Gogol Bordello to Rock Moscow
- By Miriam Elder
- Jul. 20 2010 00:00
There are two words that have come to embody the mad, vodka-soaked, apocalyptic passions that rise up every so often in the heart of every Russophile: Gogol Bordello.
The gypsy-punk freak show has the power to make the tamest wallflower dance like a madman, the strictest teetotaler douse himself in liquor, the sweetest orator shout obscenities from the rooftops.
The nine-person band plays the Zelyony Theater, Gorky Park’s outdoor venue, on Thursday, in what is sure to be the concert event of the summer.
Gogol Bordello built a reputation as one of New York’s wildest acts earlier this decade, tirelessly playing its way to a massive cult following (namely through shows at New York’s delicately named Pizdetz art space and Mehanata, a Bulgarian bar that was the height of sweaty dance fury in its heyday). The band’s recognition in Russia has been slower to come, despite the group’s ex-Soviet roots.
The band released its first album — “Voi-La Intruder,” which featured “Start Wearing Purple,” one of the group’s catchiest and best-known songs — in 1999, but only played its first show in Moscow in January 2007. The group managed to get an earlier gig in Kiev, which a Ukrainian newspaper welcomed with the headline: “Ukrainian Nightmare Accomplishes American Dream.”
That’s because the band is fronted by the furiously charismatic Eugene Hutz — who might very well be the sole man to blame for the rise of the ironic mustache fad. Hutz, 37, left his native Ukraine as the Soviet Union began to crumble and by 1991 was living in the United States. As for many Soviet immigrants, the motherland was out of sight, but not out of mind, and Hutz soon began channeling the 18 years he spent soaking up the absurdities of Gogol’s writing, the music of his homeland and his mother’s half-Roma ancestry into the band that would become Gogol Bordello.
On Thursday, the group will be promoting its latest album, “Trans-Continental Hustle,” which was released in April and produced by music industry legend Rick Rubin. It’s the band’s fifth studio album, but its first for a major label since signing with American Records, a Sony affiliate. It’s also its first since Hutz moved from New York to Brazil, extending the reach of the band’s global caravan. Gogol Bordello’s lineup changes often and now includes a Russian accordion player, an Ecuadorian percussionist and an Ethiopian bassist, among others. It’s an internationalism that’s part of their founding aesthetic. As Hutz told music web site Spinner earlier this month: “The band basically became a gang of people who also feel at home when traveling. It’s one of those big things that keeps us together: love for music and love for traveling.”