Friday, May 2, 2014

The Ultimate Gypsy Punk Experience - Gogol Bordello

You've heard me mention them a few times: Gogol Bordello. Just what the hell is Gogol Bordello anyway? Well, I am here to set you straight.
While backstage at Bonnaroo in 2008, I was thrown into the world of Gypsy Punk.
Saturday was a day of new bands and performers I had never seen play live. I was able to see Little Feat and Levon Helm in The Other Tent. In the band lounge with Dino, I kept on asking who was playing outside on the Which Stage. I didn't know who Gogol Bordello was but I was determined to find out. I was not prepared for insane time that would follow. Gogol Bordello are a gypsy punk band with members from everywhere. They play, what my friend has deemed, hard rock polka. Their jams are contagious. Fiddles, girls in red spandex banging drums and cymbals, a lead singer straight from the Ukraine via the lower east side, accordions (this was like the year of accordions, I swear). I began to dance with a kid from Manchester Michigan. It felt like we were flying as we attempted to keep up with the music. At one point, he looked at his watch and proclaimed: I think we broke time. My watch isn't working. I went back stage as soon as they were done to share with Billy and Dino my new favorite band. Dino (the drummer)was in an all out Guitar Hero dual and Billy was talking to a writer for High Times Magazine. I wanted to move to Bonnaroo!

I have never looked back since. But WHO are Gogol Bordello? Their named derived from famed Ukrainian author Nikolai Gogol and a word that means brothel, Gogol Bordello is a Gypsy Punk band from New York City's Lower East Side. Formed in 1999, it's current and past members are as diverse as their songs.

Lead singer and pied piper Eugene Hutz is the son of Ukrainian musician and half Roma mother. The gypsy behind the punk, Eugene champions the plight of the gypsies.

Back Up Singer / Percussionist Chinese - Scottish Bad Ass Elizabeth Sun is the only girl in the band but she packs a punch. She sings and plays the cymbals ... and the first I saw her she was wearing red spandex.
Sergey Ryabtsev is a Russian bear of  power and the brawn behind the violin that gives us the Ennio Morricone-esque backbone of these songs.
Pedro Erazo hails from Ecuador and is a lively guy, known to crowd surf on his drum while rapping. He recently broke and arm doing said crowd surfing. And that is me down there in the crowd at Webster Hall.
Tommy T is an Ethipoian wonder on the bass. This is the bass that hold everything together - the accordion, the violin, the crazy dancing.
Oliver Charles (drums) and Michael Ward (guitar) are both USA natives and carry the band through some quick paced, jump worthy solos.
And last but certainly not least, the accordion players (and I love accordion players). Yuri Lemeshev was the original accordion player for Gogol and was recently replaced by Pasha Newmer. Growing up in a polka loving, Slovak family, the love for the accordion player is akin to my love for the bass player. It's what makes the gypsy punk, gypsy.
They have seven albums under their belt since 1999. Heavy on the violin, drum and accordion, their songs deal with the serious - nationalism and hate; to the funny and inane - think WEARING PURPLE.
Their albums in order of release:

  • Voi-La Intruder 
  • Multi Kontra Culti vs. Irony
  • Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike
  • Super Taranta!
  • Live from Axis Mundi
  • Trans-Continental Hustle
  • Pura Vida Conspiracy

  • Pura Vida has to be their most comprehensive album to date. While I love all of their albums, songs such as Not a Crime, Ultimate, and Hats Off to Kolpakoff, their songs on Pura Vida (or Pure Life) are progressive gypsy punk. And again the songs are not only upbeat in tempo, but also in message. Songs like Dig Deep Enough, and It is the Way You Name Your Ship are empowing songs about moving along on your own journey, even if it doesn't take you exactly where you want to be at first. Malandrino is a typical happy Gogol song on the album.
    Why do I think it's the best album yet? Each song is different. It's got a different vibe and message. The album feels like Eugene is at a apoint in his life where he is stopping to review where he has been and charting a course for the future journey.
    And I love Gogol Bordello much that I have not only travelled to see them, but I have spent numerous New Year's Eve celebrations with them. Their live shows are nothing but energy. Warning to you first timers: if you go front row, be prepared to dance, mosh, be swept up in a wave of people, and possibly wear red wine. It's a global music celebration. 


    1 comment:

    1. These guys are definitely unqie. Didn't there used to be 2 women in the group?