"Nothing will ever, ever top this show. Nothing!" –Overheard by a concert-goer outside, after the show.
Gogol Bordello is one of my all-time favorite bands, and yet I never had the chance to see them perform live. This pained me for many reasons. One: I absolutely love Gogol’s lead singer, Eugene Hütz. He, I believe, is the only man who can pull off a moustache like that and look better than good. Two: their albums are amazing. They're unlike anything you’ve ever heard. Their music is a ‘clash-ical’ mix of upbeat gypsy’esque reggae paired with punk rock tunes. An unlikely and very satisfying match up. The lyrics question authority, political issues, and democratic rights. So, you have these other worldly beats and lyrical poetry playing in your ears, encouraging you to dance, sing and be smart. What else could you ask for in band? The answer is nothing. Hence my need to see them live. But would they disappoint or make me love them even more?
Throughout the years I’ve overheard friends talk about the "Gogol experience". I was told that their energy level was beyond normal, and that they had the power and musical drive to turn any venue they performed at into one giant dance party. I had very high expectations, to say the least, and guess what? Gogol Bordello not only exceeded those expectations, they bypassed them by a Google (lots and lots of numbers exceeding everything).
For Gogol Bordello beginners: those melodic catchy beats you hear are influenced by the likes of Romania (Hütz’s homeland) and other parts of the southeastern Europe. The band members are from all walks of life. We’re talking multicultural haven.
Gogol Bordello was formed during a conspicuous time, on the cusp of the millennium in 1999, in Manhattan's Lower East Side. The band got its name from Nikolai Gogol, a Ukranian-born Russian novelist who inspired prolific writers such as Kafka and Dostoyevsky. The band wanted to pay tribute to Gogol because he had successfully integrated Russian and Ukrainian culture within his works of literature. Hütz was inspired by the multicultural inclusion and hoped their music would ultimately do the same.
The band has been sweeping the continents with their ongoing tours and lively music ever since. They have even performed alongside Madonna. Gogol Bordello’s songs have appeared in both mainstream and independent films, which has helped their music gain more recognition in the North American part of the world.
As I impatiently waited for Gogol to take the stage, I decided to scan the crowd and see what sort of people this gypsy punk band attracted. I stood there for a couple minutes mesmerized. I probably creeped out a couple people with my staring. The audience was as diverse as they come: young and old, big and small; you name it. Kids and teens were there with their parents and crust punks and ska fans were excitedly downing beers together. Aww.
A near sublime moment occurred when Hütz and the band finally took the stage. The amount of energy that was bouncing through the venue that Monday night—yes MONDAY—was insane. Everybody, and I mean everybody, everybody was dancing. It was the biggest dance party I’ve ever witnessed. That includes TV flash mob gaiety. Everywhere you looked people were clapping, dancing, smiling and singing along to "Wanderlust King", "Start Wearing Purple", "Not a Crime", and a bunch of other fan favorites.
The venue was at full capacity, tickets were sold out, and the sweat in that place was beyond gross. However, the show was so amazing I doubt anyone really cared about the overcrowding and near elbows to the face. It was the best concert I’ve ever been to and there really aren’t many words to describe it.
These guys basically played to a crazy enthusiastic crowd for two straight hours! Three encores later, Hütz and band mates are still onstage running around and singing like it’s their first number. Never have I been to a show where the artist has out-danced, and out-energized an audience. Gogol Bordello is pure magic. As I left to catch the last metro Hütz was still onstage, this time performing solo and I overheard a bouncer say, "He’s singing again, someone get him offstage!"
Concert tickets are pricey today, and I must say not all shows are worth the high price. However, when you get the chance to see Gogol Bordello live, you get much more than your money’s worth (such a rarity), you get an unforgettable experience and a great cardio workout as well. Seriously.