Gogol Bordello - Saturday, January 3rd, 2009 - 9:30 Club, $36
NYC's Gogol Bordello played two shows at the 9:30 Club this past weekend (in case you've been out of town). I made it to night #2.
Three things about seeing this band:
1. I am late to this party, having only heard of GB this summer whilst at ACL. Sorry BYT, I missed your interview from 2007.
2. They sold out two consecutive nights during a sleepy post-holiday, pre-inauguration time in DC.
3. When I think of Eastern Europe, I think of palm readers and vampires. After seeing this show, when I think of Eastern Europe, I think of mustachioed palm readers and mustachioed vampires.
Gogol Bordello played the AT&T stage on day one of Austin City Limits (2008), at the same time we were checking out the Delta Spirit. I think it was also about the time we headed for a dip in Barton Springs; but GB were hard to miss on the jumbo tron - and tough to ignore given the size of the crowd they attracted.
It's hard to remember now exactly what I thought of them back then, especially since Emma Peel has rightly pointed out that they share some basic similarities to Monotonix. Hairy, foreign-ish, unpredictable. When I try to compare them to anything, Monotonix is the first thing I reach for - a second pick would be to compare GB's lead singer, Eugene Hütz, with a 30-something Frank Zappa.
So when Saturday night rolled around, it seemed like a good idea to see what all the Gogol commotion was about. Accompanied by the honorable (and aforementioned) Emma Peel, I stood out front of the 9:30 club looking for a pair of tix to GB's second show, where we witnessed the arrival of Mr. Hütz by taxi, pulling up along side of us with a saucy lil lady. It seemed a bit odd that he entered through the front doors of the club after climbing out of a cab, but at least we were certain we hadn't missed anything on stage.
We procured a couple of tickets and made our way up to where RC normally stands, only to find that our favorite spot had been converted to a VIP, roped-off, area. VIP, indeed. Had Jumbo Slice been in attendance, he would have schmoozed his way in. Instead, we found a perch by the bar up top.
Uh huh. Fascinating. Is this going anywhere?
Right. Sorry. I've rarely seen a crowd so enthusiastic in DC as I did Saturday night. The club was packed, and Gogol Bordello brought out the accordion-infused gypsy-rock to the delight of the sea of Ukrainiaphiles gathered below. GB are performers, circus folk maybe. I'm not sure. Not being familiar with their catalog, I was nonetheless highly entertained by their showmanships. Yes, there were more than one of them.
A couple of songs in, two tall, healthy, young lasses wearing some sort of mask/hat with feathers joined onstage and played the wash boards. These nice young gals added another spectacle to behold, and raised the question: why aren't there cheerleaders for every occasion? I move that we add them to just about every event that is scheduled. Funerals might be a bit tough. But maybe not, tearleaders perhaps? But I think we can agree that men and women alike can appreciate pretty ladies getting their groove on.
Anyhow, as do most bands I hear for the first/second time, the GB sound began to repeat itself in my mind (and ear). Lots of up tempo danceable eastern-European sounding tracks (Bar Mitzvah-ready rock, as Emma Peel remarked). And then, I had a Dave Mathews Band flashback, as the eclectic nature of the instruments took hold of me and things seemed a bit too gleeful.
After a few more songs, the two young gals returned adorned with roller-derby appropriate shorts and tight tops, one of them carrying a marching-band bass drum. They were effective in erasing the DMB image from my mind, and Gogol Bordello continued to inspire the throngs to dance/jump/nod repeatedly in rhythm. I was rather impressed by this, as more often than not, there's lots of shoe gazing at the shows we see.
Still, this was a band that I only need to see once. Much like my reaction to Monotonix and Pleaseeasaur (although I ended up seeing him twice), the spectacle of the performance is the big pay-off. I don't need to give Gogol Bordello's CDs too many spins, I don't think. But their live show was worth waiting outside in the cold for 20 minutes asking around for tickets.