what i watched this week
harry belafonte, calypso

five years ago: gogol bordello live

Five years ago today, we saw Gogol Bordello in concert. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

Holy shit.

That's the quick review. I suppose I could say a few more things. There's the music itself, which you can appreciate via their records, what they call Gypsy Punk. Then there's the stage performance, and that's where the holy shit comes in.

There are six basic members of the band, and they're quite a crew on their own, the usual guitar/bass/drums, but also accordion and violin. The lead singer and the violinist are very energetic, in their playing and in their physical performance. Something is always going on ... those six on their own would be a fine, fine show.

But they're just getting started. There are two women who burst onstage occasionally, striking poses, singing backup, running around the stage, playing bass drums and cymbals, egging on the crowd ... they're loony and great fun.

And then there's a guy ... he's listed as "percussion and MC," and I suppose that's accurate enough, but basically he seems like some guy who wandered onto the stage and started acting out his rock star fantasies. Sometimes he plays bongos, other times he grabs a mic and sings, other times he, like the women, goes up front and encourages audience participation. He stage dives into the crowd ... near the end, he dove off a speaker, and at one point, when he hadn't planned a dive but had just run over to the edge of the stage to incite the audience, he ran over the edge and scrubbed badly enough that we thought he was a goner ... nope, he bounced right up.

So you've got a band playing a fervent brand of gypsy punk rock, and if you're thinking to yourself "I don't like punk rock," well, you might like this because the gypsy is just as important, and if you're thinking "I don't like gypsy music," well, wait until you've heard it punk-style. You've got the music, you've got a front man with seemingly limitless energy running around the entire night, singing, playing guitar, putting on spike heels and a long wig, playing a drum solo on a pail ... you've got a violin player with long gray hair and a long gray beard offering one fired-up gypsy solo after another ... you've got women appearing almost at random and acting like freaked out Kabuki wannabees (and, of course, running all over the stage) ... you've got some "MC/Percussionist" who has as much energy as the rest of the band combined (and, of course, he runs all over the stage, and into the crowd, and backstage, and right now he's probably running down the street for all I know).

There is so much going on that the guy who takes care of the guitars and untangling the mic stands and cords and such is basically a tenth member of the band ... he runs onstage in the middle of songs, picks up turned-over mic stands, gathers up stuff thrown from the audience, gives the singer a new guitar, and then runs off stage again.

Do you get the idea that there's a lot of running around on stage? You're right.

Oh yeah ... they do this for a full two hours.

Like I say, holy shit.



Has it really been five years?

Steven Rubio

I thought the same thing.

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