by WestCoast Weasel WestCoast Weasel and Guest
October 17, 2009

Due to unforseen delays, the Gogol Bordello review is here later than anticipated.  To make up for it, we’re offering two reviews; one of each night at Vogue Theatre.  West Coast Weasel presents his review on the left.  Guest writer Resident Rat presents hers on the right.  Please check out her blog online here.

09/09/10 – Vogue Theatre – Vancouver, B.C

Checking out a show at a venue you’ve never been to always ads to the flavor of the evening. When the main act is a band that you’ve also never seen but have heard nothing but the highest of praise for, it’s even better. That act was Gogol Bordello, our gypsy friends from afar. While the Vogue theatre may not be the first place I’d pick for such a rambunctious show, it certainly wouldn’t be the last. The assigned seating arrangement was constricting to some degree, but everyone was guaranteed a decent view of the multi genre, multi ethnic, multi talented ensemble that came before him or her. Apostle of the Hustle was just finishing their set when I sat down in my upper balcony seat. The group is normally a quartet, though what I caught was simply a duo. The pair of musicians, one guitarist/vocalist and drummer had a Spanish tone and style about them. Though my intake was brief, it was an intriguing one indeed.

Seven of nine members of Gogol Bordello took their places and wasted no time before cracking out the hopeful tune “Ultimate(free streaming MP3 in new tab/window) as the starting point for their set. Utilizing accordion, violin and congas combined with a typical arrangement of standard live instruments—the dynamics were full tilt. Gypsy punk is the term used to describe the hybrid genre, encompassing traditional Roma music with other styles of “rebel” music. In this case, dub and punk rock are two commonly favored. The two remaining members appeared, to dance for our viewing pleasure. The two girls rounded out the wealth of talent to perform a personal favorite, “Wonderlust King.”(free streaming MP3 in new tab/window) Eugene Hutz, front man and true showman switched his guitar to a banjo, and let his reverberated voice ring out for my favorite, though unknown song of the evening. The guitar solo had amazing soul, and topped the song off nicely. Hutz stopped to address the crowd, introducing a new song about the tearing down of a thousand year old church in Turkey. He called on us to educate our neighbours in the appropriately titled “Educate Thy Neighbour.”

A healthy tension between instruments could be heard throughout. One piece had a moving dub feel, reminiscent of “Land Down Under” but Men at Work. While dub styling’s set the tone one minute, arrangements quickly shifted to ska-punk the next. Even beautiful, acoustic mariachi melodies were heard.  The brawling crowd erupted when the raucous “Start Wearing Purple(free streaming MP3 in new tab/window) commenced.  They kept up with Huts, never missing a single note. Security’s attempt to remove a singing fan from the stage that had her arm around Hutz was ineffective as it was clear the two were in cahoots.

Mr. Hutz returned to the stage, solo, to begin an acoustic number “Illumination”, only to be later joined by the rest. “Punk Rock Parranda” was the second song of what may have been the longest winded encore I’ve witnessed in ages. The extended rendition of “Undestructable” was wonderful but the length slightly abused. Once again, reintroducing the dancers, one with a marching band drum, the other clapping symbols were perfect for an evening closer.  Hearing “this is my life and freedom is my profession” left us all with a grin, nodding with optimism

…Weasel Was Here

For your own intimate experience of two sold-out shows at New York City’s Irving Plaza, pickup Live From Axis Mundi CD/DVD.  CD includes BBC sessions, demos and more. Samples of audio and purchase here. Preview video of the DVD below courtesy of SideOneDummy Records.

09/10/10 – Vogue Theatre – Vancouver, B.C

Autumn is upon us here in Vancouver, and along with the falling leaves comes a storm of bands blowing through the city.  My wallet feeling skinny as it is these days, my two shows for October were Gogol Bordello last week and Flogging Molly later this month.  When it comes to a show like Gogol Bordello however, I can’t help but want to share it here.  I took no notes during the show, just got drunk with the flask of spiced rum I snuck in and danced with Ryan in our seats in the upper balcony of the Vogue Theatre.

We missed the opening band, which our seat neighbors informed us sounded like “they were jamming in a friends’ living room,” so no harm done.  Eugene Hütz, the bands’ mustachioed front man came on stage first to start off the show with the politically charged “Illumination,” with the other band members soon following suit. Hütz sings “realization number one: you are the only light there is for yourself, my friend,” and they’re off! The band barely paused for a breath between songs, leaving me to wonder if I could hack it at one of the Russian weddings they first started playing at.  They were certainly skilled at keeping us enthralled, as I have never been to a show where the audience was so unified.  Everyone around us (even up in the nosebleeds) was clapping and dancing along, often out of their own volition.

The cabaret like atmosphere of the show with its level of variety propelled everyone forward through the hour plus set, including the forty five minute encore and then the impromptu jam session the drummer and percussionist started afterward.

The percussionist, Pedro Erazo brought his Ecuadorian flavor to songs like “Not a Crime,”(free streaming MP3 in new tab/window) with bells and whistles (literally) and dub-like vocalizing.  His set up on stage also included a set of timbales and a sample pad which Hutz also played at one point.  One of the high points of the show for me was during “Immigrant Punk,”(free streaming MP3 in new tab/window) when Hütz put a garbage can over the mic and wailed on it.  The percussive elements of the show in general where amazing, held up by the solid rock beats of drummer Eliot Ferguson, who also sang some minor very Eastern vocal accompaniment. Both Pamela Jintana Racine and Elizabeth Sun added to this milieu with their big bass drum, cymbals, choreographed dancing, and vocalizing on songs like “Go Revolutions” (most of the songs played were from the bands’ latest album, Gypsy Punks).

The band members that stood out the most besides Hutz however, were violinist Sergey Ryabtsev and accordion player Yuri Lemeshev, if not for their talent then at least for their novelty. Ryabstevs’ powerful vocals have him sounding like an opera singer on “Start Wearing Purple.”  The part of that song which really gets me excited however, was when Hütz sings “I’ve known you since you were a twenty, I was twenty,” because it reminds me of Ryan and I, and how insane we both are (Hutz wrote the song for a girlfriend). I can’t forget to mention bassist Thomas Gobena, whose lines on “Undestructable” coupled with Lemeshev’s accordion makes for a truly great song. This was one of the last and most epic numbers of the show (with every member of the group on stage), and the line “all his hardcore when made with love,” to me at least, really sums up the message that Hütz tries to convey with Gogol Bordello.

Overall, this was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. The nature of the conglomeration itself is significant, with many of its members coming from different Diasporas coming together to form a force of resistance and joy. Hütz himself was a refugee for many years, first displaced by the Chernobyl meltdown, which he references in “Sally,” when he sings  “and I survived even fucking radiation.”  A punk band with gypsy hearts, not only is Gogol Bordello the most fun to watch, but they actually have something real to say in a world that grows smaller by the day.

Here’s a couple vids for your enjoyment:

Start Wearing Purple

American Wedding

Wonderlust King (David Letterman)


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