Gogol Bordello and Lucky Chops Bring Stellar Show To Sold Out First Avenue


Monday night’s show was one of those shows where I truly never wanted it to end. Sure, I’ve been to a bunch of amazing shows lately but last night was more than amazing. It was a show that I will not soon forget. With smiles on everyone’s faces and a crowd that refused to stop dancing, I was truly in my happy place. I’ve been on a bit of a concert grind lately and sometimes I forget why I even started doing this but last night was a reminder of that euphoric feeling that I spend all of my nights chasing.

The show was opened up by New York based Lucky Chops. Within just a couple of minutes I had taken to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram proclaiming my love for these guys quickly dubbing them the ‘best opening band I’ve seen this year’ and I meant every single word of praise I typed. Let’s get one thing straight- once a band geek, always a band geek- so as soon as I saw the giant sousaphone glistening in the spotlight I got a warm and fuzzy feeling that had me more than excited to see what was come.

Lucky Chops jumped right into their set full of covers and originals that were upbeat and had a bit of attitude behind them. With a trumpet, sousaphone,  sax,  trombone and the all important drums, there was nothing typical about this band and that included their music. Their mix of the classic New York brass sound and the pop hits that we’ve all come to become annoyed by created something new, fresh– something fun. You could have been having the worst day of your life yesterday but if you stepped foot into the mainroom at First Avenue and just caught a second of Lucky Chops I’d be willing to bet there was a smile on your face and whatever had happened prior in the day instantly fell to the wayside.

Beyond the upbeat music that made me want to dance like an idiot with no shame was the energy. There are some sets where I truly wish I could bottle up the atmosphere and save it for a crappy day or a crappy show– Lucky Chops’ set was one of those ones where I really wish I could save it. The band was clearly having fun on stage with one another as they danced their way through the set. Even the sousaphone played was getting jiggy with it. The feeling was electric and you could literally see that energy spread throughout the sold out venue all the way to the balcony. Honestly, their energy wasn’t that of an opening band- it was that of a headlining act that had just sold out First Avenue and it had me worried about if headliner Gogol Bordello could measure up.

To those people who thought they were too cool to hang out with the opening band– you made a grave mistake. I said it before and I’ll say it again- Lucky Chops is the best opening band I’ve seen this year and with over 115 shows under my belt for the year, that’s really saying something.

I was honestly a bit disappointed as the four members of Lucky Chops left the stage and the crew took over to change it over for the headliner. I never wanted their set to end but, at the same time, I knew what was coming up next and my disappointment quickly turned into anticipation. As the lights went down and the screen disappeared into the ceiling, I found myself inching closer and closer to the middle of the sold out crowd. I knew what was coming and I knew I had to be a part of it.

If you haven’t heard of Gogol Bordello or gypsy punk in general you are missing out. Yes, gypsy punk is a genre and it’s probably extremely close to what you’re picturing in your mind. The band looks like a group of misfits. There’s nothing cohesive about them until they start playing their Eastern European inspired punk music. That’s when they turn into a group and create something truly special. Much like Lucky Chops, it’s not just Gogol Bordello’s music that keeps me coming back to them– it’s also their energy. Although it was absolutely freezing inside, the crowd quickly turned into a sweaty mess within the first couple of songs and I found myself lost in the mess, sweat, and spilled beer with a smile on my face.

Singer Eugene Hutz is the frontman of Gogol Bordello and, although all of the musicians in the group are theatrical in their own way, Eugene constantly steals the spotlight with their quirkiness. At one point he grabbed a book and the bottle of wine that he always keeps close and started reading out of the book to the music being played by the band. As his arms waved with the book in one hand and bottle of wine in the other, the red wine started shooting out across the stage. Eugene’s energy is electric and watching him prance around the stage is something that instantly puts a smile on everyone’s face. Although he’s fun to watch, there’s this unspoken sense of power and command that he has. He didn’t have to do more than glance at the crowd for the sold out audience to start pushing and shoving their way into a sweaty mess.

One of the things I loved most about this band is how their music is a combination of many different sounds from around the world. The members of this group are literally from everywhere including (but not limited to): Ukraine, Russia, Ethiopia, Ecuador, Belarus, and the U.S. It may be a super dark world right now full of fighting and uncertainty but seeing such a rag-tag group of people on stage playing music that’s influenced by all of their upbringings was truly a beautiful sight. It all came together when Gogol Bordello performed “Immigrant Punk”- a song about being an immigrant and holding onto everything that shaped who you are today. The beauty of seeing that song being performed live by so many different kinds of people along with the unique sold out crowd screaming along is something that I will never be able to put into words.

Even after their lengthy set list that seemed to span their nearly twenty year career, I was left wanting more. The energy was so positive in the entire room as MC Pedro Erazo spoke about peace. The pushing and shoving was done in the most polite way possible with the frequent “I’m sorry!” after a beer was accident spilled. Like Lucky Chops, I was more than disappointed when the set was over and to say I was reluctant to walk out into the frigid Minnesota air would be an understatement.

Sometimes I have a hard time remembering all of the shows I’ve been to. That’s not me bragging about how many shows I go to because, honestly, I hate the fact that that’s my reality. No matter how good the music is, shows tend to just blur together especially when I’m on a concert bender like this one. Last night is not one of those shows. The positive energy and the unique sounds collided together to create one of the best shows I’ve seen yet this year.