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Gogol Bordello - The Magic Stick, Detroit, April 9, 2006

Gogol Bordello Brings Gypsy Punk to Detroit

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Gogol Bordello - The Magic Stick, Detroit, April 9, 2006

Gogol Bordello

Photo (c) Nicole Lucas

Gogol Bordello blends traditional Eastern European Gypsy music with frenzied punk rock. The result is chaotic, beautiful and designed for dancing. This was truly an amazing show.

Inauspicious Beginnings

We got in just as Dub Trio began their set. Dub Trio has an interesting sound; it's Jamaican dub or dancehall influenced music, blended with short, fast blasts of speed metal, drone guitars and a lot feedback.

While it's impressive to hear a slow reggae groove get hit with 15-second blasts of noise only to pick up where it left off, it does tend to get old very quickly, and I think the majority of the crowd was bored with this band by the time their set was over.

It was an interesting, mixed crowd. Being all ages, there was a large contingency of young kids, probably not even old enough to have driven themselves. They mixed in with the typical Detroit crowd, and there was also a much older collection of people. They seemed most likely parents of the youngsters, and I thought it was really cool that parents would bring their kids to a punk show, on a school night no less.

As the crowd milled about, waiting for Gogol Bordello to take the stage, the piped in music was slowly rising in volume. Even the house music at a Gogol Bordello show is heavy on Eastern European influence it seems, and it served to force the beginning of a palpable energy into the air. The excitement was thick, and the crowd was buzzing.

Gogol Bordello Tears It up

Gogol Bordello

Photo (c) Nicole Lucas

Then, with a booming fanfare of accordion, Gogol Bordello stormed the stage, tearing instantly into "Immigrant Punk", one of my favorite tunes by them. The crowd immediately surged forward. The amazing part was, as fast and frenzied as the band made the crowd, it was all positive. The crowd was seething and surging, but actually dancing, and not moshing. Everyone was moving and swaying, and it was just very happy and not at all aggressive.

Song after song, Eugene Hutz lead the band through all of my favorites. Next up was "Sally", which had the entire crowd jumping and clapping so energetically that you could feel the floor bowing and you could see the amps swaying. It was a little frightening.

By the time the band went into "Not a Crime", Eugene, who had originally taken the stage in quasi-traditional gear, had stripped down to reveal a sleeveless Slayer T-shirt. By the time the band went into "Start Wearing Purple", he was stripped to the waist and wearing a furry purple hat.

But Wait, It Gets Better

The scene onstage continued to descend into organized chaos. As the band played "Dogs Were Barking", the two dancers were playing monogrammed washboards, and when they played "60 Revolutions" and "Think Locally, F*** Globally", Elizabeth and Pamela, the band's dancers/percussionists, traded the washboards for cymbals and parade drums, while Eugene played a drum solo on a metal fire bucket on the mike stand.

At one point, Eugene read a preview of the show that had been published in the Detroit Metro Times. The article claimed that Nick Cave had "done it first", before Gogol Bordello. The crowd reacted unfavorably to that, and I hoped that particular writer was not in the crowd that evening!

Wrapping Up The Evening

Gogol Bordello

Photo (c) Nicole Lucas

The encore was fantastic. Eugene started the encore playing acoustic guitar for "Baro Foro", and the energy climbed from there. Pamela placed the parade drum on the crowd and then proceeded to ride it, playing it on top of the crowd. Eugene brought the encore to a thunderous end by taking a turn riding the drum and finishing out the set.

All in all it was an amazing show. It's worth noting that you never see people dance like that at a Detroit show; the Detroit crowd is very cynical, often standing in front of the stage demanding to be impressed. They rarely cut loose like this. If it wasn't for the facial piercings sported by most of the concertgoers, you could have believed you were in an immigrant bar in the '30s.

Even after the show, the house played Operation Ivy, and the crowd continued to dance. The band circulated, signing autographs and chatting with fans. I spoke briefly with Eugene, and assured him that I wasn't the writer for Metro Times. In person, he's even more charismatic than he was when I spoke with him over the phone. He's truly friendly, and very passionate about the sound he's bringing to the world. It shows in the music; this was one of the most memorable shows I've been to in a long time.

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