With the first chord strummed pickless on an old jangly guitar, the crowd surges toward the front of the stage and stays there for hours. Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hütz has hair almost to his shoulders and not an ounce of fat on his body. His handlebar mustache blusters about as he sings about work, drinking, loving, and giving the finger to the establishment. Also about wearing purple.
In December 1998 I cut my hair short after years of sporting an undercut. I cut it the day after I saw Rage Against the Machine on The Battle of Los Angeles tour, because I couldn’t imagine throwing it about at a concert the same ever again. Up until last night, I was right. But that’s not why there’s still hope for the future.
Immediately the diversity of Gogol Bordello’s current lineup makes you grin. A bass player from Ethiopia, a guitarist from Israel, accordian and fiddler from Russia, congas and whistle from Ecuador, a drummer from America. The ultra sexy Gogol girls are both half-Asian and half-something else (Just ask Weezer what that means!), dressed up in togas or viking hats and leaping about banging on marching percussion. The band deliberately draws from the best the world culture has to offer. And let’s not forget a gypsy punk at the forefront, inspiring a personality cult with a grin and a bottle of wine.
Eugene threw his famous red bucket over the microphone and banged it again and again in time. He leapt and stomped about. He drew a fan from the audience and danced with her, and she almost died of frenzy.
I brought earplugs. They broke. I had on a nice shirt. It’s almost unrecognizable from a bathroom towel now, and smells much worse.
During the intermission, I left the front mob to try and find a friend. I thought to myself, sagging from exhaustion, “I’ll just stay back here for the rest of the show.” I lasted about a song and a half into the encore, and then the band rushed the crowd all at once, and I ran through the crowd to meet them. “How the hell did I get back up here?” I wondered, my exhaustion completely forgotten. But that’s still not why there’s hope.
I was surrounded by people of all ages, but the crowd was definitely predominated by high schoolers. That definitely contributes to the hope factor. This age old music from the guts of the soils strewn about the planet spoke to them and they heard it and came in droves enough to sell out a show in Pomona, of all places. That’s very close to why there’s hope.
When I saw RATM in ’98, we got knocked about plenty. There was a lot of anger and confusion and lack of focus then. I’ve only really done that since at GWAR, which was flat out violent. But this time, while I was packed in like a sardine on a trampoline my shoe almost came off, and right about then the music went slow. I bent down to double knot, and the crowd made a little circle around me. I popped up in record time to a sea of smiles, and a shirtless kid behind me yelled over the music, “Good job!” And the crowd surged back in as the music swelled and were all the better for it.
That moment of cognizant positivity in the midst of such deliberate destruction is why seeing a band like Gogol Bordello in 2009 gives me hope for 2010.