Who are Picnic, the Russian rock band behind the attack in Moscow

Who are Picnic, the Russian rock band behind the attack in Moscow

There is a before and an after in the forty-six year long history of Picnic, the Russian rock band that was expected at the Crocus Music Hall in Moscow last night, before a commando of armed men, in camouflage clothing, broke into the hall from concerts, opening fire mercilessly on the spectators (ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which inevitably recalls the one in 2015 at the Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan in Paris, and the toll is over 80 dead and 145 injured, including including some children).

It is 1984 and the group, founded six years earlier, has already released two albums, “Dym” and “Tanetz Volka”. The anti-system political positions of Edmund Shklyarsky and his associates make the band disliked by Komsomolskaya Pravda, the Russian newspaper which serves as the official organ of the Komsomol, the youth organization of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union: the newspaper begins to repeatedly attack its columns the rock band, whose name ends up straight on the list of groups forbidden to set foot in recording studios in the Soviet Union. The Picnics certainly didn't let themselves be stopped: “Seven leaders have changed since the Picnics existed. We started under Brezhnev. This shows that politics changes, the group remains. Nobody will remember who the prime minister was twenty or thirty years ago, while Picnic will be remembered,” Shklyarsky would say, many years later, about the band's relationship with power.

Defined as “the patriarchs of rock from St. Petersburg”, Picnic began making music in the basements of Leningrad – in 1978 there was still the Cold War and Moscow was the capital of the USSR – letting themselves be inspired by groups such as Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull. The band's name is a tribute to the science fiction novel “Roadside Picnic”, written in 1971 by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Not a coincidence: science fiction has always been central to the cryptic and fascinating lyrics of Picnic's songs, which sang about themes such as ancient Egypt, vampires, mysticism. The characters in their songs, however, often represented allegories. Like the clown of “Ruthless clown”, contained in the album “Pevets Dekadansa”, in English “The Chanter of Decadence” of 2012: they actually addressed the theme of spiritual impoverishment, cultural degradation and the decline of moral values ​​in Russia .

In 2016 they played in Crimea and for this reason they ended up on the Kiev blacklist. They continued to perform in Sevastopol undaunted: “We don't care about sanctions.” Talking about the history of the group, Shklyarsky – the only member of the original lineup to still be part of the band, now made up of percussionist Leonid Kirnos, bassist Marat Korchemny and keyboardist Stanislav Skhlyarskiy – remembers: “In 1978 no one invested in us. We have been lucky. If we started now, it would be difficult with no money and no public relations. Record sales? For us the only point of reference is the audience in the room. The real life of the band is live concerts. All other virtual indicators do not reflect reality.”

Waiting for them in the stands of the Crocus Music Hall in Moscow yesterday were 6,200 fans of all ages, even very young: the show was sold out. Immediately after the attack they declared: “We ourselves don't know what happened. Apparently a tragedy has occurred. It all happened before the concert even started. We heard explosions, then we realized that the Crocus was on fire.” This morning the band shared the image of a candle on its official social channels to pay homage to the victims of the tragedy: “The entire Picnic entourage offers its deepest condolences to the families and friends of the deceased. We pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded. We are deeply shocked by this terrible tragedy and we cry with you.”