Old people can rock too: TMW celebrates Gogol Bordello

By Tatiana Craine

Musicians are always on the lookout for the recipe to the infallible band. Should one use the tried and true Fab Four recipe? Perhaps the solitary Dylan-esque performance will strike gold. Or maybe Belle and Sebastian’s set-up will bring a band musical merit. However, while I adore the Beatles, Bob and those mellow Scots, I think I’ve found the perfect blend for a band elsewhere.First, acquire a crazy man. Have him assemble a rag-tag group of incredibly talented musicians from all over the world. Plop them in the middle of New York and let them simmer for a bit. Sprinkle a hefty amount of Eastern European influence with a robust serving of punk rock on these individuals. Throw in an accordion and violin to balance out the flavor of some heavy, thrumming guitars. Finally, add some flair with genius, spunky, fresh song-writing talent. Voila! The perfect band recipe la Gogol Bordello.

It would be a lie if I told you that it’s okay that you haven’t heard of this band.

It’s really not okay. At all. Let me enlighten you.

Gogol Bordello was founded in the late 1990s by Eugene Hütz (pronounced Hoodz) and a band of immigrant musicians. These aren’t your typical indie-band group of young, arrogant hipsters messing around on keyboards. Middle-aged Yuri Lemeshev, accordion-player and gray-haired Sergey Ryabtsev, violinist, add a true depth of sound to Gogol Bordello’s songs. Hütz himself is 35, but he and each of his bandmates play with the energy and youth of a ten-year-old devouring a bag of pixie sticks. With a few more guitarists and percussionists on hand, the group creates a pulsing beat that will make even the most skeptical tap their feet. Add two neon-clad Asian women who shriek into microphones and bang the hell out of bass drums, and Gogol Bordello hits an unmatched level of cool.

Gogol Bordello’s vivacity and gusto are in full force on each of their four albums, and even more so in concert. Crowds wait all day to catch one of their shows, and for good reason. They are one of the rare bands that can rock both the small venue and the colossal festival. Immediately, fans and first-timers are enthralled by the bands’ throbbing gypsy-punk rock-cabaret spectacle. Hütz and the gang come on stage with hyperactive presence unrivaled by any band I’ve seen.

Perhaps their zest is due to the closeness they share with each other and their songs, or perhaps it’s the free alcohol backstage. I think it’s both. The name Gogol Bordello came about when the band decided to invade America with Eastern European culture just as Nikolai Gogol inundated Russia with Ukrainian social ideas, hence “Gogol.” “Bordello” is merely a nod to fun, raunchy places to go and enjoy one’s self. The band is true to their name. They’re exciting, a bit bawdy and they put a lot of diverse Eastern-European influence into their songs.

Recently, Gogol Bordello has been attracting a lot of attention. Their latest album, “Super Taranta,” was hailed a critical success. The band has been touring America and Europe nearly non-stop this year, playing at major festivals, including Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. The band’s talents reach beyond the music scene, with several members involved in the film industry. Hütz plays a significant role in the film “Everything is Illuminated,” and some of the other band members make cameos. In the past few years, the band has been rubbing elbows with the one and only Madonna-who incidentally wanted to try her hand at filmmaking and gave Hütz a starring role.

There you have it-the quick and dirty low-down on a band that should be pumping out of everyone’s speakers. If you’re not already a die-hard Gogol Bordello fanatic, go out and get an album. Give them a test drive. You’ll be a fan soon enough after hearing “Wonderlust King” and “Ultimate.” And if you have the chance to catch one of their shows, be sure to snag a ticket as soon as you can. Once you hear Hütz bellow “Start Wearing Purple,” you’ll never want to wear another color again.