Legends in their own bedrooms: why apartment gigs are back

The old Russian tradition of staging concerts in ordinary flats gets a new lease of life in St. Petersburg and Moscow as city dwellers grow increasingly dissatisfied with the musical choices on offer.

The history of flat parties in Saint-Petersburg dates back to the beginning of the 19th century, when the brightest representatives of Russian high society organised ‘music salons’.
 
The tradition was kept alive during Soviet times, when 'unauthorized' rock musicians performed at flat parties, or ‘kvartirniks’.
 
As a consequence, many Russian rock stars began their careers in apartments, where ‘anarchy’ was the watchword.
 
Nowadays flat concerts are much more calm and sober affairs.  As a rule, alcoholic drinks are banned and parties rarely go on later than 10 pm.
 
The audience usually find out about flat concerts on the Internet.
 

Kirill Komarov performing at Gorokhovsky's flat
Kirill Komarov performing at Gorokhovsky's flat

Dmitry Gorokhovsky’s home in St. Petersburg turns into a concert hall almost every night. People of different ages gather there, united by a love for live music in the cosy atmosphere of an old flat.
 
“The kind of music which is performed at my place is very rare. It's not presented in clubs or on TV shows,” Dmitry says.
 
Kirill Komarov is one of the musicians who love performing in this flat.
 
“Saint-Petersburg is a city of creative people. Every second person is a musician here and every third is a poet or an artist ”, he says.
 
And ‘kvartirniks’ are growing in popularity, largely because of the excitement of being so close to the performers.  
 
Meanwhile, Moscow flat parties seem to be more relaxed and glamorous.
 
Dionisios Buzos, an American citizen of Greek origin, has been living in Moscow for many years.  
 
He invites The Yale Whiffenpoofs, a male choir from America, to his gay-friendly flat party. The acappella group is famous for its large repertoire, ranging from classical masterpieces to jazz and pop standards.
 
The audience are largely made up of ex-pats living in Moscow for many years.  Some even remember those semi-legal concerts during Soviet times.
 
They say it's like the old days all over again.
 
Some cultural commentators say the tradition of flat concerts is being revived in Russia as a protest against mainstream pop music.