Gogol Bordello, Barby Club, Tel Aviv, Israel- 6/19
Gypsy punk maniacs Gogol Bordello, a year off of their last release Pura Vida Conspiracy, were in Israel as part of last week’s Rock’n’Roller Festival, a two-day jaunt featuring Soundgarden, The Hives and the Pixies. But Gogol has never been overtly comfortable in an opening slot — this is a band whose appeal is equally split between uniquely weird music and outrageous, bombastic stage shows.
So it was no surprise when Eugene Hutz and company announced an ‘after party’ show in Tel Aviv the night following their festival appearance. And it was less of a surprise when the show sold out. With members who are first-generation immigrants from Ukraine, Ethiopia, Belarus and Russia and a new guitarist from the States, Gogol’s line-up mirrors Israel’s population. No doubt, with millions of Russian speakers in Israel (and a total population of 8 million), Hutz feels at home.
Gogol Bordello has played Israel before, in no small part due to their past collaborations with Balkan Beat Box, but the Barby show reached a near-boil of anticipation, as it was filled with fans who decided that opening act Gogol was not good enough.
Things got rowdy quickly for early set crowd favorites “Not a Crime” and “Wanderlust King,” with hands shooting to the sky and guys and girls alike mimicking Hutz’ scratchy, Eastern European shout-singing. Throughout the show, it was Gogol’s more vodka-chug worthy tunes prominently featuring violinist Sergey Ryabtsev, like “Mishto!” or “Think Locally, Fuck Globally,” that caused a frenzy more than newer, guitar-heavy tracks like “Name Your Ship.” American guitarist Michael Ward is certainly talented, but cranking up a buzzsaw effect didn’t scream “old country.”
While Hutz deserves the cult love for his insanely sweaty and energetic performances — at one point he grabbed fans’ hands, then feigned ripping out his own heart, pulling its grenade pin and chucking it back to the audience — his band simply doesn’t quit.
Belarusian Pasha Newmer, who joined just last year, treats his accordion like Flea treats his bass, his face stuck in a constant, giant smile. Ecuadorian MC Pedro Erazo moved and danced so quickly it seemed he might burst into flames. And drummer Oliver Charles busted a snare drum before the show’s midpoint.
After an acoustic “Alcohol” encore, and several bottles of wine half-drank and half-sprayed on the crowd, Hutz said, “You guys look familiar from yesterday. But you’re looking tired like it’s your second night. Guess what. It’s my 125th night. Two days in show business, huh?”
The fact that these guys can put on this frenetic a show night after night (Ryabtsev is in his 50’s!) is worth raising a glass of good Russian vodka — which they surely did at the after party. That’s right, the “after party” after party.