Monday, 28 May 2007

Review: Krysha Mira (Крыша Мира)

Opening Hours: Club: Fri/Sat midnight-very late. Restaurant during the day/early evening
Category: Ultra-Exclusive, Post-Party, Summer
Feis Kontrol Rating: Ultra-Tough- 5/5
Address: Tarasa Shevchenko Nab., along from Hotel Ukraine, in the old Badaevsky factory.
Phone: +7 (495) 203-6008/6556
Website: N/A

Krysha Mira, a stunning rooftop nightclub next to the Moscow River, is Moscow's top club of the moment. It's penchant for secrecy and passcodes, its ultra-tight feis kontrol, and it's inconvenient location have people breathlessly talking about the "legend" of Krysha. In reality, it's a fantastic club with excellent music, great design, a beautiful crowd of interesting people, reasonably priced drinks, and THE place to be for sunrise and beyond on a weekend, but for all that- it is just a nightclub.

To find Krysha, drive along the Tarasa Shevchenko Nab. , passing the Hotel Ukraine on your left. About 500m further on, you'll see some cars parked, and a guy with a clipboard standing at the base of some decrepit metal stairs.

Once through Feis Kontrol, at the top of the stairs is a deserted yard. You must cross the yard, climb more stairs, pass through an unmarked steel door, and climb another unfinished concrete staircase before you even begin to see any indication that you're in a happening nightspot. Is that a coatcheck or some other cruel illusion? Once you eventually reach the second floor the fun begins.

The lower floor of Krysha contains a dimly-lit bar surrounded by lounges, and another corridor leading to an outstanding ruby-lit chillout room with big white divans. The upper floor is where the action is, an airy open space covered by a tented roof and glass walls. The open-air deck is huge, and in summer hosts couches, cabanas, and plenty of places to recline and relax. If relaxing is not your style, excellent DJ's on both floors play a creative mix of house and electronica, with none of the standard Russky-pop or top-40 mixes played at Moscow's Mega-clubs.

Krysha strives to host a more eclectic crowd than other Moscow venues, and to have a slightly "artsy" bent. In practice, this means the usual mix of tall models, Moscow party people, and outsiders who've reserved tables, but also that the crowd tends to be a little older and better dressed than clubs like Opera, and there are more of Moscow's version of an "alternative" crew. In any case, Krysha draws the biggest celebrities, the hottest models, and the who's who of the Moscow nightlife scene, so the people-watching is exceptional.

The bar staff are knowledgable, friendly, and efficient. The drink prices are more reasonable than many clubs, although the cocktail selection (particularly upstairs) is limited.

An evening at Krysha tends to flow in several waves, as the pre-2am lounge scene morphs into a wild club scene around 2-4am, then a slight lull until the real afterparty gets going by 5am (the busiest times at the door are around 4-6am), and the roof is packed with a rocking DJ until well after 10am. The highlight of a night at Krysha is witnessing the sunrise from the roof deck, lounging in a cabana, champagne in hand, watching the first rays of the sun hit the Moscow City towers across the river. The glow of the morning, the bizarre juxtaposition of the river views, the new shining towers, and the dilapidated factory all around you, while shiny happy people rock to the beat of a new day is a defining Moscow experience.

A lot has been said about Krysha's Feis Kontrol, and while it is probably the toughest in the city, it's consistently and fairly applied (at least compared to some places). Krysha has a strict system of entry. A passcode is sent to their list every night, and anyone with the passcode who is on the list is generally admitted. If you're not on this list, have no influential friends already inside, and you're not Krysha's target market, you're likely to be out of luck. Unfortunately, one of my major gripes about this club is that they maintain such strict feis kontrol that the club (especially downstairs) is often left half-empty, while scores of people are turned away.

Apart from that, what's not to like about Krysha? My only other gripe is that the reputation of the club and the uber-strict feis kontrol gives some clubgoers an aura of entitlement, meaning the crowd at Krysha isn't as friendly as some other venues.

Ultimately, Krysha is a fantastic venue and an excellent night out. It provides a welcome alternative to Moscow's Megaclubs, and is the summer nightclub of choice.

Note: Krysha is often transliterated as Krisha Mira. Same place.

Review: Kak Na Kanarakh (Как На Канарах)

Opening Hours: 7 Days, noon-last guest
Category: Summer, Lounge
Feis Kontrol Rating: Light- 2/5
Address: Pushkinskaya Nab., right next to the Andreevsky pedestrian bridge. M: Leninskiy Prospekt
Phone: +7 (495) 223 1758
Website: N/A

Kak Na Kanarakh ("Just like the Canary Islands") is one of Moscow's first beach clubs to open this summer. It is a floating deck moored just off the Pushkinskaya Nab., with two swimming pools, a delightful open deck area, and a covered dining/lounge area. It's open on almost all sides to spectacular views of the Moscow River and nearby bridge and park.

It's located behind Gorky Park, and can be reached either from Leninskiy Prospekt or over the Andreevsky pedestrian bridge from Frunzenskaya Nab. Either way will require a bit of a walk, unless you have a car and ask the guard (if present) to open the gate for you from Leninskiy Prospect and let them know you're going to Kak Na Kanarakh. Otherwise, you'll have to walk the last half kilometre yourself.

Upon arrival, some sweeping concrete driveways lead you down to a wide open space dotted with tents and lounges and a bar on your left, while on your right lie the scenic portable toilets, and a ramp leading down to the floating pontoons. The first pontoon contains a large covered area of tables and sofas, where people can dine or drink in the shade, while the second contains two good-sized swimming pools and a number of lounges for people to recline and enjoy the sun. The restaurant has an interesting and reasonably priced menu.

Kak Na Kanarakh has been open for a couple of weeks, but had its launch party to announce itself as an evening destination on Saturday.

Unfortunately, it was nothing like the Canary Islands (or maybe it was- in which case I don't plan to be vacationing in the Canary Islands anytime soon).

Given its design and location, Kak Na Kanarakh is destined to become a daytime location to pleasantly while away the hours in the sun, but if it seriously hopes to be an evening venue with any pull, it has a LONG way to go.

To start with, the long walk from Leninsky Prospekt is unlit and I feel sorry for any poor devushka trying to negotiating the hill and distance in her kabluki in the darkness.

The venue lacked any atmosphere whatsoever. While the crowd was a well-connected set of Moscow party people, the faint sounds from a poorly-chosen music mix located on the shore barely penetrated the lounge or pool area, leaving people looking genuinely bored (rather than just affecting boredom).

The bar staff were poorly trained, could not make several basic drinks even early in the evening, and ran out of alcohol completely shortly after midnight.

An ill-placed laser conspired to blind people coming from the lounge to pool area, causing them to nearly fall in the water, while the pools themselves (a perfect location for cool lighting effects) were practically unlit.

Should the music, alcohol, and lighting situation be fixed, there is some hope for Kak Na Kanarakh as an evening venue, and a planned ferry service may assist, but until I hear favorable reviews from those brave enough to make the trek, I'll be staying away.


Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Review: Dyagilev (Дягилев)

Opening Hours: Fri/Sat 12am - ~6am (Sometimes Thu)
Category: Megaclub, Ultra-Exclusive
Feis Kontrol Rating: Tough- 4/5
Address: Karetniy Ryad 3, Sad Hermitage. M: Pushkinskaya/Chekovskaya
Phone: +7 (495)/790-7400
Website: N/A


Dyagilev, the replacement for Leto/Osen/Zima, is nestled in the Hermitage Gardens and is one of the best-known nightclubs on the Moscow club scene. Opened in early 2006, it ruled Moscow's Megaclub scene for over a year and is still going strong. Although challenged by newer upstart Rai and a revitalized Opera, legendary Feis Kontroler Pasha and those incredible Dyagilev promo girls keep the crowds coming.

To get to Dyagilev, enter the main gates of the Hermitage Gardens nestled between the Bulvar and Sadovaya, and veer left, bypassing the garish facade of Parizhskaya Zhizn (Paris Life) to arrive at what looks like the entrance to a shed, watched over by hulking security people and a diminutive character in a hat- the legendary Pasha Face Control.

Pasha has been a legend on the Moscow club scene for years, he has been Feis Kontrol at most "it" nightclubs in Moscow at some point, and to some degree his presence at the club designated what club was "the" Moscow Club. He has graced all of Goroby/Lazarevich's venues (Shambala/Leto/Osen/Zima), as well as JetSet and others. He even has songs written about him.

Those not confident of passing Pasha's scrutiny not only have the ability (as at most clubs) to reserve tables from ~$2,000-$20,000, but they may choose to dine during the week at one of Moscow's trendy restaurants (eg Aist, Indus, Gallereya, Nedalny Vostok) and hope to score an invitation/CD, distributed by Dyagilev's promoters who tour the restaurants. These provide an additional phone number for access to the club for the holder and their guests (although as always, Feis Kontrol has the final say).

If you make it pass Pasha, you'll find yourself in a neverending corridor which ends up in a nondescript circular basement, off which the bathrooms (30RUB- wtf?) and a chill-out room radiate, and twin staircases heading up to the club proper. At this point you'll probably wonder what all the fuss is about.

Upon climbing the stairs, Dyagilev is revealed as a cavernous space (currently decorated in a summer palmtree theme), with a central dancefloor surrounded by tiered levels of tables, the obligatory VIP section, and plenty of perches for scantily-clad dancing girls. The stairs emerge underneath a central catwalk, upon which a mixture of semi-theatrical, acrobatic, or just plain burlesque shows are staged.

Dyagilev is a feast for the senses, a visually rich club with a mixture of see-and-be-seen wide open spaces and tantalizing nooks and crannies. The DJ's play a standard mix of dance, light house, top-40, Russky-pop, and anything that happens to be popular, although occasionally more edgy DJ's are imported. The crowd tends to be a little older, although substantially the same as the other Megaclubs, and they generally opt to dance more and preen less than at Rai.

The Dyagilev crowd is both one of the great positives and negatives about this nightclub. While the crowd is generally gorgeous and friendly, there tend to be way too many flatheads and hookers, not to mention a few of both sexes who are a little too far past their clubbing prime. Additionally, the club pays young models to simply dance and mingle with the crowd, which depending on your point of view, could be regarded as false advertising.

While at Dyagilev, clubbers can expect to be showered with confetti, treated to acrobats and dancing shows, propositioned by a wide range of people of both sexes, and generally have a damn good time.

Ultimately, Dyagilev is one of Moscow's best and most professional nightclubs, with an experienced team providing an excellent night out with a fun and glamorous crowd at an extraordinary venue. While it may have lost some of its edge, there is no clear contender for Dyagilev's crown as best Megaclub, and until Lazarevich opens his next venue, it's a safe bet Dyagilev will be packing in the crowds for some time to come.


Weekend Debauchery- Andreas' Birthday at Rai

So, I hadn't wanted to write about Rai a second time before I had made some more posts about other clubs, but Saturday night at Rai deserves an honourable mention, if no for other reason than a "new Moscow" celebration of excess.

It was Andreas' (Rai's creator and promoter) Birthday, and Rai wanted to do something to try and outdo Sinisha Lazarevich (of Dyagilev fame), who celebrated his birthday a couple of weeks ago. The first sign that something was seriously different was the hundreds-deep throngs of people out the front of the club, which was ill-equipped to handle the masses of people trying to get into the party. The beautiful people who weren't cool enough to use the VIP entrance were pulled through the crowds by a harried (but under the circumstances pretty impressive) tag-team effort by Feis Kontrol and Security.

It's a Moscow spectacle, and quite spellbinding to see hordes of tall, scantily-clad, gorgeous girls clawing at each other and shoving to get entry to an old factory. If you value your life, do NOT get in their way.

Upon entry, Andreas was holding court, pontificating for the assembled adulating masses, flanked by 20 tall blondes on each side (and a token black girl- I guess even Moscow goes for diversity occasionally).

Things proceeded to get rapidly more entertaining (and horrifying) once Andreas stripped down to his shorts and jumped into the pool with a dozen strippers from the Office. I don't know that words can really add anything to these photos.


Friday, 18 May 2007

Moscow Nightclubbing 101

Moscow's nightclub scene is varied and absolutely incomparable. While the city can't boast of a particularly innovative or edgy live music scene, when it comes to clubbing, Moscow has no peer.

In all facets of life, Moscow is all about "more". Whatever is biggest, most expensive, most exclusive, or most beautiful is "it", and nowhere expresses this better than Moscow's club scene. The over-the-top decoration, acrobats and dancing girls of Rai, Dyagilev and Opera, and the secrecy and exclusivity of Krysha and Gazgolder are testimony to the success of this strategy.

Thankfully, if strutting Barbie Dolls and middle-aged wannabe oligarchs aren't your thing, there are plenty of other fun places to get down and party (Fabrique, Propaganda, Sorry Babushka, Vodka Bar, Garage and Karma Bar, to name a few) .

Unlike some cities (notably New York), Moscow is not a seven-days-a-week party city. You can find some fun on Thursday, and occasionally Wednesday or Sunday, but you're mostly out of luck (please email me if you know otherwise) other nights of the week. Thankfully, Moscow more than makes up for it on Friday & Saturday nights, with parties going well until mid-morning, and leaving clubs around midday is not unusual.

On a typical Moscow weekend, people dine late, around 9 or 10pm. Some "in" restaurants are visited by promoters from some of the Megaclubs to distribute flyers or CD's, which promote whichever parties they are holding that weekend, and which can also act as invites to assist with passing Feis Kontrol (more about this later). Around midnight, people often head to a pre-party bar (popular options include Bar 7, Indus, and Sorry Babushka) to meet up with friends and get into the clubbing mood.

At some point, either at the restaurant, pre-party bar, or at a nightclub, you're going to have to deal with Feis Kontrol (Face Control), basically the guy who decides if you look beautiful, cool, or wealthy enough to go into their club. These guys can be brutal, separating friends, couples, or just simply denying entry. More on Feis Kontrol in another post, but be ready with a backup plan if you're planning to hit a tough Feis Kontrol venue (see my Feis Kontrol rating's included in reviews). If you are asked for a "Club Card", this is often their polite way of not letting you in.

Most clubs open their doors around 12am, so most people plan to hit their first club around 2am, once things start to get busy. Depending on the scene, the party, or where your friend's are, you may wish to go to other clubs too. Most places start to wind down (and refuse new entry) around 5am, but won't actually close until 7am or later. Exceptions include Krysha, Garage, and Mix, who really only start to get going around 4/5am, and will go much, much later.

Virtually no Moscow clubs charge cover, but in any of the megaclubs or ultra-exclusive places, you can plan to pay anywhere from 350-550 rubles ($15-27) for a beer or simple mixed drink, so it is not a cheap lifestyle.

Many a Moscow clubbing night ends up at one of Moscow's many 24-hours cafes, popular choices for post-club dining include Cafe Courvoisier, Starlight Diner, Etazh, and many more. Once you've drunk, eaten, and copulated more than you thought humanly possible, it's time for a few hours sleep before getting up on Saturday to do it all again, or on Sunday to figure out what happened to all your money and brace yourself for the coming week...

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Review: Rai (Рай)

Opening Hours: Fri/Sat 12am - ~7am
Category: Megaclub, Ultra-Exclusive
Feis Kontrol Rating: Tough- 4/5
Address: Bolotnaya Nab., 9. M: Polyanka, Kropotkinskaya (neither very convenient)
Phone: +7 (495)/364-0101, 767-1474, 230-0035

The name of this club in Russian means “Paradise”, and apart from the drink prices, this place can come pretty close to it on the right nights. Moscow’s newest mega-club (opened Feb 2007) is also one of it’s largest, and it packs a big crowd.

In a city that defines opulence and over-the-top design, Rai outdoes them all. Rai is club promoter Andreas’ brainchild, and it’s evident from the clubs interior he has an active imagination! Rai is located in a large tent-like structure on the Bolotnaya Naberezhnaya, and unless you feel particularly compelled to crawl past the entrance and gawk, or have a particularly demanding devushka on your hands who doesn’t want to walk, you’re better off getting out of your vehicle on Serafimobicha Ulitsa and walking down the embankment.

Fighting your way past crowds and strict but consistent Feis Kontrol, you’ll find yourself in Heaven, the entrance bar to the larger club, Rai, which is located behind a further set of doors (and sometimes another set of Feis Kontrol). To your left is Elysium, an event space which to date doesn’t seem to be heavily used.

Heaven is a spectacle in itself, with a long bar on one wall wrapping around a façade on which is mounted an enormous serpent, as well as cavorting naked nymphs and mermaids. On the opposing wall, ubiquitous dancing girls frolick above the bathrooms, which are numerous and spacious enough to the varied requirements of every patron. A narrow bench and some tables wrap themselves around the walls, providing a welcome and (rarely for Moscow) free place to sit for a while and get to know your new friends a little better.

In another place, Heaven would be a perfectly adequate and interesting bar in itself, however it pales into insignificance next to Rai. Pass through the doors into Rai, and Paradise reveals itself. Rai is an assault on the senses, from the sheer size of the club, the lasers reflecting off the thousands of mirrored surfaces and otherworldly shapes, the semi-naked (male & female) dancers, acrobats, fire-breathers, unicorns, elephants, and more. A raised stage lies in the centre of the main floor, upon which various dance sets, quasi-striptease, and occasionally credible live acts appear. A lower row of tables rings the dancefloor, and a series of upper balconies hosts more of the same, as well as the requisite VIP section towards the far end of the room. A series of consistently decent (although with some variability) DJ’s play a solid but fairly unadventurous mix of modern Russky-pop and dance hits.

Of course, one person’s Paradise is another’s Hell, and Rai is far from perfect. Aside from the afore-mentioned drink prices (Rai may not be the most expensive drinks in Moscow, with a basic beer or mixed drink around 500R ($20), and prices going significantly higher from there, but it does stand out in my mind), my most significant complaint is that while Rai certainly attracts the beautiful people of Moscow (the same tusovka often frequent Dyagilev, Opera, etc), the vibe often seems more akin to the now-closed First, where people seemed more inclined to stand around checking each other rather than getting down dancing, drinking and having a good time. Additionally, the sheer size of Rai means that it needs a LOT of people to make it seem full, and Feis Kontrol have been known to be a little more lenient early in the evening just to fill the club, and things don’t really get jumping with the requisite talent until around 3am, well after some of its competition. Finally, for a brand-new club designed by an experienced team, Rai’s design has its flaws. Tables on the upper VIP balcony can feel so far from the action it’s like you’re in outer Siberia, while the narrow and long design of the main dancefloor mean that people are constantly crowding past each other (partly intentional), and leave limited space to dance without being (unnecessarily) jostled.

Overall, Rai is an outstanding addition to Moscow’s megaclub scene and is a must-see if you’re visiting Moscow. If you live here and enjoy Dyagilev, Opera, or First (RIP), chances are you’ll find some things to like at Rai.


Welcome to MoscowMAXIMUM

Welcome to MoscowMAXIMUM. As a longtime Moscow resident and an avid fan of its outstanding nightlife, I thought an up-to-date guide to Moscow's clubland would be a valuable addition to a city where "the" place to be can vary from week-to-week.

People unfamiliar to the scene ask many questions about the best places to go, how to get in, and other Moscow nightlife rituals that seem bizarre to clubgoers in NY, London, Buenos Aires and other nightlife centers. I hope to be able to shed some light (or at least one person's warped opinion) on these pressing subjects.

MoscowMAXIMUM doesn't plan to review strip clubs or hooker bars (even Night Flight). These are well-advertised enough elsewhere. While stripping, sex, and payments for both occur in most venues reviewed, these are (generally) not the primary source of revenue for these clubs.

I hope MoscowMAXIMUM is a useful reference for you. Any thoughts, comments, suggestions, feedback, or ideas for places to review or topics to cover, please email