Gogol Bordello and Why There Is Still Hope For the Future

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.

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  • Holy shit I love it! I had a similar experience where I was thrashing for hours on end in pits. I only had so much as 2 1 min breathers in 3 hours from the consecutive, insane venues @ The Warped Tour of ’04. Pennywise came on as the final group, the one I’d been waiting for. It experienced the biggest and most numerous mosh pits of any the other bands received (except possibly for Rancid) This one had people falling over while giving their all. As well as your fair share of Technovikings tossing people around. But no matter where you fell, how sweaty you were, or how harmless the area was where you fell; There was a living flurry of hands that would cover your entire hand and forearm (even up to the bicep if you were in danger, to pull you up with a smile, and push you back in with a laugh.

    I can hardly remember having a better time.

  • I agree wholeheartedly. Gogol is on the cutting edge of what may just be the next important evolution of pop music — folk roots with a modern ear and a global outlook. So many of today’s bands are attempting to ape the style and form of the previous generation, which in itself was aping the previous all the way back to Chuck Berry. They’re copies of copies of copies. Gogol is taking it back to the timeless roots of folk music, but still incorporating all the things we’ve learned and experimented with over the last several decades. It’s genius. If theyre not the biggest band in the world in a few years, there’s no justice on Earth.

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