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Russia: Washington Apple Growers Back Rock Festival For Vladivostok

  • Bruce Keppel

Bellingham, Washington; 30 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- A quarter of a century after the Woodstock rock music festival helped define an era of social liberation among young Americans, Vladi-ROCK-stok is about to materialize in the Russian Far East.

For 12 hours on Saturday, September 21, the Dynamo football stadium overlooking the bay at Vladivostok will swing to the sounds of half a dozen rock bands from Russia and the Seattle area of the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

On the Russian side are Moscow's pioneering group Aquarium, which traces its roots back to the Woodstock era, and the popular D-D-T, a youth-oriented group that emerged during the peristroika period with a combination of hard rock and protest lyrics.

Vladivostok is represented by two of its most popular bands -- Butter Smile Blues, which combines a psychedelic atmosphere and blues sounds, and Karamassoff Bike, whose style draws from jazz, rock and rhythm and blues.

The Seattle-based bands include the Posies, currently touring Europe, whose sound ranges from melodic to harsh; the Supersuckers with their trademark cowboy hats and a rowdy and fun-loving style; and Goodness, a quintet composed of two women and three men.

Vladi-ROCK-stok -- '96 is the brainchild of two young American businessmen. Dan Gotham and Dave Poritzky, both in their mid-twenties, have worked in Vladivostok for three years lining up private companies to sponsor local football teams through their own company, Taigra Productions, headquartered in Seattle, Washington, and Vladivostok.

During a discussion last summer, the idea emerged of launching an annual rock festival bringing together musicians from Russia and Seattle, the U.S. gateway to the Russian Far East.

The festival would celebrate the opening of the Russian Far East -- and especially the formerly closed military city of Vladivostok -- to the rest of the world. They saw a rock festival as a way of "giving back" to Vladivostok some of what the city and region had given their young company.

Also present at that discussion, Taigra's Seattle-based assistant Tiffany Markey told RFE/RL, was a representative of the Washington State Apple Commission, Michael McGloin. His enthusiasm for the project proved significant, because launching a festival requires money.

The Washington Apple Commission is a marketing organization owned by 3,500 private apple-growers. The commission is paying the costs of organizing the festival, which Markey said will benefit three areas of the Russian Far East -- the Russian Children's Fund, the emerging Vladivostok arts scene, and a campaign by the organization Friends of the Earth to save the Siberian tiger from threatened extinction.

Washington's apple growers view the Russian Far East as their newest and fastest-growing market, spokesman Jim Thomas told RFE/RL. Sales of Washington state apples have exploded from nothing at all just three years ago to 10 million kilos last year. And, significantly for Vladi-ROCK-stok -- '96, many of those buyers are under age 35. So for the commission, sponsoring a rock festival makes perfect sense as a way to reach those potential apple buyers.

Thomas says the apple growers view the Russian Far East as a market ripe for development. It is, he says, similar to the fast-growing Pacific Rim markets to the south, from China to Indonesia and the Philippines.

The Russian Far East offers, he says, "good ports, lots of natural resources, precious metals -- all the ingredients needed to fuel a market economy. Our strategy is to get in on the ground floor and grow with the market."

Tickets for Vladi-rock-stok--'96 are on sale in Vladivostok and Seattle.