Gogol Bordello Throws One Helluva Gypsy Party
A drum kit, guitars, an accordion (yeah I said accordion) a violin, two large bass drums, and percussion pieces lined up across the stage patiently waiting for Gogol Bordello at The Fillmore. The eclectic collection of people in the crowd came out in their best gypsy steam punk outfits, knowing those outfits are as much a part of the show requirement as the ticket that got you in the door. The band will be equally as costumed and flashy as their followers when they arrive, this show is as theatric as it is musical. I am instantly aware of my awkward existence among them, I am also completely unaffected. It's time to dance!
Emerging in a rumbling rush of bodies from all directions, band members led by Eugene Hutz take their places on any available spare inch of the stage. With a flip of his hair, Hutz is barely strapped into his guitar before he begins pouring out lyrics. "Wait, it's not even in English."
Darien, Bullet photographer, and my show roll dog leans over and says in my ear, "Nope. No, it is not sir."
Known for its transfer between multiple languages, nobody is here giving a shit about the lyrics, it's that energy and lucid beat that brings you back. I grin because there are few things as rewarding as introducing someone to a Gogol live show, Darien is in for a wonderful ride.
The band members are as diverse as the instruments they play. Hailing from Russia, Ethiopia, Ecuador, The Ukraine, U.S., and Belarus. They are dressed in inspired character and speak all different dialects, doing their best to add in enough broken English to lead us along. The pool of bodies is spinning in circles, jumping up and down, and already pouring sweat.
The fourth song, "Not A Crime" from the 2005 Gypsy Punks (Underground World Strike) album has the first crowd surfer lifted into the air. I lean over and tell Darien it's time to go all the way in. With his eyes open wide, he straps on his camera and barrels in. No way to get that fabulous shot unless you're right in the middle of it.
Arms are flying, the band is doing their synchronized lunge forward step up on the staging shelf. This shelf was built to put the band on the stage floor and leaning over the crowd, physically getting as close as possible to the outstretched hands as they can without leaving the stage. They probably do this move 100 times a show, it gets a scream response from the crowd every time.
Pausing to ask if we are having a good time, Hutz peels off his shirt. There was no need to ask, the response was a resounding yes! Pouring through a few new tracks from the upcoming album Seekers and Finders due out in June, the crowd settled to take it in. A quiet but building anticipation set in somewhere around mid-set, the silent plea for crowd favorite "Start Wearing Purple" also from the Gypsy Punks album is in everyone's front of mind. They whisper about it, an occasional few yelling "I'm wearing purple" out loud. As if willing it into existence, the slow strum of the acoustic guitar came to life, and full fledge dance disarray ensued. The dancing ladies on stage, suited up with the large bass drums covering the majority of their tiny frame bodies, stepped up on the front platform banging out the rhythm of the instrumental break, the crowd cheering them along.
That energy would be fueled and grown in the following songs with a guitar battle between the fierce electric sound and bass, Hutz would host the applause call to determine a winner, which could not be decided because both had fire in their fingers.
Pasha Newmer held down stage right with the accordion, an instrument I find to be fascinating and one so rare to the current music scene. Alongside him in uniqueness, Sergey Ryabtsev on the violin played his ass off hosting a series of solo breaks and bouncing from one side of the stage to the other all night long.
Attempting to leave the stage and call it a night, chants voiced out "uno mas, uno mas!" Thinking to myself, no drum platform and Hutz on top? This can't possibly be it. We wait in anticipation. The lights pulled back up, whew, now where's that drum? Quietly making its way out onto the hands of the front row crowd, the green snare drum positioned itself for what it would eventually become, a platform for Hutz to stand upon. Transitioning into the final song, "Baro Foro" an early hit from 2002 Multi Kontra Culti vs. Irony Hutz slowly descended from the stage onto the drum top. Cheers and phones surrounded its base as he went from squatting to standing tall for the 8:53 ending jam.
Every member of Gogol Bordello champions his or her own instrument playing perfection, and chaotic contribution to the show. As Hutz described to me in an interview last week, the shows are more a "Musical Master Mixed Martial Arts Competition" and between the energy, variety of costumes, almost deafening loudness, circus display the city of Charlotte witnessed Wednesday, he was spot on. What you should know, and what you can expect, is every show will be wild and wonderful, always leaving you saying, "That was the best one yet."
Photos by Darien Bolden for Bullet Music