Friday, 14 September 2007

Review: Versus (Версус)

Opening Hours: 12pm-last customer, Fri/Sat
Category: Megaclub
Feis Kontrol Rating: Straighforward- 2/5
Address: 15A Oruzheyniy Pereulok
Phone: +7 (495) 225-1913
Website: N/A

Last night was the much anticipated (or at least over-advertised) launch of Versus, the first of the Fall Season nightclub openings in Moscow. A slightly damp (due to the miserable weather) crowd of Moscow clubbers, b (or c)-list celebrities, and the usual beautiful people entered the labyrinth and descended into the depths of this newly opened club near Mayakovskaya.

The venues is a confusing mix of stairways, labyrinthine rooms spread over 2 (or was it three?) floors, with a series of balconies and a glass walkway overlooking the central dancefloor and obligatory gogo girls. The design is fairly industrial and the unfinished/exposed/modern look here is central to the theme.

Drink prices are reasonable (at least by Moscow nightclub standards) and despite opening-night issues, the bar crew seemed to know what they were doing.

Unfortunately, despite being pitched at the pafusny clubbers that frequent Dyagilev, Rai, Opera, etc, I didn't get a sense that this club had anything to offer that would entice the current scene away from the reigning trio, so it wil be interesting to see if the club develops futher or quickly becomes a footnote in Moscow nightclub history.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Reflections on life and not quite love in Moscow...

Below is an (English) reprint of an article that appeared in Moscow's new lifestyle magazine "Sex and the City" on the topic of "Sex & Money in Moscow", which I felt captured a certain element of Moscow's nightlife.

Reflections on life and not quite love in Moscow

As the throbbing strains of Paul Oakenfeld's "Girls just want sex and money" filter through to the exterior of a high-end Moscow club, a harried feis kontroller scans the mob outside the door, and fields half-joking promises of sex in exchange for club entry from impossibly gorgeous young devushki in ridiculously high stillettos. Just another night out in Moscow, a city that worships at the the twin pantheon of sex and money to a degree not seen since the decline of Ancient Rome.

It's a fucked up adult version of Disneyland, and for a foreigner the price of entry is a high alcohol tolerance, an even higher bank balance, the ability to turn a blind eye to a moral code that would make an American stripper blush, and a chance, (just a slight chance) that you'll find yourself unable to ever return to the "real" world. For better or worse, Moscow has turned the corner from the insanity of the 90's, where a bottle of vodka cost $1, expats were rock stars, and having sex on a bar wouldn't raise an eyebrow. On the other hand, 10 years of improving dentistry, fashion, cosmetics (and cosmetic surgery) have a certain upside, and there's still plenty of threesomes in restaurant bathrooms to go around. Besides, the nightclubs and restaurants are better these days, even if they cost a thousand times the price they did back then.

Meanwhile, back in the club, a girl wanting to get past decides the best way to achieve this is to stick her tongue down your throat (she's right), a trip to the bathroom involves a decision as to whether that visit involves company (which may or may not be paid for), and the bumping and grinding of a mix of models, hookers, dancers, and the occasional regular girl makes for a potent mix of potential passion. Surprisingly, in a country where practically nobody speaks English, this still isn't a problem for monolingual expats. "You're fucking hot" comments an inebriated friend to a tall brunette, a typically creative Moscow pick-up line. She stops and looks confused. "Fucking... Da." she agrees in broken English, "but Hot... What is?".

In the surreal world of Moscow's high-end nightlife, you could be forgiven for thinking that the only thing a girl is interested in is money. Newcomers to the city are shocked to learn that dating here can cost more than that new Ferrari you’ve been wanting. If you want to date one of these club-going barbie dolls, you might end up "sponsoring" her, paying for her rent, wardrobe, car (& driver, of course!), and lifestyle. Dating even a "regular" girl involves frequent gifts. A girl recently complained that I don't buy her things "It is traditional in Russia to buy things for a girl who you are seeing... Just little things that you think she will like... Chocolates, flowers, diamonds..." she informed me with a straight face. Another friend, slightly frustrated by what he saw as an endless cash outflow for marginal return, complained to a girl that he was tired of sponsoring her. "Sponsoring me?" she cried, "you haven't even bought me a Mercedes!".

If you're chasing girls in high-end clubs, it’s no wonder expats are often more interested in finding short-term companionship than long-term love. You don’t have to deal with the apparent Russian lack of any concept of fidelity, and a combination of an early start, lots of practice, frequent bisexuality and extreme vanity mean Russian girls tend to be great in bed. Their obsession with personal grooming leads to some immaculate results (I didn't see my first pubic hair until I'd been in the country almost 10 months, and she was probably just too young to know the rules), but it pays not to get too attached. After a passionate session with a girl I'd seen several times over a period of weeks, I casually enquired whether a girl had any significant others. "I'm married" she replied, "why, is that important?".

But what the hell, this is Disneyland, and if you're in Disneyland and a giant mouse appears, you just go with it- right?


[Comments and Opinions welcome]

Monday, 10 September 2007

Review: Opera (Опера)

Opening Hours: Thu/Fri/Sat 12am - last guest
Category: Megaclub, Ultra-Exclusive
Feis Kontrol Rating: Tough- 4/5
Address: 6 Trekhgorny Val Ulitsa, Metro: Ulitsa 1905 Goda
Phone: +7 (495) 205-9822 (General), +7 (495) 643-0564 (Table reservations),

Club Opera is the third member of the triumvirate of Megaclubs currently ruling Moscow's nightlife. Lambasted by many clubgoers as a has-been only six months after it opened, swarmed by a younger (below 18) crowd, it has stormed back over the Spring and Summer and is is a genuine contender for best Megaclub in Moscow.

Strong DJ's, live performances by a range of celebrities including recently Shakira, and a rocking Thursday night R'n'B night which makes it the place to be on the Thursday has done great things to bringing a great crowd of friendly regulars, great talent, while still maintaining a younger edge than Dyagilev.

The approach to Opera is guarded by a steel corral more suited to a cattle ranch, guarded by hulking security guards in military fatigues. The entrance is manned by one such Neanderthal, while a diminuitive feis kontroller whispers through a microphone to pass judgement on the penned potential patrons who may be permitted to pass. The feis kontrol here is notoriously unpredictable, and seems to take even greater delight in separating couples, friends, and casting out into the night those who don't play by it's arcane feis kontrol rules.

Despite the nasty first impression, it's worth it to continue into the depths of Opera. The lower level contains the coatcheck and a UFO-like interior of strange silvery padded walls. As you wind your way up the staircase, the pumping music starts to move you of its own accord. You emerge at the top of the stairs into the bright sights and sounds that is Opera. The dazzling display makes you think you really have landed on another planet. In front of you in the centre of the room, a circular bar surrounds a platform for dancing girls and shows, around this is a dance floor, and then circles of stairs rise from the pit for more dancing visibility to the outer ring of tables. The focus of the room is a large stage where more dancers gyrate and elaborate productions are staged mid-evening to keep patrons entertained. The DJ booth is a focal point to the front of the stage who holds sway of a more musically attuned crowd than at a venues like Rai.
Overall, Opera is a fantastic club and a great place to go if you want to party with a familiar crowd, and despite this being a notorious pickup joint with gorgeous girls, it's also easier to go and relax by yourself than at Rai or Dyagilev (if you can get past the Feis Kontrol).
Update: 18/02/2008
Dyagilev's tragedy is Opera's gain! Anka, MoscowMAXIMUM's favourite dancer from Dyagilev, is now strutting her fabulous stuff at Opera!