Monday, April 4, 2011

Gogol Bordello - Just a band?

A few years ago I was watching Henry Rollins Show.

I miss that show. Henry, of Black Flag, a punk band that used to scare the crap out of parents and sometimes fans alike, had a show formatted so it started with his, scary good looking face, leading to an introduction of his show.

Then he would have a guest, a Rant he called "Sounding Off", where he would scream at you for a few minutes on some relevant topic, during which he would be intermittently funny, serious and pissed off. And you felt he had a right to be and you had a right to be and you felt good that someone else felt that way. More than once he introduced me to topics, things, people, music, I'd had no idea about. He would then have a musical guest on at the end doing a couple of songs.

Why, don't we have that kind of quality, speaking to a group, such as we are?

I don't know. Has to be a bunch of us out there. Well, at least Henry did it for a while.

So one night he had on a band new to me. I didn't know what to do, other than to call my kids downstairs and say, check this band out: Gogol Bordello. We realized later my friend Dave had given us a "Cool" CD of some music he had now idea where it was from. It was Gogol for the most part, from the film, "Everything is Illuminated".

Eventually my two kids and I went to their concert in Seattle and it was unbelievably cool. The loudest bass I'd ever experienced. I love these guys and wow can they party on stage! There is a documentary where a woman took Eugene, the lead singer, back to his homeland (The Pied Piper Of Hützovina).


"Gogol Bordello is a Gypsy punk band from the Lower East Side of New York City, formed in 1999 and known for theatrical stage shows and persistent touring. Much of the band's sound is inspired by Gypsy music. The band incorporates minor-key accordion and violin (and on some albums, saxophone) mixed with punk and dub.

"Gogol" comes from the name Nikolai Gogol. As one of the most influential writers in Russian and Ukrainian literature, Gogol paved the way for the likes of Kafka and Dostoevsky. He also serves as an ideological influence for the band because he "smuggled" Ukrainian culture into Russian society, which Gogol Bordello intends to do with Gypsy/ East-European music in the English-speaking world. "Bordello", in Italian, refers to a brothel or a "gentleman's club".

"The band was originally titled Hütz and the Béla Bartóks, but Eugene Hütz says that they decided to change the name because "nobody knows who the hell Béla Bartók is in the United States". The band played their first show as the unofficial band at an after-hours club called Pizdetz where they became the house band and DJ Hütz became the house DJ."

I knew the first time I saw this band on The Henry Rollins Show was something special and they don't disappoint when you see them live. One or more of them have been on TV, film and documentaries.

Eugene Hütz with Gogol Bordello live at Pisa, July 2010
  • 2004 - Kill Your Idols - Hütz was interviewed in this documentary about New York's "No Wave" music scene.
  • 2005 - Everything Is Illuminated - In Liev Schreiber's directorial debut, which stars Elijah Wood, the role of Alexander Perchov was played by Eugene Hütz. It includes cameo appearances by other Gogol Bordello members in the train scene.
  • 2006 - The Pied Piper Of Hützovina - Documentary by Pavla Fleischer about a road trip she and Eugene Hütz took to Ukraine to trace his roots.
  • 2006 - Wristcutters: A Love Story - "Eugene", played by American actor Shea Whigham, is partly based on Eugene Hütz, whose music ("Through the Roof and Underground" and "Occurrence on the Border") is featured in the film as that recorded by the character's old band.
  • 2008 - Filth and Wisdom - The entire band appeared in this independent film directed by Madonna. Eugene Hütz is the protagontist. Madonna also allowed Eugene to add his own dialogue into the script.
  • 2008 - Gogol Bordello Non-Stop - The development of the band was documented in this film directed by Margarita Jimeno. It follows the band's rise from underground legends to international fame from 2001 to 2007.
  • 2009 - Larger Than Life in 3D - Live High-def digital concert footage shot in stereoscopic 3-D at the Austin City Limits festival in October 2009.
  • 2009- Live From Axis Mundi: Professionally recorded live concert footage shot in New York.
Elizabeth Chi-Wei Sun
For Pamela Racine photo

Gogol may not be the music for the masses, they may even be an acquired taste for many, but you can't deny their energy, their positive attitude and their lighthearted orientation coming out of a group of people who have had a rough time of it over the centuries. Regardless, they are one of my all time favorite bands.

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