rather low common denominator.
Ilya Lagutenko, frontman of the legendary Russian rock band Mumiy Troll, is determined to address that particular problem. He has been instrumental in organizing the V-ROX festival, and he personally invited bands from Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan and even the western seaboard of the United States to attend the event.
Goonamguayeoridingstella (Shadow Dance). Source: YouTube
He has an impressive ambition of turning Vladivostok into a music capital of the Pacific. The plan is to help Russian bands become better recognized in the Far Eastern countries, and vice versa.
Success of the venture is uncertain; it may well take three or five attempts to get the ball rolling. But Woodstock, too used to be just a small rural town before the 1969 festival. Lagutenko hopes to turn Vladivostok into something of a Pacific Vladiwoodstock.
The secret fans of Alice Cooper
Vladivostok is a city of impressive musical traditions, including the underground variety. Back in the 1970s Vladivostok was always the first in the Soviet Union to get its hands on the latest Western LP records brought by merchant fleet sailors returning from overseas voyages.
Earlier this year the city installed a statue of a 1980s sailor on the corner of Okeanicheskiy Boulevard and Admiral Fokin Street. The sailor wears jeans, in line with the latest fashion of that time, and clutches a bunch of Western LPs.
"Our stomping ground was the Minny Compound Park," says Aleksandr Gorodniy, head of the Art-etazh modern arts gallery. "We would often end up at the police station because nobody liked us being there."
Alice Cooper himself was amazed by Gorodniy’s collection entitled "A Book of Jeans" when he was on a tour in Vladivostok. Gorodniy lovingly copied, by hand, the jackets of hundreds of Western LPs, and collected dozens of articles about rock stars.
"Look at this, pups," Cooper told his band. "You weren’t even born when I already had fans in Vladivostok!"
This, then, was a 30-year history of love for Western rock music. And then the Asians arrived.
Enough place in the sun for everyone
The biggest star of the gig on the central square of Vladivostok was undoubtedly Mumiy Troll itself. Everyone in the city loves the band.
Adoration turned to ecstasy when Lagutenko performed his famous Vladivostok-2000, which has long become the unofficial anthem of the city.
Vladivostok 2000. Mumiy Troll. Source: YouTube
The song is a powerful glam-rock item worthy of Marc Bolan and his T.Rex band. It gave goose bumps to everyone present on the square – the Russians, the Americans, and the Asians as well.
But probably the most exciting performance of the entire festival was delivered by P.K.14, with their rough alternative guitar music.
During the band's fourth song a pouring rain began. The equipment was close to being inundated. People were dancing barefoot on the square.
The frontman of Tumanny Ston, a cult punk band from Vladivostok, a large sun-tanned guy with a lizard pattern on his shaven head, was dancing with a cigar in his mouth, in dripping-wet T-shirt, in huge puddles of water.
The organizers offered to stop the concert, but Yang Haisong, frontman of the Chinese underground rock band P.K.14, replied, "I will keep singing until the sun comes out."
And as soon as his guitar player delivered the final few strings, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds.
A typical Californian-style rainbow appeared over the bridge cross the Golden Horn bay, which looks strikingly similar to San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge.
Nobody understood a word of what Yang Haisong was singing, apart from a dozen visiting Chinese journalists. But the sun was shining on everyone.
Read the full version of this article at RBTH Asia Pacific.