I had seen Gogol Bordello on TV and thought they seemed cool enough, but I wasn't much interested in seeing them live until a friend saw them at the Fillmore and said they were surprisingly good; that over the course of the show they really grew on him, so I figured what the hell, let's check 'em out.
Apparently they're from New York but most of the players are from Eastern Europe. They bill themselves as "Gypsy Punk" and their sound is a very raucous, almost maniacal European jumble of fast paced, hard driving Gypsy dance music, with acoustic guitar, violin and accordion leading the way, with an electric guitar, sax, bass, drums and singers filling out their big sound.
But this is not your grandmother-from-the-old-country's music; it is very rock driven, with the leader hamming it up and all of them raging all over the stage.
They are a VERY theatrical group visually and they play their music very well, but it wasn't the music that really impressed me; it wasn't bad but I found myself wanting a bit more electric guitar up front and from a listening standpoint I'm just not all that interested in the style of music they play, good as it was.
The thing that is amazing about this group is the ENERGY they create in the room; their fans are MANIACAL for Gogol!! I couldn't believe how totally INTO the group the completely sold-out crowd was. The energy was intense from the moment I walked in, and when the band started playing EVERYBODY was dancing wildly, moshing, headwalking, leaping in the air, spinning and doing that Russian/Gypsy squatting, leg kicking thing. THIS WAS A PARTY!
The singer/acoustic guitar player is clearly the leader and if you didn't know better you'd think he was Borat from the way he looked, acted and sang (someone decribed his singing as a cross between Borat and Triumph the Insult Dog!). He is a WILD MAN, constantly leaping, jumping around and whirling all over the stage, driving the crowd into a higher frenzy all the time. He is very talented, as is the whole group, and he is a HAM, and it is all clearly working for this group.
I had a clear thought at one point about halfway through, thinking that the overall vibe (not the music) reminded me very much of the first time I saw the Grateful Dead and the first time I saw Phish, where I couldn't quite understand why the crowd was so DEEPLY into what was good music but to me wasn't THAT good. The deep connection between the band and the fans seemed disproportionate to the quality of the music.
Obviously for the Dead and Phish (IMO) I just didn't quite "get it" yet, but at Gogol Bordello I was again taken back by how TOTALLY fired up the fans for this band were. But I think that was my problem; the audience and band were LOVING every minute of it and it was clear that the the special connection was present, creating something bigger than either the fans or the band on it's own.
They only played an hour set and then started their encore. I don't know exactly how long they played overall because at that point my friends and I became those asshole people we all hate by getting into an intense conversation, screaming over the very loud music, so we decided to go and save our voices and stop being rude fools.
Gogol Bordell is high energy, good time music and they're unique and really good at what they do, and I think they'll be around for a while. I had a really good time but I'm not sure I'd pay to see this group again, but I'd consider it, and I'd go for free anytime because it was a really fun party and the band definitely gets your attention. The tix were only $25, and for that I would recommend them if you're looking for a fun night out with a wild band and wild fans.
(Here's a clip)
Great review Lance. Thanks.