If you do enough shows for long enough, the excitement starts to leave. Now, I’m not saying I’m sick of doing this because, with no end in sight, I clearly am not. I’m more just trying to say that after awhile you stop getting to the show when the doors open to stake a prime spot in the front. You stop watching how much you drink throughout the day so you don’t have to lose the spot because you have to pee. You stop over thinking everything and just go to the show and let whatever happens happen. All of that being said, I was excited as I walked from dinner to The Palace Theatre in Saint Paul. It was a sense of excitement that I haven’t felt in awhile when it comes to my show going and there could be only one reason for it– Gogol Bordello. Sure, I didn’t get there right when doors open but I also didn’t hang around in back. I met up with an old friend out front and we worked our way to the front of the venue so we could see everything that was going on. I hate people and hate crowds (kind of weird when you think about the fact that I do this every night) but I was willing to deal with my social anxiety for this one band.
Before I talk about the magic that is Gogol Bordello, there was an opening act last night that definitely deserves mention. Sadly, there’s not much information about the duo that is The Nu-Folk Rebel Alliance online so I can’t tell you who the members are or what their history is (although one of the two men is Pedro Erazo who plays and sings with Gogol Bordello) but I can tell that their sound was one of the most unique things I’ve heard lately. Their band name is actually more telling than anything. A new style of folk music with a hint of rebellion but also a sense of being a family, their interesting way of playing covers of The Clash in a very reggae drenched folk style caught my ears. Even though it was just two men on stage with a computer providing the drum beats (which… someone please join this group as their drummer!), there was an undeniable sense of energy as they performed. Although the rowdy audience seemed to talk through majority of Nu-Folk Rebel Alliance’s set, there was always a roar of applause and cheering to follow each song. Opening for Gogol obviously isn’t the easiest job in the world but I feel like this duo did the best anyone could and I truly hope to see them in a more intimate space so I really take it all in.
The ragtag band of musicians was celebrating twenty years of doing their thing. I mean, can you imagine?! Touring and playing music for people around the world for twenty years? It’s truly a feat to reach such a level of longevity and, after their performance on Friday night, it’s clear that there is no stopping these guys. Gogol Bordello has six full length albums out there that span their twenty year career so obviously picking around twenty songs out of the bunch to play wasn’t easy but the mix that they picked was on point. From fast and furious songs to calmer ballad like songs that showcased the true talent of this band, they played a little bit of everything as if to make sure everyone left satisfied (which they clearly did).
The music of Gogol Bordello is self described as “Gypsy Punk” but honestly that’s the best way to describe it. At times their music reminds me of my dad’s “band” (they’re a Klezmer called The Java Jews– I mean, the quotations are there for a reason) with heavy eastern-European influence and at other times you can hear influences that range from Jimi Hendrix to The Clash. All of the place musically but always true to themselves, it’s a sound that makes you want to dance and that’s exactly what the crowd was doing. The mix of the audience matches the mix of the band (seriously, it kind of looks like everyone is just doing their own thing on stage and isn’t part of the same band but that’s the magic of it). From people straight up moshing to people literally dancing a jig all the way to the couple that grinding behind me (yeah, that was a little awkward), it doesn’t matter how you dance and move to Gogol’s music, all that matters is that you dance and that’s exactly what the nearly sold out crowd did.
The rowdiness of the audience was matched by the band. Front-man Eugene Hütz is truly one of my favorite musicians to watch. This tall and lanky figure never stand still and even when he sat down for some of the slower songs of the set, he wasn’t sitting for long. From his signature move of dousing the front rows of the audience in red wine to the dorky yet somehow perfect dance moves, there’s something about watching Eugene perform that instantly brings a smile to my face. Although he clearly steals the spotlight majority of the time, every single member of this group has their moment and it’s impossible to catch everything. From Sergey Ryabtsev’s flawless violin parts to the way Pedro Erazo amps up the crowd with his hype-man like vocals, their set could have lasted eight hours and it wouldn’t have been long enough for me to catch everything I wanted to.
I’m always excited to go to a show but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get tired every once in awhile. I felt a sense of excitement last night that I hadn’t felt in awhile and it made for an absolutely perfect Friday night.