Where it's at: Ukranian Band brings house down
Live Arts Downstage
Friday, February 18
Believe the hype. That's pretty much all I have to say about Gogol Bordello.
But since that doesn't make for a very interesting article, I'll try to elaborate. To start off, I can't remember the last time so many people went out of their way to inform me about a concert. I received emails, phone calls, and random conversational interjections like: "Hey, aren't you that guy who writes for The Hook? You should really see Gogol Bordello this weekend. It's a great show."
When we arrived, Live Arts was packed in a way I've seldom seen, with definite electricity in the air. Squeezing through the crowd, I felt as if I were the only one not in on some big secret. I wondered how many people in the room were as ignorant about these guys as I was. Even so, being in the dark kind of made things special. I tried hard to keep my expectations low.
Before Gogol Bordello even stepped on stage, the carnival had begun. Openers Las Gitanas got the crowd revving. Their brand of wild-life-wanderer music proved the perfect match for the headliners– an appetizer fit for the meal.
Gogol Bordello play "Ukrainian Gypsy Punk Rock." I know punk rock, but I've never been to the Ukraine, and my only experience with a gypsy was haggling in Austria over the price of a necklace while he tried to explain the difference between sex with German and American girls. In a way, that experience directly paralleled what I was about to witness. Let me explain.
If punk rock can be described as rebel music performed with raw unbridled energy, Gogol Bordello fills the bill. They are Ukrainian, but honestly it ain't where you're from– it's where you're at. And if you find that whole sex conversation offensive, then you wouldn't have been able to handle the subject matter or language of Eugene Hutz, lead man of the band.
Eugene rushed the stage to the sounds of werewolves, deep bass, violins skanking, and a circus accordion. He looked as if he had dressed in the dark– a streak of random color running through the crowd and across the stage to his microphone to begin the major revelry.
His presence got the crowd going– and they pretty much didn't stop. Two songs into the performance, Gogol's "dancers" joined the show screaming and gyrating something terrible. The whole event was like a cross between a play, a concert, and an underground private party.
The music itself was intense. They say it's partially klezmer music, but a familiar reggae bass line and upbeat skank remained a constant through the show. It made it easy for people to bounce continuously. By the end of the show, Gogol had half the audience on stage and another quarter in the rafters. The whole event was so lively I was worried for people's safety. These guys are an insurance nightmare, that's for sure.
Regardless, it was a spectacle like none I've seen in town, and definitely one this town really needed.
PHOTO BY JASON LAPPA