Sunday, April 25, 2010

Gogol Bordello @ First Ave

On Saturday night multiethnic band Gogol Bordello graced Minneapolis with its first of two performances at First Avenue. The show was sold out and the crowd was decked in outlandish wear, ready for the gypsy punk fest of the evening. Up first was the opener, four piece ensemble Devotchka. Devotchka's first few songs sounded like a gritty gypsy tribute to Sting ballads, but finally they began playing stronger songs like "The Clockwork Witness" that rumbled into their own, dappled with delightful classical inspired interludes and fun Eastern European melodies.

Although certainly an appropriate choice for an opener given their similar nomad mien, Devotchka is a much slower and quieter experience than Gogol Bordello, so fans didn't completely pack into the main floor until their set was over. Nevertheless, Tom Hagerman rocked out the violin, accordion and piano in a Blues Brother suit, Jeanie Schroder bounced up and down in her sousaphone and on the double bass, lead Nick Urata played guitar and broke out a theramin while Shawn King rounded things out on drums, trumpet and maracas. Devotchka used to tour with Dita von Teese, so it was no surprise that they kicked things up a notch with a burlesque curtain dancer during one number before wrapping up.

Jesse Marlin was also on the marquee, but he didn't play at First Ave. The concert was supposed to start at 6 but Devotchka didn't play until 6:30, and when Gogol Bordello was inviting people to the afterparty, it was mentioned that Jesse Marlin would perform there, so I don't know if that was because Jesse Marlin was held up somewhere and missed his opening set or if that was the original plan. At any rate, as soon as Devotchka finished Gogol Bordello took the stage.

First things first: this is the second craziest concert I've ever been to (second only to the time that I left asking myself "is this my blood or other people's?") The mosh pit consisted of the entire main floor and I saw many a ripped shirt as a result of violent thrashing. People jumped around like they were doing an intense version of the Zion dance from the Matrix Reloaded. The bouncers at the front of the barrier responsible for catching crowd surfers ended up spraying water into the crowd at various points of the concert, which only exhilarated the pack more. Please note: if being caught in such an environment is not your thing, I highly advise you to find higher ground or stick to the edges, because this is what the crowd was like during its calmer moments:

Also, if you're into men and you've never seen Ukranian lead singer Eugene Hütz perform before, prepare to find yourself attracted. Hütz not only leads the entire band in unrelenting energy, but his gypsy swagger and obvious unabashed pleasure in every action he commits is not only captivating, it's downright sexy, mustache and all. I can see now why he served as the inspiration for Gucci's 2008 fall menswear collection.

As for the concert, three things you should know: it's rowdy, it's loud and it's a fantastic crazy time. Gogol Bordello is the epitome of energy and never stay in one place, often bouncing off the speakers at the foot of the stage or seeing how many times they could cross from one side to another before the instrumental interlude was done. Every member of Gogol Bordello would come up to the edge of the stage and urge the audience to react, which the audience gladly did, shouting along to the "Hey!"s and eagerly taking part of the gypsy singalongs.

Although Hütz started off the concert fully clothed, by the end of the third song he was shirtless and dripping sweat. Violinist Sergey Ryabtsev was Hütz's second-in-command when it came to working the crowd, often using both his bow and violin to point at the audience with eyes and mouth open wide in a rascally grin, looking like a cross between George Carlin and a pirate. Elizabeth Sun wore extreme feather eyelashes and rhinestones around her eyes, dancing in the background and banging the cymbal high above her head, nodding her head at the crowd to rile them up while MC and bass drum player Pedro Erazo worked the stage in perfect tandem alongside Hütz. The crowd knew their parts for old classics like "Start Wearing Purple," "Not A Crime" and "Wonderlust King," and it seemed as if even the newer songs off the Transcontinental Hustle album (which drops tomorrow in stores) like "Pala Tute" were already memorized.

Going to a Gogol Bordello concert is an experience unlike another other. Their shows are legendary, and with good reason. The accordion, the violin and the enchantment of it all envelopes every person there with arms open wide and you can't help but leave with a grin on your face. Every music lover should go to a Gogol Bordello concert at least once in their lives, if only to set a proper bar for how outstanding and energetic a show can be. And when you do, be prepared to sweat, to singalong and to find your inner gypsy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OMG I am so jealous!!! It sold out before I could get tickets. Marie