Club History III (1997-2001) - Face Control
Another type of nightlife came to Moscow from 1997-1999, completely different from the epoch of Titanic, Utopia and Manhattan clubs. There were fewer gunshots; the bandits and "Noviye Russkiiye" (The New Russians) were replaced by Bohemian youngsters and the beautiful people. But the club culture became more exclusive, available only to a minority.
Text and photos by Elena Krivovyaz
The age of rave parties came to an end. Nobody expected the crisis that burst on the country in 1998, so Moscow spent money as if there was no tomorrow. The year 1997 introduced glamour to the exalted masses. It was in fashion to be rich, an idler with a sense of humour and a master degree in sciences. That year the Jazz Café was opened – a brand new dwelling-place for this strange society and some other people as well. The club was owned by some Yugoslavians, Sinischa Lazarevich who became famous for his Zima, Leto and Osen projects (clubs he opened during 2002-2004). “I can still recall how it was, - says Dmitry Shalya, the editor-in-chief of “Ne Spat!” magazine (“Stay awake!”) and promoter of numerous clubs during the 1990s and 2000s. “Misha the Yugoslavian used to do our face control. He had to decide who would get in and who would stay outside. He kept a kind of balance: some bohemian people, fifty or more young and beautiful models and the rest were respectable people who happened to be sponsors for the models. Expats were frequent guests of the Jazz Café and they were always welcomed. Misha’s technique was to look at people’s shoes. So shoe manufacturers should thank Sinischa Lazarevich for helping to grow their businesses,” Dmitry laughs.
Jazz Café was very successful during its first two years, but the crisis of 1998 spoiled the glamorous paradise. “We had to close the venue in 2001 for some banal reasons”, explains Vlado Ostoich, one of Jazz Café founders. “There was a church in the neighbourhood and some inhabitants complained because of the loud noise. Club life in Moscow was different at that time because we didn’t want to empty our clients’ pockets as is being done in the clubs at present.”
These were not the only reasons why Jazz Café disappeared. It cleared the way for the new clubbers’ favourite jaunts. They were Zeppelin Club and XIII. They opened in 1999 and became competitors to each other. XIII appeared in early spring and started a tradition of masquerade parties which was taken up with huge enthusiasm. The club was decorated in a special way every weekend. On Friday for instance, it housed freaks and clowns and on Saturday ghosts. It was XIII that brought the tradition of celebrating Halloween to Moscow. The clubbers remember those days with nostalgia, when Myasnitskaya street where the club was located, was choc-a-bloc with cars and with people in strange costumes on the 31st of October.
In December 1999, the Zeppelin Club opened and took some of XIII’s audienceit. Zeppelin was in the Gilyarovsky (the famous early 20th century Russian author of “Moscow and the Muscovites”) mansion. There was no kind of masquerade as in XIII but the air was bohemian and the people were not occasional visitors: almost all of them were the friends of the owners or their friends’ friends… It was not that easy to decide for a clubber where to go: to XIII or to Zeppelin? To Zeppelin or to XIII? Most of them ended up visiting both clubs during one night.
If you couldn’t get in to any of these clubs you could try your chances in Propaganda. This club opened in the middle of nineties in Kitai-Gorod, and housed techno and house parties which were new to Moscow at the time (surprisingly they are popular even now). It wasn’t as glamorous and unconventional as the famous XIII or Zeppelin, but it didn’t welcome ‘inappropriately’ dressed visitors either.
These clubs started the tradition of free entrance for special people. The words “face control” explained it all. Not every expat was let inside: they had to be stylishly dressed and good looking to the police-like face control men. The result was that the clubs became semiexclusive.
One of the late-nineties clubs in action
This semi-exclusivity led to these two clubs’ ruin. The face control toughies couldn’t control exactly who came in, they wanted the rich, beautiful and bohemian bunch, but this wasn’t possible without attracting a lot of other people too. The rich and beautiful mob who regularly patronised such venues objected to a mixture of ‘ordinary’ people. The owners felt that the concept of selective entry itself was at fault, and both clubs closed in the early 2000s, paradoxically when they were at the peak of their popularity.
XIII tried to re-open in 2005 but in two or three years it was forgotten because of the appearance of a new generation of fascinating clubs.
Which ones – see Clubs IV.