This year Aftertown returned and was it a sight to behold! While last year’s event was certainly a unique experience, Aftertown 2017 was even bigger and better than last year, far exceeding my expectations.
If you haven’t read my write up about last year’s Aftertown, check it out here.
The festival was hosted at the same space as last year – a dilapidated, abandoned industrial area not far from the center of Moscow.
The setting was especially fitting for the gathering: Worn brick warehouses with heavy, rusty doors, abandoned oil drums, industrial equipment, disused alleyways. In other words, what someone who’s played the Fallout games or has seen the Mad Max films might envision.
Though last year’s festival was impressive in its own right, this time around the organizers very obviously aimed – and succeeded – to outdo themselves. And clearly, word had gotten out – there were at least four-times as many attendees this time around. These differences were clear as soon as I entered the festival space.
A large number of people who had come to Aftertown were dressed for the occasion, cosplaying as characters from various post-apocalyptic films, television shows or video games; many also creatively invented their own style and put together impressive costume ensembles.
After entering, one of the first things a festival goer would see is the quest board – distinctly reminiscent of something from a video game, here one could find a large number of activities to participate in. Throughout the area, Aftertown organizers had taken on various roles that intertwined with these various quests. These characters were also divided up into varying opposing factions.
The factions aspect was a very interesting and novel creation introduced for this year’s gathering. Throughout the festival, as attendees chose to align themselves with this faction or that, they would roleplay raids on their opponents – it was both startling and amusing to suddenly see a band of “raiders” suddenly charge through the middle of the outdoor area in their various costumes and wielding their creative pieces of weaponry.
Beyond the quest boards and faction events, there were various barter areas where those who have completed quests and earned currency could buy funky trinkets.
At one end of the outdoor area, there was a mostly open area with two small, fully operational vehicles. These were evidently custom-built, both featuring treads and even a working projectile turret on top. Those who wanted to could attempt to drive these around while another person sat above to operate the gun. The gun fired airsoft pellets; the idea was that the two vehicles could face off in combat in a small arena.
On the opposite side of the outdoor space, loud bangs could be heard periodically. At first I had thought it was fireworks, but after going to take a look I learned it was something very different: An impromptu firing range had been set up. What made this particularly interesting – beyond the fact that rounds (even if blanks) were being fired off in the middle of a major city with no one, including the police, seemingly at all concerned (something extremely strange to this American) – was that most of the weapons were Soviet arms, many of them dating to World War II. They included the Mosin Nagant, PPSh, a few LMGs, handguns, AK-47s and more.
The indoor areas were also utilized much more for this year’s Aftertown fest. The main hall made a return, with burgers and brews being served from a ramshackle bar. In the same space, there was a stage which seemed to have bands playing almost continuously, ranging from bluesy rock to hair metal reminiscent of the 1980s. There were also poles set up where dancers were performing along to the music.
Within this area – a defunct warehouse – there was also a laser tag arena were teams took turns blasting each other while live rock music blared in the background.
On the other end of the festival area another indoor area could be found. This was a more factory-style building but with lower ceilings; many people were enjoying hookah and with little ventilation it produced a very dark and dingy atmosphere. There was a busy bar located here, with a couple dozen people gathered around enjoying drinks.
Nearby was a table covered in a number of vintage yet fully functional computers, including, most notably, a working Kaypro. Next to it was a DOS-running PC with the original Prince of Persia available for anyone to play. At the same table, a Russian video game developer was allowing the public to test out an early version of a slick-looking video game with a post-apocalyptic setting that reminded me of DayZ.
There was also a cards table not far from this area, where people were playing Texas Hold’em poker.
Another indoor area, like last year, acted as the “church” – it was quite bustling, with the pastor (“Padre” as he was named) assisting people on their various quests. Apparently he was also dealing out sacraments (read: vodka). One very impressive addition to the church this year was a side area partially sectioned off by a giant door reminiscent of the doors to the vaults from the Fallout games, where people were enjoying hookah.
I would be entirely remiss, however, if I did not mention one of the more amusing attractions at this year’s Aftertown fest. Located outdoors, there was a sort of mini-Thunderdome, a caged in area where various costumed volunteers could do battle, either with mock swords or with boxing gloves.
While it got a bit rough at times, the sparring was all done in good fun. A raised platform adjacent to the Thunderdome had been erected where a man in costume acted as announcer/referee for the matches while also DJing. Next to him was Immortan Joe, back from last year, sitting reclined and looking on the competitors in a very regal manner.
Though we missed it, apparently a small kiddie pool at one point had been brought into the caged area and filled with oil; here scantily clad women wrested. Later, however, I did manage to catch the second part of this contest – this time, though, featuring male wrestlers. It was odd yet amusing.
Good times were had by all at this year’s Aftertown festival. We managed to take an enormous number of great photographs and videos – check them out below! Be sure to click in order to see higher resolution versions.