Monday, March 03, 2008

Gig Review: Gogol Bordello


(Photo: Deathnabottle's Flickr set)

I headed along to the Docks last night, a huge sports hall by day and super club by night that creeps alongside the lake in Toronto, to see the insatiable and relentless stage show that is Gogol Bordello. The lead singer, Eugene Hutz, has been quoted as saying "Gogol Bordello is a collective, musically and politically. We create an insant party atmosphere to deliver messages of social and political commentary." With statements like that you are left wondering what exactly the politics of the band might be.

For a start, they have some great iconography: all fists gripping sling shots and slogans pronouncing global underdog and immigrant punk uprisings. Throwing out yet another blog posts that compares the band to the Pogues would leave me sinking well on the wrong side of cliche, however Gogol do contain that similar righteous outrage of diaspora mixed with a severe drink problem. It's something of that feeling of being perplexed at state borders that place themselves artificially between community and friends, then there's the alien laws and social mores that stand over and regulate how you socialise.

So a perfect theme for a Toronto audience then, it's a city where on Sunday's the off-licenses close at 5pm - so in short our gig going crew was far from the perfect state for a Gogol Bordello gig. The venue itself consisted of endless crowd control barricades, and stupid assed queues for drinks, all well out of sync with the theatrical abandon of show. Walking out at the end, the thought immediately struck me that the vast car park outside would have been the best setting for it, with a giant bonfire melting the tarmac and smoke plumes rocking over the Toronto sky line. Then, akin to one of the band's more popular songs, there'd really be dogs barking.

As the leader singer, Eugene Hutz has been pushed into the position of an artist extra-ordinaire, it's almost a reactionary thing - with Western journalists seizing on him as a little parcel of Eastern European myth they can package on cat walks and magazine covers. But from his state behavior he seems only too happy to be raised to a pedestal and endowed with a primal fury that drives his fans to Dionysion excess or so most of the media around the band push. Documentaries like The Pied Piper of Hutzovina follow this pattern, tracing his artistic and cultural roots, and how they manifest themselves in his music.

On the night itself, when he's tearing through his morbid love affair with booze in a song called "alcohol", I'm reminded slightly of the Manic Street Preachers own tragic Design for Life - with crowds flailing themselves in sweaty exuberance to a song that celebrates yet exudes the crippling emotional consequence of such wildness. He looks like Street Fighter's Vega, after raiding one or two items from a mustacio'd pointy shoed hipster's closet - the similarity goes further too, for most of the show he looks like he's about to swipe down off the stage in an Izuna Drop straight from the arcade classic.

Sergy Ryabtsev, the impossibly red faced fiddler in a Slayer t-shirt, adds a real carnivalesque feel to the affair - with a devilish menace he orchestrates most of the music leading with screeching assaults from his instrument. The show spirals through one climax after another - its fucking relentless and never ending - the best being an intense routine consisting of pom pom drums, bashed cymbals and a fire bucket in a discordant crescendo of building samba noise.

Apart from hearing a few tracks online, I'd little idea of what to expect on the night - it actually started with some transglobal dancehall riddims, the point where the Guns of Brixton meet arabic hip hop. At the end of the night, tiny little flyers were dished out to the crowd for one of the DJ set after parties that accompany the Gogol roadshow - I was pretty curious as to what he'd be pumping out, but with a work day brewing that morning there was little chance of getting sozzled. The web held the answers, and the guy's piece on music being a catharsis for freedom when taken out of the hands of industry parasite's is great too.

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Soundtracksforthem specialises in iconoclastic takes on culture, politics, and more shite from the underbelly of your keyboard. A still-born group blog with a recent surge of different contributers but mainly maintained by James R. Big up all the contributers and posse regardless of churn out rate: Kyle Browne, Reeuq, Cogsy, Chief, X-ie phader/Krossie, Howard Devoto, Dara, Ronan and Mark Furlong. Send your wishes and aspirations to

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