THINK LOCALLY, FUCK GLOBALLY: Gogol Bordello, Trocadero, Last Night
BY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE INQUIRER Despite all the negative chatter the issue of immigration generates, the fact is Americas love the trial-and-error tragicomic saga of fresh-off-the-boat immigrants trying to fit their square peg into America’s round hole — the latest proof of such is the runaway success of the movie Borat. Before there was Borat, there was Taxi‘s Latka Gravas, Andy Kaufman’s lovable mechanic of mysterious Eastern European descent. And in between there was, and for that matter is, Gogol Bordello, led by human cannonball frontman Eugene Hutz, perhaps best known for his role as Alex in the movie version of Everything Is Illuminated.
Like Latka and Borat, Hutz — a native of Ukraine currently residing in New York — makes his art out of the joys and miseries of assimilating into a strange and foreign land. Backed by his five piece self-described gypsy-punk band, which includes a fiddler and an accordionist, Hutz had the capacity crowd in a constant state of mosh, despite the sweat lodge-like conditions. The Balkan equivalent of the Pogues, Gogol Bordello combines iconic Eastern European folk sounds — which itself combines elements of bolero and flamenco — with the iconoclastic swagger of the Clash. The band’s irreverent take on tradition is perhaps summed up best in the chorus of the opening track to their new album, Super Taranta, which goes: “There never were any ‘good old days’, they are today they are tomorrow, it’s a stupid thing we say, cursing tomorrow with sorrow.”
While Super Taranta marks the band’s fourth proper album, Gogol Bordello is best experienced live — ideally while drunk on, if nothing else, the wine of life. Gogol’s vibe is that last hour of the wedding reception when everyone is sweaty and untucked and in need of a hug. The band is all about circus-like spectacle, thanks in no small part to the gravity-defying gymnastics of nubile dancer/percussionists Pam Racine and Elizabeth Sun. However, the center of the show is undeniably Hutz, who arrived onstage looking like Lemmy Kilminster after being covered in honey and shot out of cannon through Nils Lofgren’s wardrobe. His red pirate shirt didn’t make it past the third song and by the fifth song — the cunningly titled “East Infection” — he had already split his skintight bumble bee-colored pants. He brought down the house with “Start Wearing Purple” — which, in a better world, would be the national anthem of novelist Gary Gary Shteyngart‘s Absurdistan — and had everyone, and I do mean everyone, dancing like a Cossack to “Fuck Globally.” As Borat would say: veddy nice.
GOGOL BORDELLO: Start Wearing Purple