Fifty Years of Riffs

Moscow Times, Russia
July 30, 2004

Fifty Years of Riffs

British and Russian bands honor a legendary guitar at a free festival

By Sergey Chernov

The Fender Stratocaster — the guitar of choice for all
self-respecting rock stars — celebrates its half-century this year.
And to mark the anniversary, over 20 bands from Britain and St.
Petersburg will take the stage in the Miller Fender Fest, a large
open-air event on Saturday.

The free event on Bolotnaya Ploshchad is one of an international
series of concerts held to mark the guitar’s 50th birthday, and will
showcase four British bands — King Adora, Mystery Juice, Gold Blade,
and Kaiser Chiefs — as well as top Russian acts on a total of five

The legendary electric guitar was designed by American inventor Leo
Fender in 1954. He was later quoted as saying that it was his attempt
to “design the best instrument in the world, once and for all.” Since
then it has been played by musicians including Eric Clapton, Buddy
Holly, Hank Marvin and Bob Dylan.

For John Robb, singer and guitarist of Manchester punk band Gold
Blade, who will perform on the main stage, the instrument is
associated with one star. “I think of Jimi Hendrix and it makes me
feel really good,” he wrote in an e-mail last week. “He was the
genius who made the Fender Strat great.” Robb chooses a Telecaster
himself, but the band uses Strats on some of their songs.

Meanwhile, another participant, Sergei Voronov of Moscow-based
blues-rock band Crossroadz, strums a guitar once owned by Keith
Richards of the Rolling Stones. While on tour in New York in 1988, a
session drummer introduced Voronov to Richards, according to
Crossroadz’s official biography. The rhythm guitarist invited him to
join him in the studio, and then gave him the 1959 instrument.

While celebrating the famous instrument, the festival does not lay
down a hard-and-fast rule about playing only Fender Stratocasters,
and the music will not focus on the classic rock that is primarily
associated with the Strat, instead ranging from ska to psychobilly
and electronic.

The British participants bring their own highly distinctive sounds.
Mystery Juice, from Edinburgh, plays a psychedelic mixture of blues,
hip-hop and Gaelic fiddle, while Birmingham’s King Adora performs
updated glam rock, complete with the dramatic makeup. The indie-rock
band Kaiser Chiefs, from Leeds, has drawn comparisons with Britain’s
recent music sensation Franz Ferdinand.

The Russian bands, most of whom hail from St. Petersburg, are even
more diverse in style. Markscheider Kunst performs Afro-Cuban style
with Russian lyrics, while Billy’s Band took its original inspiration
from Tom Waits, but has adapted his cabaret rock for domestic
consumption. Deadushki combines electronica and punk, and
Moscow-based Deti Picasso blends rock with Armenian folk.

“The main idea was to represent different acts that use a guitar one
way or another,” the festival’s co-promoter Dmitry Sidorov said last
week. “That may be music of different styles, including those using
electronic and ethnic elements.”

The Miller Fender Fest starts on Saturday at 1 p.m. on Bolotnaya
Ploshchad. Metro Tretyakovskaya. Info at