Soviet rock band lands gigs in America

In the name of 'glasnost,' the Soviet Union's popular rock band, Avtograf, arrived in the nation's capital Saturday to begin their American debut concert tour.

'There are many changes in Russia,' said Alexander Sitkovetskiy, guitarist for the group. 'Glasnost -- that's why we're here.'

The band's first meeting with the nation's lovers of rock 'n' roll is set for Monday night at the Nightclub 930 in Washington, followed by one-night performances later in the week at New York City's Drums nightclub and at Channel in Boston.

The five-man group, all conservatory trained musicians who were named the Soviet Union's laureate band in 1986, got a brief outdoor tour of Washington's attractions, including the White House.

At the Lincoln Memorial, the musicians jumped out of their escorted van and greeted other tourists, passing out red and gold buttons emblazoned with the band's name.

American audiences last had a chance to view the group from quite a distance, when Avtograf represented the Soviet Union in 1985 at the Live Aid concert.

That mammoth event focused on open-air rock concerts in London and Philadelphia that were linked by satellite and relayed to a world television audience.

The group landed Saturday afternoon at National Airport in nearby Arlington, Va., after a stop in Canada on their way to the United States.

The band, under the Soviet Union's glasnost, or openness, policy, has traveled throughout western Europe, including stops in France, England and West Germany.

'(But) America is the place where the musicians are -- where musicians dream about working,' Sitkovetskiy said.

The band's keyboardist, Leonid Makarevich, however, expressed some apprehension about performing in the United States.

'I hope that an American audience will be the best in the world,' said Makarevich, his black T-shirt bearing a pin shaped into a guitar with a peace sign superimposed on it. 'We'll try to prove that we have our own rock 'n' roll culture in Russia.'

The group is accompanied by Meri D., a Dallas musician who began touring with the group after meeting them at an international song festival in Sopot, Poland, last August.

'They have a very strong influence from American music,' she said. 'Anybody who likes music at all will find it interesting.'

Asked by reporters if they would like to make lots of money, as their American counterparts do, Sitkovetskiy said, 'You have to understand, it is enough for us to live in our own country.'

Meri D. added, 'They're really doing it for the love of their music, their art.'

Jan. 23, 1988
UPI, Washington