95 Blues Berry Way: a brief history

who we are

We are a Russian-American rock band, based in Maryland. We've been meeting and performing since 2000 under the leadership of Eugene Borovikov, a singer and songwriter. The members of the band come from different cities scattered along route I-95 between Washington, DC and New York, NY.  Hence the name "95 Blues Berry Way".

what we play

To put it simply, we try to write and perform songs with good music and articulate, meaningful lyrics. We sing mostly in Russian, but we don't shy away from good songs in other languages. During festivals and solo concerts we perform our own songs, but at open rehearsals and jam sessions we sing songs and play compositions by many of our favorite songwriters, composers and bands.

When we are asked what style of music we usually play, it is difficult to give a definite answer since there are so many styles that we love. Even though we present ourselves as a rock band, we like experimenting with different styles and musical directions, sometimes unrelated to rock music. Our repertoire includes ballads, blues, rock 'n roll, as well as jazz, bossa nova, folk and country.

how we came to be

Once in the spring of 1999, Eugene Borovikov was visiting Vladimir Ponomarev in New York and sang him a few of his songs with accompaniment of his acoustic guitar. Vladimir promptly sat down at the piano and demonstrated how much musically richer the songs would sound in ensemble with the keyboard. Inspired by the music-making process, they decided to meet up sometime to arrange and record some of Eugene's creations.

Almost a year passed before they could find a time to make the first trial recording. By that time, Eugene had sketched out a couple of arrangements for some of his songs and managed to acquire some basic sound-recording equipment. Eugene invited his brother-in-law Leonid Sapronov to play bass, and Vladimir brought his friend Anton Karnaukh for second guitar and vocals. The first recording session was held in March of 2000 in Maryland. Three songs were recorded in live ensemble right off the bat. Even though we were playing in this lineup for the first time, the created sound was more or less in sync, and the band came to life.

first steps

Because of geographical distance between the members, rehearsals and recording sessions were seldom, once a month at best.  However, the joy of making music together and the beginning of a very exciting and interesting work on the album pulled the group together. We all enjoyed our shared passion.

In 2001 there was a Russian rock festival in New York, where our group was not able to participate, because we missed the registration deadline. Time passed.  The album we were recording had a couple of guest musicians on it, but the group did not rush to expand. The band was in dire need of a drummer, but there wasn't anyone suitable for a long time.

By the time of the next Russian rock festival in 2002 in NY, Victor Yakovenko joined our group as the drummer, and Nail Gumerov replaced Leonid Sapronov on the bass. Suddenly we needed a name, and, after extensive discussion by e-mail, the name finally was picked. In April of 2002, the band "95 Blues Berry Way" performed at the New York festival of Russian rock.

With the new rhythm section, many of the arrangements started to sound differently. Nail Gumerov brought a fresh stream of his own songs to the group. Technical capabilities of Borovikov's home studio improved. The recording approach also changed toward high fidelity, multi-track recording.

In the Fall of 2003, "95 Blues Berry Way" took part in another festival of Russian Rock in America, augmenting our repertoire with new songs and having recorded a good half of the new album. The band got noticed by more people. Additional gig opportunities emerged, as did the demand for our recordings.

In April of 2004, the band gave its first solo concert in Philadelphia, in the Russian bookstore "Knizhnik". By that time, there were five members in the group and all of them, incidentally, doctors of science (PhD's), therefore the title of the performance was "Scientific Approach". It was nice to see so many interested faces in the audience, both of acquaintances and of strangers. And even though that night our PA wasn't working very well, we were able to play through the concert smoothly, uninterrupted. The performance lasted over an hour and a half and was very successful: most of the comments were positive.

first album

In the Fall of 2004, the lineup of the group changed. Nail Gumerov, having brought to the group many musical ideas and some interesting songs, decided to go solo and left the band. Victor Yakovenko brought to the group a new bass player, Eugene Bisk, who amazingly quickly settled in what was previously a "band of PhDs" and masterfully filled in the gap in the rhythm section of the team.

The fifth birthday of the group (2005) was celebrated with the completion of the first album titled "Time of White Pictures". On the fifteenth of January 2005, the band in its new incarnation gave a concert in College Park, MD where the new album was officially presented. The program of the show was longer than in Philadelphia and lasted about two hours. The show was sold out. The capacity of the Old Parish House, we were played, was about one hundred people, but a good fifty more people came to see us. The ticket sellers said that, since there was so little space inside, some people had to listen to the concert from the street. All in all, the show was successful, but cost us a lot more nerves and organizational effort than the one in Philadelphia.

virtual group

From the performance experience, it became clear that it was impossible to play more than one full concert per a year.  However, at such intervals between performances, it would be difficult to keep our program intact and performance-ready. A decision was made to go virtual: with a base in Maryland and branches in New Jersey and New York.

To maintain our musical program in working shape, the Maryland members of the group gave a couple of local performances.  One opportunity became the club To4ka based in "Thyme Out" cafe in Bethesda, MD, where a Russian duet "Doroga Domoi" (trans. ru. "Road Home") performed every Thursday. The very first visit to the To4ka brought the idea of a joint concert. However, there was one problem.  Since the show had to be on a weekday, it practically excluded a possibility for participation of Anton or Vladimir, the members of the band from NJ and NY, respectively ...

On the third of March 2005, the Maryland members of "95 Blues Berry Way" performed with the duet "Doroga Domoi" at the To4ka.  Considering that it was the evening of a weekday, there was a sizeable crowd. Both sets of the three-hour show went on smoothly, and most of the songs were received well by the audience. A big help was the presence of a professional sound engineer. There was also a professional video-operator, adding "importance" to the moment.

In the summer of 2005, the band appeared at the To4ka several times, playing at jam sessions with other musicians, such as Sergey Yershov (saxophone), Michael Ivanov (solo guitar) and Sergey Konovalov (vocals, guitar). Eugene Bisk acquired some PA and began to combine his bass-playing with sound-engineering. This gave us an opportunity for independent performances with quality equipment and improved our live sound noticeably.

On September 22, 2005, there was a solo acoustic concert held at the To4ka by the Marylanders of the group with the participation of Sergey Yershov (saxophone and keyboard), whose masterful playing added a colorful touch to the overall sound of the group. It became clear that the Maryland trio could perform independently with the help of guest musicians.

Summer and Fall of 2005 were generous in performance opportunities. The band (with varying participants) performed on a wide variety of stages around Washington, DC. Yershov and Ivanov often helped us and blended well with the sound of the team.

On October 29, "95 Blues Berry Way," once again in the full lineup (and with Sergey Yershov's participation) gave a concert at the Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington. This concert was quite successful, but, alas, gathered a small audience. All in all, the band gave more concerts in 2005 than during its whole prior existence.

From the winter of 2006, Michael Ivanov performed with the group more and more often. His specialty was blues guitar, and he delivered it fabulously, giving the band more "rocking" sound. Michael also made his unique contribution to the recording of the new album of the band.

Winter and Spring of 2006 were rich in performances as well. The climax was the six-hour show on April 29 at the University of Maryland, College Park campus. The band played outdoors in its fullest lineup (now seven musicians) for an audience of by and large 2000 people. The concert was in two parts:  the "original program" and the "jam session"  The "original program" (Russian) included songs of our own composition, and in the "jam session" part (Russian and English) were songs of our favorite bands and composers.  Everyone was in a very good mood, and the performance went on fabulously. Our audience, mostly English-speaking, received the songs in both languages equally well. Our friend Jeff Sieracki, who was helping us at the mixer board, regretted that hadn't brought any recording equipment with him that day.

At present, the band is getting ready for further shows and continues to work on the new recordings in "acoustic" and "electric" directions.

We're always glad to see you at our concerts and "blueberry jams"! Please check the program at the main page http://www.95bbw.net/ regularly.

Last updated on Monday, April 21, 2008