The Ukranian band of merry men and women known as Gogol Bordello has a certain kind of music that defies the categories.
Is Gogol Bordello punk rock? Classic rock? Classical?
All we know is that when you go to a Gogol Bordello concert, be prepared to emerge from the pit soaked in wine with ripped clothing, and most likely with some kind of hurt. That was the common result last week after the Gogol Bordello show at The Fonda.
It takes a certain kind of person to brave the pit at a Gogol Bordello show: It’s the kind of person who has nothing to lose — or has lost it already.
Gogol Bordello: Pirates and Punks
As for the pain? Seems that nobody minds. Except, that is, for the girls and guys swooning on the rail up front who might leave with hurting hearts. After all, everyone loves the long-haired band leader Eugene Hutz, with his unbuttoned white blouse and form fitting vertical striped high waters.
And what’s not to love? During his two-hour show, he drinks and pours red wine into fans’ cups when he’s not splashing them with it, he hands out roses to the ladies and he’s generally a swashbucklingly dashing performer.
That’s not to say his other band members fade into the background. Each of the players have their own role, whether as energetic violinist, passionate drummer, guitarist or vocalist.
It’s a truly international unity experience seeing Gogol Bordello. Not only do people come from all parts of California to see the band, there were a few Russians in the audience who took time out from their vacations and their daily lives to come to The Fonda. They didn’t do a lot of moshing though.
Gogol Bordello puts on a physical show, as the members of the multi-member band run around the stage alternating in the spotlight and singing directly into the faces of the hundreds in the audience. One of the cherished players is electric violinist Sergey Ryabtsev, who blows the room away with lightning speed work and tireless smile for devoted fans.
Gogol Bordello ‘Ukraine Insane’
But what’s amazing is how with all the great punk bands in the U.S., it takes a special kind from the Ukraine to drive the crowd insane. Gogol Bordello had to add an extra night in Los Angeles — at the Troubadour on March 4 — to satisfy their part-pirate, part-punk fans. The band plays all the crowd favorites, new songs off their latest album Seekers and Finders as well as older tunes, which will be reissued, Hutz said.
Maybe they’ve earned all their wildly devoted fans because of that Russian discipline and focus. After all it seems like only yesterday when the U.S. was beaten at the buzzer in that Olympic basketball game. If nothing else maybe Gogol Bordello has helped healed the longstanding wound between us and the then-communist USSR.
Video of Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hutz and Regina Spektor by Jennifer Sullivan:
Regina Spektor Joins Gogol Bordello
One well-loved Russian surprise guest who made an appearance with her friends was Regina Spektor, who sings on Gogol Bordello’s title track “Seekers and Finders.” The song poses the questions of one’s fate in life. It makes the listener feel they’re with good friends standing at a piano in a World War 2 beer bar hoisting a stein to forget the troubles all around. Spektor and Hutz led the room in an almost subdued sing-along powered by Spektor’s full, emotive voice, which lends a decidedly feminine lilt to the song.
At one quiet moment, Hutz wistfully chatted with the massive crowd about “the entertainment business in Ukraine” to which a guy called out, “Is there even an entertainment business in the Ukraine?” Hutz ignored the question and kept talking. “It’s a legitimate question,” the fan followed up with a laugh.
Gogol Bordello says its home base is New York these days. Band members are Hutz on lead vocals and guitar; Ryabtsev (Violin); Thomas Gobena (Bass); Pedro Erazo-Segovia (Vocals/Percussion); Pasha Newmerzhitsky (Accordion); Boris Pelekh (Guitar); Alfredo Ortiz (Drums); Ashley Tobias (Vocals).
Gogol Bordello and Lucky Chops
It might never be categorized but the music from Gogol Bordello is intense and good. The band harnesses all the energy of a Pirates of Penzance production and mixes it with the intensity of Rancid.
The opening band Lucky Chops performs their own songs but also adds in some select covers. Their performance is right at the same energy level as Gogol Bordello. Josh Holcomb, the band leader, keeps the audience on their toes blowing his trombone into the faces of the unsuspecting fans up front.
It’s all high energy and purely entertaining. And whatever genre it is, the fans approve.
We Rise Again
Not a Crime
Dig Deep Enough
The Other Side of Rainbow
Did It All
Break the Spell
When Universes Collide
My Gypsy Auto Pilot
Start Wearing Purple
Lost Innocent World
It is the Way You Name Your Ship
I Just Realized