Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Review: Solyanka (Солянка)

Opening Hours: Thu-Sat, 11pm-7am
Category: Lounge, Mid-Range,
Feis Kontrol Rating: Easy - 2/5 (depends on how you fit the scene)
Address: Solyanka Ul., 11/6.
M: Kitai Gorod
Phone: +7 (495) 221-7557

In the Summer of 2007, Solyanka semi-officially opened to "rave" reviews. Positioned as a more democratic alternative to Gazgolder, and aimed at Moscow's burgeoning Nu Rave scene, this club is often packed with more neon than a 1980's ski suit store.

It's hard to precisely articulate what constitutes the Nu Rave scene in Moscow (or perhaps I'm just too old and uncool to understand it), but it evidently involves finding truckloads of crap stuff from the late 1980's (think leggings, Atari t-shirts, bad sunglasses- pretty much anything neon), and wearing it out in public.

Since I couldn't find many decent photos of Solyanka online, most of the photos on this post are of the types of people who are there, like these guys on the left- don't they look like lots of fun to party with?

Solyanka is the epicenter of this Nu Rave scene, well, it plus newcomer Justo Bain Douche, which is more hipster, and less nu rave, but who cares, I don't like either of them. They take pretension levels to a new high, with patrons thinking that they're even cooler than all the glamorous losers who go to the megaclubs, which makes them even more pretentious. They look down at the poor little empty-headed bimbos at the other clubs, forgetting that they're the idiots wearing 1988 neon (in fact, J.A.B was screening "Back to the Future" the other night, and the fashion made me think that I was in Solyanka), not to mention the other weekend I swear there was some guy that looked like Michael J Fox running around with his puffer vest.

Varying tastes aside, Solyanka is certainly a great venue, housed in an old mansion (similar to XIII), thoroughly renovated to house a spacious venue with lots of interesting design elements. Through a gateway, you line for face control, and then if admitted, most pay 500 rubles (much has been made of a hipster club being one of the few to charge cover) and proceed to the second floor. The interior resembles a large apartment, with several rooms located off a long corridor. The nearest room houses a bar and some couches for chilling (a common pastime in this club), the centre room has more couches and tables, and then the main room has the DJ located in front of a large multimedia installation, a large open space, and some great windowsills on which people can perch when not dancing. At the far end is a larger bar facing a wooden slat wall, with large brass circular lights artistically arranged over the bar.

The overall decor is that of quasi 1950's space-age furniture juxtaposed with the old dilapidated grandeur of the building, and a couple of higher-tech touches which contrast both and work really well.

The DJ's tend to be more adventurous than the megaclubs, with a mix of electronica and grunge house mixed in with some of the same house as at other clubs.

As previously noted, the crowd tends to be younger, and aims for the hipster chic look, and fewer of the glamourous poseurs found in the pafosny clubs and megaclubs (these are more unglamorous poseurs). While there are still stunning girls and good-looking guys, the "edgy" look the club is looking for tends to value the Nu Rave look, attire and attitude over more "traditional" feis kontrol attributes, so there are definitely patrons whose aesthetics and waistlines wouldn't be welcome at Dyagilev.

Those who actively dislike the megaclub scene or are looking for a different scene will find a lot to like about Solyanka (and the food is pretty good too!). Despite it not being my taste, it is a quality venue, and extremely popular with the crowd it's looking to attract. Even I bregudgingly occasionally turn up for particular events, and have a good time at a great venue with great tunes.

Update: Some friends & I hit Solyanka for dinner last weekend, and while enjoying a pleasant (and great value) meal, we were duly informed that since Solyanka turned into a club at 11pm, feis kontrol would be patrolling the dining room, and we would be asked to pay the 300RUB cover. WTF? This strikes a new low for penny-pinching Moscow venues, but I guess this is what you have to do when you have 15yo patrons.

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