Legendary Russian rock band Leningrad will be performing at California’s Coachella Valley Festival between 10-19 April this year. The band, who will be the first Russian-language artists to grace the stage, will be lining up alongside artists such as Rage Against the Machine, Thom Yorke, Lana del Rey, Travis Scott, and Fat Boy Slim.
Founded in the late 1990s with a rotating cast of 14 different members, Leningrad rocketed to fame thanks to its brass sounds, vulgar lyrics, celebration of drinking as well as a rebellious take on politics. The band’s charismatic frontman, Sergey Shnurov, is a significant and outspoken cultural figure, often commenting on Russian society and culture in foul-mouthed, lyric-laden Insta posts.
Whether you’re heading to the West Coast or streaming songs, The Calvert Journal has picked some of the band’s best songs for the ultimate Leningrad primer.
This deceptively catchy pop song decries a world where no one is happy with what they’ve got (apart from guest artist, Russian popstar Gluk’oZa, who to quote, “drives a Peugeot and doesn’t give a fuck.”) The video takes the same theme and turns the drama to 11, with an animated gore-infused battle of the future between the ultimate mafia boss, his cyborg henchmen, and a gang of vigilantes.
This one’s a satire on courting and the stark contrast between Russia’s glam ideals and widespread poverty. “I’ll buy some VIP potatoes/ and you buy me some luxury elite carrots,” a young woman sings to her boyfriend-to-be, who celebrates by stealing clothes from the local market. True love.
In keeping with Leningrad’s not-so-wholesome reputation, V Pitere - Pit’ is dedicated to which cities in Russia have the best drugs — and in St Petersburg, you better get ready to drink your vodka neat. The beloved music video, which shows people from different walks of life quitting their jobs for an epic bender across the city, makes this a must-watch as well as a must-listen.
Perhaps the band’s most existentialist song, Freedom is a Leningrad-staple, with crowds always movingly singing along to it at concerts and parties. “Just when you go against the stream/ you understand the cost of free speech,” the politically-charged lyrics say.
Narodnaya Liubov’ is best described as tongue-in-cheek, real world patriotism about the things that Russians love best. That means zero mentions of ballet, poetry and epic novels, and instead lyrics dedicated instead to trashy gangster TV shows, fast music and super-strong beer. Which is funny, because those are all the things that we love too.