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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick and Dave
GOGOL BORDELLO by Dave and Nick, head to head!
Where else do you get that, where? Imagine Whiskyfun's most distinguished concert reviewers just went to see the very same band, but not the same gig, and each of them decided to write his very own report. Interesting isn't it? Me, I'm amazed... How lucky we are! Okay, please take a deep breath... Drum roll... Here we go!
Gogol Bordello, Concorde 2, Brighton, March 5th 2006

OK Serge. Imagine that you have fallen hopelessly in love with a mysterious, sophisticated, Ukrainian woman. It is a whirlwind romance: hearts leaping out of the body, eyes turning into hearts, tongues lolling (my template for life was formulated through over-exposure to Looney Tunes). You decide to wed. The first time that you will meet the parents, however, will be at the wedding. Wishing to impress, you decide to surprise them by booking a Ukrainian folk band for the event. That night, mysteriously, coincidentally, a mangled flier is pushed through your letterbox: “Gypsy Music! 8 piece! Band!! Weddings!! Parties!! Anything! No gig too small!! Have own transport!’ You book them.
Fast forward to the day of the wedding. All is going well until a battered, bus arrives with GOGOL BORDELLO painted in straggling red and black letters on the side. Into the hall stagger nine misfits dressed in ripped clothes, strange hats and weird jewellery. There’s a lot of exposed flesh. All have a manic glint in their eyes. There’s a bass player with locks, a worryingly straight guitarist, a desiccated long-haired violinist, a portly bald accordionist with a penchant for shell suits, a huge, silent drummer and two hopelessly exotic girls. The singer pushes his way to the front. He’s whipcord thin with pale translucent skin, crazed eyes, pomaded hair and a luxuriant moustache. For a moment, Serge, I think it is you. “My name is Eugene HUTZ!” he shouts at me with a crazed grin. “We are band! Let’s party!”
They start. My in-laws’ jaws drop. My new wife glares. I shrug and start to pogo. How can’t I? This music is driven by that compelling gypsy folk mix of violin and accordion, but electrified and slashed through with Clash-like reggae lines (GB are one of the few bands to master this). There’s a hint of dub, off-tune punk-folk. The violinist leers at us and shreds his first bow, the flying horsehair matching his ragged long grey frizz. Eugene, who has lost his shirt, starts shouting ‘Start Wearing Purple!” We all bounce along, chanting it back at him. On come the girls with washboards. One is called Pamela the other is Elizabeth. I’m unsure whether the names refer to the women, or the instruments.
The venue is now mass of sweaty, grinning people. The music is relentless, frenetic, played without a break and with a defiant, crazed attitude. It does for gypsy music what the Pogues did for Irish folk, what the Boggs tried to do for bluegrass. GB have the art-punk look of New York (their base) married to the dangerous air and magpie approach of the Alabama Three. In their clattering take on the world Mussolini takes Stalin on a fishing trip; we can all go: ‘through the roof! Underground!’
The girls are back on.. screaming, while Eugene hits a battered fire bucket with a drumstick. Elizabeth then begins to crash her cymbals together. I look round. My new mother in law is heading my way. She grabs me and starts to dance. No-one can resist. The music gets faster. That violinist is in league with the devil, forcing us to dance ever faster. Half of the audience has invaded the stage. Pamela is being carried aloft through the crowd while standing on top of a bass drum and beating the shit out of it. Eugene is playing the drumkit with his soaked shirt. Now he‘s replaced Pamela on the drum and has started howling. I haven’t seen a climax to a gig like this since Lux Interior of the Cramps cut his trousers off with a broken wine bottle. My father in law embraces me, weeping with thanks. Best live band around? They can’t be far off. Serge. embrace the gypsy punk in you ... you’re half way there already! - Dave Broom
Gogol Bordello, The Astoria, London, March 10th 2006

Prepared to be shocked. He reels, lurches and stumbles around like a man caught in a shockwave, yells in a barely comprehensible English like a singer with advanced Tourette’s syndrome, leers at girls, mothers and even grannies, and throws himself, without restraint, into the nearest crowd of unsuspecting rock fans. Yep, that’s Jozzer, who in the absence of The Photographer is my chaperone for the night. We dined at one of our Chinatown haunts: after quail, scallops, mustard greens, eel and aubergine our chirpy waiter looked pretty glum when we announced our intention to leave. “You go down pub?” he asked, warily eyeing Jozzer’s collection of empty glasses. So I tried to explain Gogol Bordello to him, eventually showing him the tickets to assuage his incredulity. “You pay money for that? Sounds like big rubbish”.
We’re at the Pickle Factory, packed like gherkins (or cornichons to you Serge) in a jar, to see Gogol Bordello, purveyors of ‘Gypsy Punk’, and the darlings of New York’s easily impressed arty club scene, fronted by singer and sometime actor Eugene Hutz “a larger-than-life, New York-based Ukrainian émigré. If you want to picture him then think of Liverpool FC’s beanpole striker Peter Crouch with a Charlie MacLean tash. And I know, I’m uncomfortable about the ‘G’ word too, hardly PC here these days, so let’s call them purveyors of ‘Traveller Punk’ . Yes Serge, this is a country where we now have crappy Italian restaurants that have ‘travelling violinists’ who come and persecute you at your table with hopelessly played romantic melodies.
‘Gypsy Punk’? Well it’s hardly new is it, but New York has a very short memory. A little piece of my heart is forever the Three Mustaphas Three, musically the same sort of idea, and far more sophisticated. And it’s really Pogues territory too, and, for that matter, Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers whose lead singer, J D Wilkes could truly be said to be shocking. And then Serge there are your own Les Négresses Vertes, who I recall seeing playing on Glasgow Green way back in the 1980s, truly the embodiment of ‘Gypsy punk’.
Never mind. In the cause of brevity I will summarise: high in energy, huge in entertainment, low in spontaneity, poor in music, medium in originality. But it’s great fun, and the Astoria is rocking like I have never seen it rock before. Hutz and his fellow band members, a wonderfully roguish assembly of expat Eastern Europeans and Americans, and the ‘dance troupe’ (I know they’re called Elizabeth and Pamela, because their names were written on their washboards) work the audience with a studied professionalism beyond compare, and the result is frenzy. Set list? How the hell should I know? But they did the purple song, and the one about being an immigrant, and the fast one that sounded like the purple one, and a slow one, and then an even faster sort of purple one. And I did notice a few throw away but deeply profound lyrics – something about Bill Clinton’s saxophone, and the end of western civilisation, but to be frank no more than a delicate non-conformist veneer on a wonderfully well thought out and brilliantly executed performance concept.
“One trick pony” said Jozzer, who by this time was working the audience, cider in hand, trying to sell them “Unlucky white heather, get your unlucky white heather here”. I disagreed. At least two tricks, for the adroit use of the carefully choreographed ‘dance troupe’, with their feisty attitude, washboards, cymbals and bass drums stopped the rather repetitive content from dragging – and without this street theatre showmanship the gig could so easily have been another Hayseed Dixie. I’m glad it wasn’t. Not shocking, but thoroughly entertaining. Buy their music? Not sure. But you must go and see them. And I know Jozzer would like to go too – I can give you his number… - Nick Morgan (all concert photographs by Nick's Nokia - other by Hilary Hulteen)

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