I don’t quite remember when I heard them for the first time: if it was on the radio, or if it was some recorded concert playing on TV. But I do remember tanning on the beach that summer by a shallow river in my hometown in Siberia and listening to them on my Walkman cassette player. It was kind of chilly outside, around low 70’s, but I did not care. I had just somehow gotten the new album of my favorite band and I was sinking into the low vibrations of the lead singer’s voice. Playing the song I liked most over and over and over… trying to understand the meaning of the words “piet drugih devchonok sok, poet im pesni” (he’s drinking juice of other girls and singing to them). I was 13. Of course the band had a male singer. Of course he was hot. And of course he ended up being my childhood crush. But Mumiy Troll was way more for me than a frivolous teenage obsession. My pure devoted love for them has lasted for 17 years.
The first show I went to was a mess: thousands of people, and me and my friend in the middle of the crowd. Jumping, yelling every song out loud, like our lives depended on it. I was carried away from my friend in the fanatic madness. I couldn’t move; there was just no room to. There was no separation between bodies; we were so jammed into each other, that when the wave of movement came, I was just carried along with it. All the same songs, loved by so many people: beat and rhythm and Iliya’s touching voice. I ended up breaking a heel on my boots at that show. In Russia we wear heels just about everywhere.
It took me some time to collect myself back together afterwards. My friend was nowhere to be found and I decided to wait for people to clear out, after the lights went back on. There were maybe just a few hundred or so of us left at the venue. And there he was again: my crush, on the stage of the now well-lit venue, with the stage lights and projectors off, wearing a white, half-buttoned shirt with the sleeves rolled up, singing my favorite song “Delfini” (Dolphins). No band. No drums. Just acoustic guitar and his mesmerizing low voice almost whispering, “Tonesh, tonesh, ne potonesh, ti slomaeshsya odnazhdi.” (Drowning, drowning, never really drowning, one day you will break apart). I have been waiting for that one song all night. Up until this moment, I still have no idea what made him come back on stage again. But to the 17 year old fan seeing my idol that close was like a miracle.
I don’t think being a true fan means obsessing over something 24/7. Time flew by, I was getting older, and of course my music tastes didn’t stop at one band. Yet somehow Mumiy Troll always felt precious to my heart. They were a part of me, carrying so many of my stories: even miles and oceans away from home, the warm memories of familiar tunes kept me smiling through stormy days.
It must have been my second year in the US; I was about to turn 21, when I found out MT would be playing at the Webster Hall. Here in New York, Russian bands do not rock stadiums, but their shows do get sold out in smaller venues. That night I was in the front row, holding on to the gate separating me from the stage. First ones to get there and the last ones to leave, with no bathroom breaks: we were committed to be at the front.
“MU-MIY-TROOL! MU-MIY-TROOL!” Punga showed up on stage and ran to take his seat at the drum set. Zhenya Sdvig walked towards his bass, waving to the excited crowd. Then Yura came along. A new member of the band, not sure what his name was, awkwardly trotted on stage. “MU-MIY-TROLL! MU-MIY-TROLL!” We kept on, impatiently loud and cheerful. After testing our enthusiasm enough, Iliya finally danced his way on to the stage, with an ear-to-ear smile and sparkling eyes. It was like I was back into my childhood again, unwrapping the most desired Christmas present. I still remembered the words to every song and was singing at the top of my lungs. But this time I wasn’t lost in the crowd, carried away by its motions. This time I was holding on strongly to the cold metal, fighting for my spot by the stage. The crowds are merciless –you give up your spot, you lose it — and so they were pushing hard into my back, leaning their weight against me.
One of the reasons I love seeing Mumiy Troll live is because part of their shows is interacting with the crowd. Even though it is a set number and order of songs, the energy is often created by how motivated the band is to play and how well they support the dialogue with the crowd. The signature part of that communication for Mumiy Troll is giving one of the secondary mics to the public for a female part in “Medveditsa” (Great Bear). Well: guess who was the lucky girl that night? As the song began and the crowd realized it was “Medvedica,” Iliya handed the mic right to me. Of course my first reaction was to freeze, but that didn’t last long, and as the song continued I started singing, “V slezah parnishka, emy sovrala ya nemnozhko” (The boy is crying; I lied to him a little). My friends joined me shortly after the first two lines, but our group had the mic for the whole song and got a taste of live karaoke with Mumiy Troll. That experience was so surreal. I could not contain my happiness; that night I conquered the World and was crowned The Queen.
Seventeen years is a long time to be loyal to one band. The meaning of that same lyric to “Devochka” (The Girl) that I could not figure out when I was 13 has changed multiple times. Now when I go to their shows I simply observe the scene from the back of the venue, staying away from crowds; I have become more mature, but I am still a little crazy about Mumiy Troll. Every time they come to NYC I am there as a true supportive fan, geared up with perfect knowledge of the lyrics to most of their songs.
Mumiy Troll and I have been through a lot – from my Walkman cassette player on the beach in Siberia, to singing along with my childhood crush on the island of Manhattan. From the first love and tears, to relationships, and break-ups, and new relationships. From listening to one song on repeat to chasing after the lead singer to get a picture with him. From 13 to now 30. Throughout my life one thing has stayed constant: the warm velvet voice of Mumiy Troll brings me a feeling of belonging — and reminds me where I am from, when I feel lost.
Diana Athena started to develop an interest in writing as a teenager, writing poems and short stories. After moving to New York from Russia when she was 19 years old, Diana has rediscovered her passion for using the art of words to express herself and has started exploring writing in English. After performing one of her poems as her monologue in an acting class and receiving positive feedback from her acting coach, Diana knew that writing was her calling. Diana is currently working on getting her AA in creative writing at LaGuardia Community College.