There were a million things that I wanted to go to last night- Emo Night at The Fine Line, Motion City Soundtrack at The Basilica Block Party– even with those tempting choices, it was an easy decision. Gogol Bordello was playing at The Palace Theatre in Saint Paul and I knew in my heart of hearts that that’s where I was meant to be.
Pdrito El Criollito Erazo and Leo Minimum Tek took the stage first as their duo project NuFolk Rebel Alliance. I had the pleasure of catching these guys last time Gogol Bordello was in town in June of 2019. Although I was a little bummed they didn’t choose a different opener, I was instantly reminded of just how great this duo is. Spoiler alert- Pdrito Erazo is also a member of Gogol Bordello so it truly makes sense that the duo opened for Gogol again especially given the strange times we live in with more people means more problems with covid. The two men powered through their quick opening set with an undeniable sense of passion and creativity. The quickly growing audience got to see this act create songs right in front of them with looping pedals and pure creativity. Although their overall sound is a bit lighter and more reggae-inspired than what was to come, the audience warmed up to NuFolk Rebel Alliance quickly and, by the time they were saying their goodbyes, they had everyone on the ground level dancing to their infectious beats with a smile on their faces.
As soon as they kicked off their set, the audience erupted into a dance party. Per the request of the artists performing, people were supposed to wear masks unless they were eating or drinking and the audience obeyed this to a fault. It made things feel more comfortable than the maskless show I was at Thursday night and, when mixed with their infectious music, gave me a reason to bop around like a fool. The band powered through over a dozen tracks each bringing a different vibe to the night. Having been around for over twenty years at this point with seven full-length albums out, it must have been hard for them to narrow the set down so much but they curated it perfectly. Even when they played some of their calmer tracks (or at least as calm as Gogol Bordello can get), there was undeniable energy floating throughout the venue. Regardless of what they were playing, the audience was eating it up. Much like during NuFolk Rebel Alliance’s set, it seemed as if everyone was dancing around to the beat and making new friends in the process. After having spent the past year and a half pretty much alone, it was so warming to see the power of live music and the magic it creates. Sure, I’ve been to a bunch of amazing shows but there’s something different about Gogol Bordello. Much like their music and style, their audience is diverse and oh so very welcoming to the point where if you show up to one of their concerts alone, it’s just a matter of time before you’re cheersing with a new found friend.
Watching this diverse group of people play music as diverse as their backgrounds is truly a moment that will leave your jaw on the ground. Whether you are watching guitarist Boris Pelekh bolt from side to side of the stage or watching legendary violinist Sergey Ryabtsev thrill the audience with his stellar violin chops or just watching Eugene do what he does as he stalks the stage with a giant grin on his face– there’s just always something to see and you will always be missing something else happening. Even though you know you’re missing something else going on on the stage, it’s not a moment of panic like with other bands. Chaotic, sure, but there’s something oddly comforting and calm about this band that makes everything feel just right. Don’t know what I’m trying to say? I don’t blame you but, as I said earlier, this is a band that you just absolutely have to see live to really understand their magic.