Chris Helmbrecht, Pacha Moscow, the Soho Rooms, and an interview with Jean Roch
As the winter looms upon us and the city gets “harder”, literally in every way, from getting to work to the grim faces of the cold-bitten people. Nothing can ease the pain than something easier, something without the overloaded posh and glamour that surfaces in almost every club in Moscow. Don’t you get tired of all that jazz and extra baggage that people here like to carry with them?
I think every ex-pat can surely say that Russia is a little bit behind in terms of this “mark” that everyone has to keep up with, this unnecessary “labelism” that has polluted the party scene here. Nowhere in the West do we see this much glamour and mercantilism as we do in Moscow’s nightlife. One can argue of course, and I concur that a lot of the clubs, even the most posh clubs, have loosened up a bit, but the overall pressure on what you’re wearing still remains.
Chris Helmbrecht is one of the few expats here in Moscow who realized this all too soon and began his brand called LBLFCKR with the general idea, “Hey, screw the labels, let’s have some fun”. Chris comes from Berlin and has a broad worldwide experience in producing events, running advertising agencies, and basically getting people interested in things. Also being my old neighbour from Manhattan, Chris came to Russia shortly after 9/11 to discover the captivating beauty of this place and bring something fresh to its nightlife scene.
Wall Street Bar located on Volkhonka 8, not too far from the Church of Christ the Saviour, is a perfect modern venue that Chris took over on Thursdays for a very fun and exciting night called “Vibes”. I had the pleasure to MC there and let me tell you, the thing about this sort of party is that the girls are not all stuck up and demanding, while the guys are more friendly and artsy, a very fun crowd indeed!
Letting go letting go and letting go again—that’s the idea for this fall, ladies and gentlemen! Sushi Rumba, Tverskaya 7, right up the street from the Ritz, is an awesome pre-party place. Have some Sushi, listen to some funky house and some retro spun by Chris himself, get yourself in the dancing mood and then you can either stay or well, meet a co-pilot for your nightly adventure because hey!, everybody needs a co-pilot, right?
You know, people have asked me why I haven’t written about Pacha Moscow or Soho Rooms. I shall bury my hidden reply within the following two paragraphs and the theme of this article may be a carrier as well. I’ve been to Pacha a few times this summer, I even sang one of my songs there in the beginning of October. We have to appreciate what they’ve done there. But my first experience at Pacha was in 2009, it was really something else back then. Apparently back in the day when Alexei Gorobiy’s team (the nightlife guru and owner of Dyagilev Project and Imperia Lounge) was leading the promo campaign, the face-control was done by none other than Pasha Facecontrol, the main doorman of Moscow, the king of all club doors. Those were really sweet times at Pacha.
Today Pacha is promoted by a different team of promoters and headlined by Andrei Grigoriev-Apollonov, a Russian celebrity from one of the oldest Russian boy bands called “Ivanushki International”. I have to admit he keeps the place fun and exciting. The interior of the club is really quite exceptional. Beautiful space-like design with three different halls and at least five different bars make you feel like you’re inside the Starship Enterprise flying around the Milky Way. Pacha has been operational in Moscow for two years, after the infamous Ibiza franchise has cleared its use in Russia. The club is located right next to the Red Square, at Nikolskaya 10. If you live in Moscow or you are passing by, this is definitely worth a stop!
And now the long awaited Soho Rooms (Savinskaya Naberezhnaya 12). An exquisite club, awesome promotional team composed of carefully selected veterans in Moscow’s nightlife. Quite huge too. The first floor has a VIP area, a two story opera-like dance floor with seating available around the hall. A stage in that same opera hall with the DJ. Then there is the lobby, which leads to another part of the first floor with another bar and a DJ booth. A second floor restaurant is usually available to you only with a VIP wristband. A door opens up to an outside enclosed patio with another DJ booth, another bar, another dance floor area and a pool/pond, not really sure what it’s for, but I never dared to jump in. Definitely a mega-club screaming luxury. The idea here, however, is that this is for the elite crowd only. If you’re not wearing sparkly dress shoes you’re not welcome here.
If you do manage to get in, then be prepared to spend some money, this is a place for a really decent wallet, although the entourage is well worth it. Soho provides you with models who get paid to sit around and enjoy their free drinks while they wink at the foreigners, hoping to attract some attention. This however, can turn out to be one of those “evil tab” situations, so be careful. This technique is practiced in most of the clubs of that stature around Moscow. Overall, the club is superb, but perhaps a little too uptight in some cases. I was rejected entry on one occasion when I wore glossy D&G sneaker-looking shoes, so if you wish to try and get into this place it’s definitely worth checking out, otherwise you might find yourself with a loathsome aftertaste of guilt.
The treat of this issue comes with the coming of Jean Roch who headlined Imperia Lounge earlier in October. A French producer, DJ, actor and the owner of one of the most prestige clubs in France, the VIP Room, a good friend of Karl Lagerfeld and Madonna came to Moscow with his new single “My Love is Over”. I had the pleasure to attend the press conference at Imperia Lounge with PASSPORT and ask Jean a few questions.
Is this your first time in Moscow? Yes, never been here before (laughs).
How would you describe this crazy place? I like it, I have good friends here like Timati and DJ Smash and I really enjoy a place where I can be surrounded by my friends.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, a brief history of your musical beginnings and how did you end up working in the house genre? First I was a DJ, when you get to understand what people want to hear you can achieve almost anything, that is what DJ-ing teaches you. I became a restaurateur of sorts after I discovered my passion for music. It’s almost a step by step beginning for me, first music, then business. And even now I am not much of a businessman. It is more my brother who does the business side of our ventures.
Do you feel that Moscow is lagging behind in house music with this whole disco and vocal house, instead of the harder and jumpier stuff like some progressive house that we’d hear in Ibiza, Miami and the rest of the jet-set western world?
It all depends. Everywhere the music fits whatever mood the place prefers. In Moscow life can be hard, so people prefer more vocal house, where as in hot Ibiza or Miami, life seems effortless, so perhaps people mix it up with harder house tunes to give it some spice.
Would you add or remove something from the nightlife scene over here?
No not at all, everything seems to be developing a certain way and there is much work ahead.
One thing you like best about Moscow? And one thing you like best about Moscow’s nightlife?
The energy is amazing, the people are amazing.
Would you live here and become one of us, an ex-pat?
(laughs) I don’t know I don’t think so but you never know, life can be different you know, things change. I enjoy the fact that I have friends here and that’s the most important thing.
And that’s that ladies and gentlemen! I hope you’re listening to my songs on 89.5 Megapolis FM - DJ Vengerov – Kazantip Hymn 2010 (English version feat. Miguel Santiago) and of course the 101.2 D FM – Vengerov & Fedoroff – Katyusha which I had the honor to lay down the vocals to in Russian. Don’t get lost in that Moscow nightly jungle, keep your PASSPORT Mag handy and please feel free to e-mail me with your feedback or suggestions regarding my club update to firstname.lastname@example.org