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White-red-white flag under shirt and no Long Live Belarus at BRUTTO gig
Alyaksandr Lukashenka needs to stand trial for hating his people, Siarhei Mikhalok said in September 2011. A criminal case for the insult of the President was started against the musician. He was facing up to five yeas of imprisonment. Then he left the country. Belarusians could see the Lyapises and Brutto only abroad – in Vilnius, Kiev, Warsaw and Smolensk.
Brutto was created beyond Belarus too. Judging by the cost of tickets to the concert in Homel, Mihalok and the others were coming back to Belarus like foreign stars. A ticket to the fan zone cost 75 rubles, to the pit – 57, sectors – from 32 to 64. Belarusian rock musicians are 5 or 7 times cheaper.
However, the long wait had done its part – there was a long queue in front of the Ice Palace at 6 p.m. The cloakroom was meant for only 1500 people. The staff managed to persuade some people into using one peg for several coats. They managed to hang 4000 coats there, they told us later. There were 5.5 thousand viewers, the organizers said but it is difficult to believe it.
Being big stars, Brutto had an opener. It was the band Drum Ecstasy whose leader Phil Chmyr believes that the Belarusian language is being imposed on Belarusians. Mikhalok’s choice is understandable to some extent: DE started touring with Brutto two years ago. However, they could have chosen a better variant for their concert in Belarus.
We came to the Ice Palace four hours before the concert. You could still enter it without a ticket. The stage was vibrating with the sound of Be Brave, Burn and Underdog. Young people who had won the right to meet Mikhalok were standing in the hall. Vital Hurkou and bass player Dynya passed by. The fans did not seem interested in them and kept waiting for Mikhalok. We also noticed a dozen of strong men in the building. They all looked alike but some were wearing leather jackets while the others were wearing uniform.
It looked like about 5-10% of the viewers were policemen. It was an unavoidable term of the compromise the musicians had agreed to.
You can only guess what the other terms were. The fans were discussing the reason why Lukashenka had forgiven Mikhalok. Brutto won: they proved that the ban was only making them more popular, some fans said. The concert was an un expected result of Belarus-Russia gas war, other believed.
There was also a weird version: Brutto was allowed to give the concert on October 29 to make people leave Minsk and addend it insated of joining the manifestation in memory of the victims of Stalin’s repressions in front go KBG.
The musicians were controlling themselves and avoided saying too much. Many mottoes were shouted during the concert – Brutto is cool and so on. But did anyone shout Long Live. Belarus? We did not hear it. The frontman only mentioned the unity of fans and said that the band would visit other cities in the future when his wife brought their son Makar to the stage.
Travel to the past
The message of the concert can be interpreted as ‘We will sing Lyapises’ songs’. It started with the latest Brutto’s songs and ended with such hits as Warriors of Light, I Believe, Manifest, Ox-Eye Daisy and Capital. But it was not a trip to the past where Lyapis Trubetskoi existed. We came back to six years ago when Mikhalok was banned in Belarus. Removing such musicians from the show business is like cutting a man’s leg off. We will have to live the period once again and get used to Brutto without Vaitsyushkevich and Volski who have not reached any compromise with the system.
The public could not believe their luck and were cautious. The fan zone was covered with white-red-white flags during the song Motherland. Some people had managed to bring them to the concert although most flags were taken away by policemen at the entrance and were given back to their after the concert. The forbidden flag was hidden during the next song – Dumbbells. Just in case.
The flags appeared twice more times: during Warriors of Light and Manifest. The bravest people were wearing them on their shoulders and the policemen did not do anything about it. It was going on in Belarus. However, the allowed freedom was not sweet. It could not be compared to the atmosphere of Brutto’s previous concerts. People attended them to restore justice and to touch the forbidden.