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Rock in Any Language: Rare concert fills puppet theater with rockers

By Vahan Ishkhanyan
ArmeniaNow reporter
Source: http://www.armenianow.com/2003/december19/arts/rock/

What do rock music and a puppet theater have in common? In Yerevan last Monday "Mind Power" rock festival gave an answer to that question. Simply, the hall was free for use, so rockers took the place of puppets.

Six Armenian groups sought to slake the thirst of their young rock music addicts, who rarely get live concerts. Since independence, few Western rock groups have visited Yerevan and only occasionally have there been concerts by Armenian rock bands.

Monday's audience mainly consisted of teenagers and young adults, who only a few years ago were young enough for visiting the theater to see puppets perform. The bravest of them used the free space between chairs and stage for moving their heads to the rhythms of music with their forefingers and little fingers extended forward.

The rock bands were of different styles but had one thing in common: they were singing in English and Russian. Only two songs were sung in Armenian. One musician explained that they are singing in English because their songs are not oriented to an Armenian-speaking audience, which is quite small. Another musician explained that in reality Armenian rock doesn't exist like Russian rock, which was formed as a genre.

Mark Rolich, 23-year old vocalist of "Dom", a band that follows traditions of Russian rock, said that he is Russian and therefore he writes lyrics in Russian. Rolich says in the neatest future he plans to leave for Russia, where he will find his "real audience".

With the appearance of the band, MDP, it became clear that language isn't what moves a crowd, but hard and progressive rock. The capacity audience of about 300 had little room to move, but came out of its seats in ecstatic response.

"There is a tradition that rock must necessarily express protest," says MDP guitarist Henrik Grigoryan. "However, that protest easily turns into show business. Doubt is the ideology of our music and followers will appear later as only now we've started creating a rock movement."

Another veteran of Armenian rock music was EMPYRAY band. After their performance all efforts of the audience to demand an encore were in vain as time for performing at the festival was equally divided between beginners and veterans. After the 90s, when many Armenian rock groups split, EMPYRAY was one of those rare bands that survived the "unplugged" days of the energy crisis and stayed in Armenia, continuing to create music.

The festival was organized by MDP (www.mdp.am), whose members opened a recording studio in the Puppet Theater.

"A rock concert is a very expensive thing and it cannot cover its expenses," says bass guitar player of MDP Vardan Grigoryan. "We couldn't rent a better hall and pay for electricity. Here the hall is free of charge, but we used so much electricity that even famous singers cannot afford so much."

Concert tickets cost 1500 drams (about $2.60), which will go to the Puppet Theater.

Members of MDP say that in Armenia rock is on the level of singing in clubs and around bonfires. Their goal, they say, is to raise it up to the professional level when bands will be performing more concerts.

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