Frontman from “Human factor” plays “Simbioz”

katushkin-at-symbiozSaturday I scoured the dvors (apartment building yards) of the Nevsky shoreline for a half-hour under the pouring rain to hear Gusha Katushkin of “Ensemble imeni chelovecheskogo faktora,” which could be translated as “Ensemble in the name of the human factor.”

Katushkin was playing at the “Simbioz” club that just opened up in the basement of Palace Embankment 22.  The place is still only half-constructed — when I ventured into the recesses of the catacomb-like club in search of a toilet, I found an abandoned bar, groups of people clustered around candles and some workmen watching Soviet films amid the detritus of serious renovation — and the entrance is unmarked, through a red door and down some stairs half obscured by piles of bricks and plastic sheeting.

But the numerous trials we faced, including subjugation to the incongruously erotic “wax-on, wax-off” dance performed by a grinning, flamboyant concertgoer in black leather gloves, were worth it.  Katushkin’s “avtorskaya” music (kind of like singer-songwriter music, only minus the latte-fueled half-passionate musings and yuppie/hipster ennue) is sentimental but grounded in enough daily banality to make it grittily real.  Plus a sense of humor; one so-called “love song” was aptly titled “Chainsaw.”

On the underground hit “Virginia Slims,” Katushkin sings about making gallant advances toward a beautiful girl, only to be shot down with these two English words: “Why are you smoking, you’re a queen! … So what’s your name?  ‘Virginia Slims’.”

And indeed all the songs were underground hits, thanks to a group of slathering fans gathered closely around in the tiny concert room.  The gang, led by a gold-toothed 50-something woman with a bad sort of ’80s lesbo cut, hummed every word alongside Kathushkin, and a good thing, too, since he was forgetting lines by the end of the 2+ hour concert.

By this time he’d had quite a few beers and several swigs from the safari-chic leather-strapped flask slung over the back of his chair (“Why try to hide it?” he giggled to the audience as he took a slug).  And maybe something before the concert, as well, judging by his manic, cheshire-cat smile and “ukurenniye glaza” (blazed look and squinty eyes).  Of course, this may well be his natural state.  I mean, the man sings songs based on children’s literature and laughs with the nervous consistency of a 15-horse motor that kicks and sputters, too full of fuel, then dies out suddenly.


One Response to “Frontman from “Human factor” plays “Simbioz””

  1. Stephen Streed Says:

    This one is actually quite good. A very nice single-malt scotch, worth sipping slowly.

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