Some gigs are really special. They may take place in any country. Any big city. Once in five years. Once in a decade. The ones that should be remembered for the years to come. And today I want to travel back in time and tell you about the legendary Monsters of Rock festival held on 28th of September 1991 while the Soviet Union was crushing and exhaling its last breaths. The matter was not only about the fantastic line-up (Metallica, AC/DC, Pantera, Black Crowes, etc.) but about the value of the moment. Thousands of Russians came together to one particular place to experience the world of legendary rock music.
At first, let’s turn to history. Monsters of Rock was established in 1980 by the famous promoter Paul Loasby as an annual hard rock and heavy metal festival. The first Monsters of Rock line-up consisted of a mix of British and international bands and was a success with 35,000 heavy metal fans attending. The line up obviously changed over the years but here are some of the bands that played at Monsters of Rock: Metallica, Sepultura, Pantera, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss, Motörhead. Sounds more like a dream-team then the list of bands which performed at some festival, right? So in 1991 when it came to Moscow it was in full force. It happened in September just after the shows in UK, Germany, and other countries.
Here is what Angus Young, the legendary frontman of AC/DC, recalled about that day:
“…I remember going out to the field and seeing burning fires, lots of them. People were sleeping there in the field just to get a chance to see us performing. It was an incredible feeling. We brought two big sound systems and put enormous screens so that people at the last row can see us. We showed them rock’n’roll…”
It was one of the biggest music festivals ever, with the amount of visitors from 600 000 to 1 600 000. During the Metallica set Kirk Hammett threw mediators and even his guitar to the crowd. During the Metallica set even the police joined the audience to enjoy the show. And by the way, there were about 20,000 policemen that tried to keep the venue safe. Unfortunately, the situation went out of control, and it led to numerous brawls closer to the end of the day.
And the memories of Phil Anselmo:
In the very beginning of Pantera’s set, Phil was wearing a yellow devil mask. Putting it off he screamed:
“It’s a killer thing we are all here together, and it shows that music is the universal language!”
According to Wikipedia, the festival takes third place in the list of biggest musical festivals ever. And definitely the biggest rock music festival. It was held at Tushino airport so it could store such enormous crowd of Russian metalheads. In some way, it was a key-point in changing the whole country.
It was the time of big changes. The festival happened just right after the failed attempt of the coup in order to return the whole country back to communism. And in Soviet Russia rock music was completely banned. It was the time of shooting in the streets and tanks roaming through the city. Time of surreal and scary existence.
Here is what one visitor said back in the days:
“At first there were barricades and tanks on the streets of Moscow. I couldn’t believe that — it looked like a strange and frightening dream. Later it all settled down for some time and finally… Monsters of Rock. It was easier to believe in tanks and shooting on the streets then that Monsters of Rock is really happening.”
And another one added:
“For two more years after the festival people called me “the guy who saw Metallica live.”
It was the beginning of the new era. A completely new experience for thousands of people. It was rough, hard and loud. Just like every rock concert should be.