Belarusian post-punk band Molchat Doma, who were already touring sold-out venues before the coronavirus pandemic, came back on tour this Autumn after gaining worldwide popularity through TikTok during lockdown. In Manchester, they played to a sold-out crowd at Gorilla.
The supporting act was Rhumba Club, a London-based art-pop and queer disco act, who have just released their first album this November. It is fair to say that I was not expecting this kind of happy, upbeat disco music opening for a gloomy and dark show of Eastern European post-punk.
Although it definitely did not fit the vibe that probably should have been created, people seemed to love it. Singer Tom Falle tried his best to engage the crowd, and it is fair to say that he did as well as he possibly could, encouraging concertgoers to sing the chorus of one of the songs: ‘The Rhumba Club Is Waiting For Me’. And I found myself listening to some of their music on Spotify after the concert as well!
Under dim lighting and surrounded by smoke, Molchat Doma entered the stage at 8.30pm. The Belarusian trio emerged dressed in all black, beginning their two-hour set with one of their better known songs, ‘Клетка’ (Cage).
The hypnotic nature of Molchat Doma’s music, with programmed drums and steady vocals throughout most of the band’s songs, could mean that it would eventually come off as repetitive. However, it worked in the band’s favour, as it seemed as if everyone was put in trance for the duration of the show.
There was little engagement with the audience, apart from the occasional thank you (in Russian, of course), after some of the songs. Whether it was because of a language barrier, or for a stylistic choice, this lack of artist-audience dialogue added to the gloomy, hypnotic atmosphere.
Molchat Doma’s music is influenced by 1980s Russian rock, particularly the band Kino, which is to this day one of the most popular Russian bands. The lyrics of most Molchat Doma songs comment on the bleakness of life both under the Soviet Union and in present day Belarus.
Although portraying a rather negative and depressing view of life in their country, the band restrains themselves from mentioning the Belarusian political situation in their music. In an interview for the New York Times, the instrumentalist Pavel Kozlov commented on daily life in Belarus, saying that “any hasty word that was said too loud can result in a loss of freedom. So, as a band, we don’t talk about politics and our music doesn’t touch upon it.”
Despite dark lyrics often reflecting on depression, heartbreak, loneliness, and suicide, Molchat Doma went viral on TikTok a number of times. Even though I’ve long been a fan of Eastern European dark wave music, the first time I heard a Molchat Doma song was probably in some TikTok video.
Therefore, I was more than curious to see what kind of demographics would come to their show in the UK. The result was more or less what I’ve expected, as the audience consisted of every social group you could possibly see at a Russian post-punk TikTok-viral band concert.
A large part of the crowd seemed to be Eastern European, and before the show I could hear people around me speaking all kinds of Slavic languages. There were some old-school British goths, as well as 20-something-year-old students. All of them seemed to enjoy the show equally, dancing around to synth beats and even forming occasional moshpits to some of the faster songs.
The band played most of their songs, and with their three albums totalling to about an hour and forty-five minutes, maybe they actually played every song they’ve ever released. Naturally, the ones the audience responded to best were the most popular ones.
When the trio came back on stage for the encore to play their most smash hit, ‘Судно’ (Bedpan), which currently has over 110 million streams on Spotify, the crowd went crazy, unbothered by the two-hour gloomy set that had teleported them to the 1980s and the other side of the Iron Curtain.
Even though neither the dark Communist vibe, nor the inherently Russian sounds, nor the Russian language lyrics are something the Western audience can relate to, Molchat Doma’s popularity and sold-out concerts show that apart from Soviet nostalgia, Eastern European post-punk has universal value around the world.
Listen to Molchat Doma here: