Nevsky Prospect, St. Petersburg, Russia, either the Indian summer of 1999 or the spring of 2000: in front of the long colonnade of the Gostiny Dvor department store, a tourist attraction of sorts due to its age and architecture, something much less historic but almost hysterical is going on. At a Festival of Buskers, sponsored by god-knows-who, with the prize a studio recording session, a band is playing out of competition, as if not only do they have nothing in common with street musicians — which is true — but they also snobbishly pretend to be uninterested in such a prize, which is rubbish. The NERVY (Russian for “nerves”) of the late 1990s, even at that late stage of their ten-year career, which has been launched when the lead singer/guitarist/songwriter was twelve and his brother the drummer eight, had no means to record and got efficiently erased from histor(icit)y in this straightforwardly unremarkable way as soon as they split up in 2000 and stopped playing gigs in the dark and smoky indie and postpunk cellar clubs of Russia’s “capital city of culture.” Closing the Fest as its highlight’n’headliner, some tiny rumours have it, NERVY eclipsed NOCHNIYE SNAIPERY (“night snipers”) early into the latters’ rise to national stardom, but just for an eclipse-long moment and only for those few dozen fans, onlookers and passers-by who happened to witness that day’s set: “Art only lives in ellipses…” or “Cogito in mouthfuls, cogito in fervent kisses.”
The photo, capturing the stadium-rock body language of the front man, is one of the scattered mute pieces of evidence of the only-live grandeur of self-imagi(ni)ng very few people’s memories can picture as an ongoing moment. The slogan didactically thrown at audiences at the end of each show, “READ BOOKS,” was to become the guy in the photo’s own main occupation soon after the street Fest was over. A dozen years later, though, music began to take revanche. There is no escape from our younger selves: cherchez le temps perdu, or is it really du temps?
Ivan Delazari is a PhD Fellow at the Department of English Language and Literature currently engaged in a musico-literary intermediality research project. In 1990-2000, while first a secondary school and then university student in St. Petersburg, Russia, he was leader of a music band he co-founded with his younger brother and a classmate. [Click here to read all entries by Ivan.]